Prime’s finest moment to date. IMHO.
They’ve taken Gimlet Media’s astounding podcast and adapted not one, but two, TV series from it.
In the first, Julia Roberts not only allegedly bought the rights but assumes the title role of Heidi Bergman, a case worker at a mysterious ‘facility’ in which homecoming American war veterans are treated for PTSD. Why? You’ll have to watch to find out.
I’m no Roberts fan and although her performance is good I’d like to have seen Catherine Keener take her aural role on-screen. Likewise, I think both Oscar Isaac and David Schwimmer might have made better jobs of their roles than the TV replacements.
But that’s actually a quibble, because what we get is an excellent rendering of the story with outstanding direction, music and camerawork.
It’s an oddity, especially at its 20 minute length (echoing the podcast).
What the TV does, that adds value, is add the aforementioned production values to the already high quality that Gimlet achieved. The design, overall, is stunning; with a touch of the Kubricks.
But I’m left thinking, good as it is, a little was lost in the translation.
The same cannot be said of Season 2.
It’s now a significant diversion from the podcast.
We meet a new lead in Janelle Monae who plays Jackie (or is it Alex?) an employee of Geist (or is she), the company that administered (shadily) the ‘Homecoming’ initiative in Season 1.
She is almost literally lost at sea as the series opens. We have no idea who she is or how she got there, what’s more, neither does she.
This is a big ask for Monae who takes on her first lead role, to my knowledge, and has to rise to the challenge of carrying the series. I felt she was on the brink of failing the task at a few points, after all she’s a singer not an actor, but at each tipping point she just gets over the bar so that by the end I believe we enjoy a fine performance.
Steven James raises his game as Walter Cruz and his character gets much more rounded, but the real ‘find’ is Chris Cooper as Leonard Geist, the mill owner gone rogue, feeling overwhelmed by his own bastard creation.
Show-stealing, on an epic scale, is the filthy performance of Joan Cusack as (Officer) Bunda.
Season 2 shifts a gear. It’s even darker, it’s less familiar to us ‘Poddies’ and it’s found its TV voice. It just gets better and better.
The circular plot device means that nothing is clear until the very end of the final episode and that’s one of the reasons, the excellent Monae aside, that it makes such gripping viewing.
I loved it. More, more, more. Please.