‘Homecoming’ reviews: What do critics think of Julia Roberts in her first regular TV role?

Julia Roberts has been on TV before — even picking up a couple of Emmy nominations for her efforts — but Amazon‘s “Homecoming,” which premiered on November 2, represents her first regular series role after years of cultivating her America’s-sweetheart persona on the big screen. She both uses and subverts that persona in this series, in which she plays Heidi Bergman, a well-meaning therapist at a not-so-well-meaning facility for soldiers with PTSD. What she knows and how culpable she is are part of the mystery.

And so far critics are on-board for that mystery. The first season, consisting of 10 half-hour episodes, has scored 82 on MetaCritic as of this writing and 97% freshness on Rotten Tomatoes. The critics consensus on Rotten Tomatoes calls it “an impressive small-screen debut for Julia Roberts,” which “balances its haunting mystery with a frenetic sensibility that grips and doesn’t let go.”

Roberts in the lead role is being described as the show’s “greatest stroke of casting genius.” She shows “incredible range as a performer” and exhibits “as much magnetism as she ever did” on the big screen. It has been years since she has had the “opportunity to explore so many layers.”

All 10 episodes of the series are “dazzlingly directed” by Sam Esmail (“Mr. Robot”), known for his eerie, uneasy stylistic approach where reality itself is questionable, but the show is also “surprisingly, welcomingly low-key” with “lean storytelling, contained plot” and twists that are “simple yet supremely satisfying.”

And there’s more where this came from, since the show was ordered for two seasons. Check out some of the reviews below, and join the discussion on this and more with your fellow TV fans in our forums.

Willa Paskin (Slate): “‘Homecoming‘ is, instead, surprisingly, welcomingly low-key … Each episode, all of which have been dazzlingly directed by ‘Mr. Robot’s’ Sam Esmail, clocks in at around 30 minutes. It’s a very contained kind of paranoid thriller … With its lean storytelling, contained plot, and focus on characters as opposed to power structures, it makes chaos feel manageable. This conspiracy, at least, can be understood.”

Jen Chaney (Vulture): “‘Homecoming’ is … an irresistible mystery-box drama that tells its story with carefully considered details and superb acting that grounds the whole piece in reality … Casting Roberts as Heidi is perhaps ‘Homecoming’s’ greatest stroke of casting genius … It’s been a few years — since ‘August: Osage County,’ or perhaps even longer — since her film work has afforded her the opportunity to explore so many layers in a character.”

Melanie McFarland (Salon): “Whether the focus is Roberts’ quiet, darkening subtlety, [Shea Whigham’s] stony determination or [Bobby Cannavale’s] sleazy aggression, the performances lift the narrative instead of battling for supremacy … There’s also a great deal to appreciate … in a story that rolls out swiftly enough to allow the viewer to float along in curiosity as opposed to being pulled into its undertow.”

Kelly Lawler (USA Today): “The series is an old-fashioned conspiracy thriller in which the bad guys are exactly who you’d expect and the big twists reveal nefarious deeds yet are mostly predictable. It’s the rare drama where the answers to the mystery are simple yet supremely satisfying … Roberts starts to show her incredible range as a performer, turning her emotions on a dime and filling up the small screen with as much magnetism as she ever did on the big one.”

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