Homecoming is one of the best shows of 2018. It’s creative and suspenseful and thrilling, it features A+ performances from Julia Roberts and Bobby Cannavale and Stephan James, and it features some really great directorial style from Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail. Also, each of its 10 episodes are only about 30 minutes long, so you can finish the whole thing in one rainy afternoon. You should watch it, if you haven’t. And once you do, you, like me, will probably be fascinated with the final scene of the final episode. That’s what we’re going to discuss here. You are welcome to keep reading if you haven’t seen it yet, but also, like, don’t. Don’t let me ruin it for you. Go watch it and come back here later. We’ll wait.
The background, quickly, with spoilers: Heidi (Julia Roberts) was a therapist at a shady facility that “helped” veterans overcome PTSD so they could re-enter civilian life. Allegedly. The whole thing turned out to be a ruse to “fix” soldiers so they could be re-deployed over and over. When Heidi found out, she dosed herself and her favorite patient, Walter (Stephan James), with enough of the facility’s anti-PTSD/memory-wiping medicine to turn them both into blank slates and get them out. Her memory eventually comes back and she goes looking for Walter. She finds him in a small town not unlike the ones they discussed in their therapy sessions.
When they meet, it appears that Walter still has no memory of her. They chat like two strangers making small-talk and then Walter leaves. But — BUT — just after he leaves, Heidi looks down and sees he has turned her fork sideways, something he had always done to the pens and other items on her desk during their sessions as a playful way to tease her for always having everything in perfect order. Heidi snaps her head toward his car, looking out the window as he pulls away, wondering — like the rest of us — what exactly it meant. Cut to black, credits, season over.
This, obviously, raises a number of questions. Questions we don’t have the answers to. Questions we might never have the answer to. And that’s okay, if we never get them, both because it all adds to the mystery and depth of the series and because it allows us all to speculate wildly about things, and speculating wildly is fun. I’ve been doing it for a while now, ever since I saw the scene, and I’ve come up with three ways to look at it all.
Number one: Walter didn’t recognize her
This is not as fun as the other options so we’ll clear it out first. The reasoning behind it goes something like this: Walter’s memories of Homecoming and Heidi are still gone but this one thing he did or does — turning one thing on a table 45 degrees or so to break up the perfect order — is so deeply ingrained inside him that it wasn’t erased, like it’s a part of his mainframe personality and not a single memory that can be created or destroyed. Which, fine, maybe. Or maybe it’s a sign that he remembers something, or is starting to remember something, and this is the first manifestation of things coming back for him the way an interaction with Colin brought them back for Heidi. Also fine.
But then explain this:
That’s the look he gives her while he’s turning the fork. I had to go back and check after the reveal. He does it while she’s looking away at the waitress. That’s not an “oh, I guess I’ll just absent-mindedly turn this stranger’s fork” look. That’s more of a “wait until she sees this” look. I can’t watch that part of the scene and not think he knew what he was doing, on some small level, at least. Look at the eyes. The eyes are the snitches of the face.
So, if it’s not this, then…
Number two: Walter recognized her but didn’t let on at all
This one is way more fun but also contains problems. You can explain away the “why?” pretty easily. Maybe his memory is back but he didn’t know if hers is fully back and left the fork as a sign that she’s on the right track. Maybe he just wants to be left alone but wants her to know he’s okay. Any explanation would be weird but, considering the two of them are in this position because of pharmaceutical-laced gnocchi, weird went out the window a long time ago. Plus, this option rules because it basically means Walter is Jason Bourne now, and that allows me to make this video, which I just did and feel really great about.
The flaws in this theory are more subtle. The big one is, if he has his memory back, even if he’s trying to keep that part of his life tucked away, how did he avoid doing a double take when he first saw Heidi? Even just for a second. It’s really hard to not lock eyes for a second with someone you recognize or think you recognize. Up until the fork thing, she — and we — had no inkling that he had any idea who this frazzled white lady who looks kind of like world-famous movie star Julia Roberts is.
(Unrelated question still worth asking: Does Julia Roberts, the real person, exist in the Homecoming universe? If not, do her movies exist with other actresses in her roles? This is incredibly stupid but also something I would ask people involved with the show if given the chance, which is why no one lets me do interviews.)
I don’t know, man. I don’t know. Both of these possibilities have points in their favor and points against. The ambiguity is there on purpose, for sure, but intentional ambiguity is still ambiguity and it’s kind of killing me. A little. In a good way. If only there were a third option. Something that is extremely unlikely but would explain things in a neat and orderly fashion. Something like…
Number three: The Prestige!
Yeah, no, this is definitely not the answer here. It’s just that, ever since I watched The Prestige, a tiny voice in my head whispers “ahhh, but what if he has a secret twin!” every time there’s an unexplained plot twist in a show or movie I’m watching. It would be weird, though. You have to credit me if I end up being right. I won’t be, of course. I rarely am. But if this show comes back for season two and Walter gets home from the diner and says “I did the fork thing” and then a voice from the shadows replies “excellent” and then a second Walter steps out from the shadows (possibly with an evil mustache), then just remember who had it first.