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‘Homecoming’ Season 2’s ‘pretty gnarly’ ending, explained

Stephan James and Janelle Monáe in a scene from "Homecoming."
(Ali Goldstein / Amazon Studios)
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The following article contains spoilers from the Season 2 finale of Amazon Prime’s “Homecoming.”

During a time we won’t soon forget, Amazon Prime’s memory-collapsing thriller “Homecoming” is back for a bit of total (un)recall.

Based on Gimlet Media’s fictional podcast, the first season of the streaming series revolved around three characters: Heidi Bergman (Julia Roberts), a therapist at a secret government facility treating soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder through what was referred to as the Homecoming project; her nefarious supervisor, Colin Belfast (Bobby Cannavale); and Walter (Stephan James), a former soldier seeking treatment at the facility, where a memory-erasing drug was being used on the center’s patients.

Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg, the duo behind the podcast, wanted the second season to have its own central character arc. The season opens with a woman, who viewers eventually learn is named Alex (played by Janelle Monáe), waking up in a rowboat out in a lake. It turns out she works as a crisis manager and is the partner of Season 1’s Audrey Temple (Hong Chau), the receptionist who rises to take over Homecoming from Colin. Things are set in motion after the Department of Defense launches a pseudo investigation into the Homecoming project’s corporate parent, Geist, for its abuse of the drug — with ulterior motives to restart the program. Against these odds, Walter resolves to find out what happened to him.

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“We wanted to really announce that this season was beginning on its own terms,” Horowitz said. “We really loved this opening image of Alex waking up in the boat and not knowing how she got there. That really established the season. And then we enjoyed slowly revealing the ways in which that connects to the larger story, but we [wanted] to really stamp it as having its own identity right from the get-go.”

They also wanted to go deeper into the backstory of Geist Corp. and its mysterious founder, Leonard Geist (Chris Cooper), in a way that deviated from the caricature that viewers might expect.

“We knew we didn’t want it to be a big, faceless, evil corporation with a guy in a sleek suit standing at the top of a gleaming building,” Bloomberg added. “We knew we wanted to turn away from that pretty hard and find a character who was more interesting and colorful than that.”

In the last of its seven episodes, aptly titled “Again,” we return to the moments that opened the season. The episode largely takes place at Geist’s corporate office, where a party is underway celebrating the company’s new partnership with the Pentagon to continue the military use of Geist’s memory-erasing extract.

The Times spoke with Horowitz and Bloomberg to break down elements of the Season 2 finale:

Janelle Monáe headlines the second season of Amazon’s “Homecoming,” produced by “Mr. Robot’s” Sam Esmail and Season 1 star Julia Roberts.

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Chris Cooper as corporate leader Leonard Geist in "Homecoming."
(Ali Goldstein / Amazon Studios)

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What ’70s film served as inspiration for the punch-drunk wipeout scene?

Walter returns to Geist to seek retribution for what was done to him. With Leonard‘s support, Walter puts the memory-erasing extract into the jugs of punch at the party. People collapse; splatters of red punch blanket the floor.

“I think when we talked to Kyle [Patrick Alvarez, this season’s director], it’s always helpful to have a shot that you refer to when you’re when you’re talking about the specific shooting style,” Bloomberg said. “For the ending, we talked a lot about ‘Carrie’ and the blood-dumping scene.”

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Why did Walter approach Alex after the punch stunt?

In the Season 1 finale, Heidi encounters Walter at a diner in a small town where has made a life for himself. When the two speak, Walter appears to have no memory of Heidi or Homecoming. And Heidi doesn’t fill in the gaps for him. Once he leaves, Heidi notices the table setting where he sat: Everything is straight and tidy, except a fork that points toward the window — a wink to the way Walter used to fuss with Heidi’s organized habits that signals he may remember more than he’s sharing.

In the Season 2 finale, as Walter goes on his mission to spike the staff’s drinks with memory-erasing elixir, there’s a moment where Walter locks eyes with Alex, who does not seem to recognize him. After attendees have succumbed to the effects of the drug, Walter returns and has an exchange with Alex. He asks if she remembers him; she doesn’t. He suggests that she leave, but she stays close to a passed-out Temple (Hong Chau), saying she knows what it’s like to wake up alone.

“That was a question of: Do we need to see these people talk when you have that look between them?” Bloomberg said. “And I think the reason that it’s necessary and, to me, the reason that it works is we’ve been following these two characters this whole time. The idea of Walter just walking out without any kind of conclusion or closure with her just felt wrong to us. It was our one opportunity to show, with words, the change that Alex has gone through. So hopefully what you’re seeing there is some accountability and some responsibility that she hasn’t had the opportunity to to express.”

“Also, this is the first time that they’re meeting as themselves,” Horowitz adds. “They spent a lot of time together, but it was so shrouded in deception and now finally the masks are off and we felt [it was a] really startling moment [for] them to kind of stare each other in the face.”

Stephan James in a scene from "Homecoming."
(Ali Goldstein / Amazon Studios)

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Is that Fleetwood Mac and Nina Simone?

At the balloon-filled corporate party at Geist, Leonard delivers an impassioned speech condemning the unethical use of the drug on soldiers and warning the staff to cut ties. As he grows more fiery in his plea, he’s cut off by the roar of Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop” through the speakers as balloons drop from the ceiling.

“It was a ‘first thought, best thought’ thing that went into the script,” Bloomberg said. “Because when you’re licensing, you never know how much something is going to be. But apparently Fleetwood Mac, as a brand, is at some kind of crossroads that made it very possible to get this song. That was Bill Clinton’s campaign rally song. It reminds me of an era of optimism and hope that just seems like a very long time ago. And so the dissonance that that would create I think were appealing and interesting, and then... because we knew that the scene had a lot of darkness underneath it, just the optimism and the cheer of the song, we knew would be the right weird note to sound.”

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In the season’s closing moments, Walter gets back into his truck, parked at the fork in the road — just outside Leonard’s farm and at a distance from the Geist building — and drives off as Nina Simone’s version of the classic song “My Way” plays out.

“The thing that I think is so amazing about music is it’s like the No. 1 most subjective part of editing and filmmaking,” Bloomberg said. “The tone that it creates and the vibe [are] very much in the reading, so it’s very instinctive and it’s very emotional and it’s something that you talk about a lot with all the other partners that you have [on a show]. And when we put that song in, nobody said anything. ... It has a feeling of finality, a feeling of lightness and fun, almost [in a] weird and appropriate way for that moment, but you feel the weight that’s been lifted off Walter’s shoulders. And then there’s just a weird mix of Nina Simone and Frank Sinatra that creates, again, a dissonance, because you recognize the song but it’s a totally different style. The complexity of that felt right for the ending of the story.”

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Could there be a third season?

“Homecoming” was picked up to series with a two-season deal. Unlike the first season, which culminated with a post-credits scene that teased more was in store with Audrey, the sophomore outing doesn’t include a similar stunt. But Horowitz and Bloomberg are very much open to the idea of expanding the narrative further, should Amazon commission a third installment.

“We feel like there’s a million ways to pack and unpack and get in and out of this world,” Bloomberg said. “And each time that we’ve expanded it, we found more stuff that we think is really interesting and crazy and funny and weird.”

“One of them is: Where’s Walter headed?” Horowitz said. “Another is: What else was Colin up to and what happens to him now? He built his life around this job and now it’s been torn away from him. Or what happens to all these people when they wake up? What happens 10 minutes after the end of the season? It’s a pretty gnarly scene there. We always try to leave various secret doors open.””


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Yvonne Villarreal covers television for the Los Angeles Times.