4 Things That I, A 36-Year-Old Man, Absolutely Love About Hallmark’s The Way Home

 Chyler Leigh as Kat Landry in Hallmark's The Way Home
Chyler Leigh as Kat Landry in Hallmark's The Way Home

I wasn’t excited about watching Hallmark’s The Way Home when it first came out. Truth be told, I never would have watched it if I was left to exclusively make my own TV choices, but that’s not how marriage works. Sometimes a healthy relationship means picking up a show you’re apprehensive about, and for me, that I’m-trying-to-be-a-good-husband-here-show was The Way Home. Or at least that’s how it started out.

I watched the first episode and was pleasantly surprised to discover it was pretty well put together. Then I watched the second one and got kinda into it. Now, just days away from the Season 1 finale, I’m sending my wife theories about what happened to Jacob over text message. Life comes at you fast.

So, what the heck happened here? I’ve enjoyed some Hallmark movies before and I especially like the ones with a murder to solve (shoutout to The Crossword Mysteries with Lacey Chabert), but I’ve never been able to get into one of the network’s episodic shows before. I’ve tried convincing a few of my friends to watch, but they’re skeptical, likely because of assumptions about who Hallmark shows are geared toward, which is something the network and its stars deal with a lot. But you like what you like, and I’m a 36-year-old man super into The Way Home. Here’s a quick rundown of why (without any key spoilers)...

But First, Here's A Spoiler-Free Rundown Of What The Way Home Is About

Trying to explain what The Way Home is about is deceptively complicated and has led to me writing, re-writing, deleting and writing this paragraph again. It's a situation of wanting to include 800 details but knowing I should include like 5. I'm happy enough with this, I guess: The Way Home is about a mother (Kat) who moves back to her childhood home with her teenage daughter (Alice). She hasn't been there since she left for college not long after her little brother (Jacob) went missing. His loss effectively destroyed the family, and there remains lingering tension with grandma (Del) over what happened and how everyone reacted. Alice soon discovers how to time travel and starts visiting the family in the past.

So, in essence, the show is partially about figuring out what happened to Jacob in the past and partially about trying to fix the complicated relationships these women all have in the present. There's also estranged husband drama, first boyfriend drama, work drama, frenemy drama, soooo much time travel drama and even Y2K drama since half the show is set in the late '90s.

The Mystery Is Unfolding Slowly And Thoughtfully

At the heart of The Way Home is a decades old missing persons case, and the show has done a great job of giving us little bits and pieces but not the whole picture. That sounds easy on paper, but matching in the moment character development with the right mystery reveals so it all ties in together is, in practice, a very tough execution, which those involved have talked about. The Way Home has walked that tightrope and the result is, nine episodes in, I feel like I know a lot about the characters, a lot about Jacob’s disappearance but still don’t fully see the full picture.

It helps that there’s not a single objective when the show goes into the past. Sometimes it’s about the central mystery. Other times it’s about solving a side mystery, and on occasion, it’s just about hitting up the past to spend time with those you love. It’s a balance that should allow The Way Home plenty to explore next season.

Chyler Leigh, Sadie Laflamme-Snow, and Andie MacDowell for Hallmark's The Way Home
Chyler Leigh, Sadie Laflamme-Snow, and Andie MacDowell for Hallmark's The Way Home

The Characters Are Complicated

Human beings are too complicated to put into broad categories like heroes and villains, but a lot of shows don’t have the patience or the care to show those layers. It’s easier to give a character exclusively positive or negative personality traits. The Way Home doesn’t do that. The three women at the center of the plot are all very complicated and come with their own strengths and weaknesses. Even more impressively, the side characters are also layered.

I think Brady is the best example of that. We get a chance to see him from so many different perspectives and during so many different time periods. He’s not some estranged husband and absentee father in a bad cartoon that never comes through. He’s a flawed guy who is also, at times, likeable and does try. And you can basically go all the way down the character list and see that same messiness from Rita, Monica, Byron and, of course, Colton.

The Acting Is Top Notch

The stereotype that Hallmark movies are poorly acted has been wrong for quite awhile. Most of the more recent things I’ve seen on Hallmark have had a pretty strong lead and solid enough supporting actors, but there’s a difference between the acting not being a problem and the acting being a straight up strength. The acting is a straight up strength in The Way Home. Chyler Leigh, who I know very well from early seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, handles the difficult and emotionally complicated subject matter in a very authentic way here, and the two women around her, Andie MacDowell and Sadie Laflamme-Snow, are really good too, both separately and when they’re working together.

That strength also extends to the supporting actors in the past and present scenes. It’s not easy to cast multiple versions of the same character from different time periods. You don’t want to be too accurate. You have to allow that the characters have had growth and changed over the years, but you also need to have enough familiarity that it feels like the same character. The Way Home is able to hit those notes thanks to good performances from multiple actors working in tandem as older and younger versions.

The Music Is A Vibrant Part Of The Show

The Way Home does a great job of using music for more than just background accompaniment. It really works as a throughline binding different time periods together. Sometimes that’s through characters talking about music. Sometimes it’s by using relevant music to set the location, and sometimes it’s to serve as an example of warmth and closeness. In sadder moments, its absence is even used to highlight the coldness and distance that’s grown.

Each episode is the title of a popular song, and many of the characters care about music in a deep and personal way. The show has already given us extended musical performances from Kat, Alice and Colton, and I’d expect to see a lot more of those in the future, given the nature of the show. Or at least more singalongs in the car. I'd take that.

You can check out The Way Home on Sunday nights or you can check out Hallmark's upcoming movies, which premiere weekly.