in podcasts

Homecoming: Season 1 review

I finally had a chance to listen to the Homecoming, Gimlet Media’s first narrative fiction podcast. Spanning six episodes, Homecoming is a psychological thriller that tells the story of a Heidi, a caseworker at a government facility that uses an experimental method to treat soldiers coming home from war. The show stars Catherine Keener as the protagonist, and a pretty amazing supporting cast that includes David Schwimmer, David Cross, Oscar Isaac, and Amy Sedaris.

I was impressed by Homecoming and would recommend anyone interested in podcasting as a storytelling medium. Here are a few specific thoughts:

  • The story is told using recordings of conversations between Heidi and other characters. While some of these recordings are diagetic, meaning there’s actually a reason for them to exist in the world of the story, some of the other recordings have no explanation. I would’ve been interested to hear a more “found footage” approach to this story, as I think it would’ve increased the immersion.
  • The performances were extremely strong all around. The highlight for me was David Schwimmer, who played Colin, Heidi’s boss. The interactions between Colin and Heidi illustrate a lot of the challenges common in the modern workplace — namely, how management separation from problems on the ground can lead to suboptimal decisions. Schwimmer plays Colin as both threatening, cunning, and oblivious in a performance that really surprised me with its subtlety.
  • The overarching story of this podcast could basically be a Black Mirror episode (In fact, there was an episode from the newest season that has a very similar story). This is meant as a compliment. Homecoming presents troubling truths and possibilities about the current state of our medicine and technology, and how we apply those things to our citizens in times of war.

You can listen to Homecoming here. The show is being developed as a TV series by the guy who created Mr. Robot.