I enjoyed the first season of “Homecoming,” starring Julia Roberts and Stephan James in a cryptic story of a secret program to make veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq forget the horrors of battle and injuries from improvised explosive devices — so they can be re-deployed to serve again. By the time it was over, I felt the story had been well made and fully told, so there was no need for a sequel season. But that’s exactly what Amazon Prime has given us, minus Roberts, but with James (who was so good in “If Beale Street Could Talk” — my review is here) and Hong Chau continuing in their roles. Once again, the plot is convoluted, not told in a linear manner, and not nearly as compelling, despite good performances by Janelle Monáe, Chris Cooper, and Joan Cusack. “Homecoming” is a perfect example of a show that should have quit while it was ahead (a category that includes “Brockmire,” which ran two seasons too long, and “Killing Eve,” which has become unwatchable in its third season).
One thing I did like about “Homecoming” was that its chapters only ran about a half-hour each. On network and cable, dramas all run an hour — although it’s really closer to 45 minutes if you skip the commercials — because they have a time slot to fill. In the streaming world, there’s no artificial time limit. There was also a time when shows had 22 episodes in a season, but that’s no longer the case in many instances. That means the showrunner can tell their story in a mere half-dozen episodes if they like, without the pressure of inflating it with subplots and tangents.
That’s why I liked the recent HBO series “Run,” starring Merritt Wever and Domhnall Gleeson as ex-lovers who spontaneously escape their everyday lives to take a cross-country train trip and see if they can re-kindle their romantic fire. To do so, she leaves behind a husband and two kids, while he jumps ship from a career as a very successful motivational speaker. Things don’t go exactly as the couple plans as they discover new information about each other along the way. I was captivated throughout, right up until the story came to a logical conclusion for which no sequel will be necessary — those seven half-hours were just the right amount of time to tell the tale. However, I won’t be surprised if HBO turns “Run” into another “Fargo,” with a new cast playing new characters off on an entirely new adventure in succeeding seasons.
We finally watched the last two episodes of “Defending Jacob” on Apple TV+. I wrote about the series a couple of weeks ago, and now that it’s over, I have to say I wasn’t fully satisfied. The grand jury hearing that served as the show’s framing device fell apart once Jacob’s murder trial was concluded, and the plot twists that followed seemed spun out of thin air. Martha, who read the book, tells me that the TV showrunners changed the ending so that it no longer tracked with the path the rest of story was on. I admired the performances by Michelle Dockery, Chris Evans, JK Simmons, and Jaeden Martell, but I can’t really recommend “Defending Jacob” because its denouement diminished the drama.
And finally, I was looking forward to the new Netflix comedy from Steve Carrell and Greg Daniels, “Space Force,” but I’m sorry to say it was so stupid and unfunny that I didn’t even make it through the entire first episode before deleting the series from my queue.