The Man In The High Castle (2015)
Written by: Frank Spotnitz, Philip K. Dick
Starring: Alexa Davalos, Brennan Brown, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Chelah Horsdal, DJ Qualls, Joel de la Fuente, Luke Kleintank, Quinn Lord, Rick Worthy, Rufus Sewell, Rupert Evans
THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE (2016)
Available on Amazon Prime Instant Video
Read my review of Season 1 of THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE
Following on from Season 1, Joe Blake has the sought-after film which he delivers to Obergruppenführer John Smith and is summoned by his estranged father in Berlin to visit. Meanwhile, Juliana Crain meets the Man in the High Castle before fighting for her life after the resistance brand her a traitor. Realising she must find the mystery man in the film who holds the key to their survival, she seeks asylum in the Greater Reich of New York…
Meanwhile, trade minister Tagomi manages to visit an alternate America, the one we know, and experiences life where the allies win the war, at a time where protests are being held to ban the bomb.
Back in the Japanese controlled Pacific States, the general has acquired the microfilm and is hard at work making an atom bomb to attack the Reich when Hitler is dead. Only Tagomi’s film of a hydrogen bomb and the help of Kempeitai’s Inspector Kido can prevent a war.
With Ed in the Kempeitai’s custody, Frank manages to bargain for his freedom by making a deal with the Yakuza, a deal which sees Frank, Ed and antiques dealer Bob forced to forge antiques in exchange for their survival.
Season One of THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE was a slow burn that you had to stick with and even then it became a slog at times. I’ve spoken to a few people who were bored stiff by the lack of action and dull characters on show. Fortunately, Season Two picks up the tempo and gives us something we can sink our teeth into. Establishing the story in Season One has allowed us to get to the meatier bits of the story such as Joe Blake deciding where his loyalties lie and whether one of the Reich’s leading officers, Obergruppenführer John Smith, will disobey the Fuhrer by hiding the health of his own son who’s discovered to have a terminal muscle wasting disease. These predicaments stir up some trouble for our group of characters as each one must battle with their moral dilemmas of the world they find themselves in showing they are more than their label or job description.
Season Two spends a healthy chunk between essentially five sets of characters: Juliana, John Smith, Joe, Tagomi and the unlikely trio of Frank, Ed and Bob too. Each character has their own thing going on but their specific narratives easily flow alongside the others as their paths cross and intertwine. This happens as events reach a dramatic head as Hitler becomes seriously ill which puts the whole world on edge as both the Nazis and the Japanese plan to secure control for themselves, respectively. Who would’ve thought that Hitler’s survival would represent peace between the alliance, as all the while the resistance, with the aid of the Man in the High Castle himself, dedicate their lives to taking down both the Nazi and Japanese systems in order to restore freedom to their beloved US of A.
People’s lives are complex which makes them colourful to watch on-screen and so to finally see the relationships between these characters with their families is much more pleasant this time round. We get to see how much Obergruppenführer John Smith cares for his family yet that same compassion is spared on anyone outside his family who flouts the law or indeed threatens the lives of the family he adores. His caring side is a sharp contrast to his cold and calculated execution in his role within the Reich and he often has a plan or two up his sleeve to get the result he needs. We also see the feeble Frank Frink grow a pair as he decides to become a man of action rather than keeping his head down, trying to ignore the reality that he lives in. Being apart from Juliana, who he feels no longer attached to, fuels him with anger. Coupled with the death of his sister and her children, his furiousity drives his desire to act and be part of the change. Maybe a bit of Julianna is rubbing off on him after all.
The part of Season Two which is both the most intriguing yet out of place piece of content are the scenes featuring Tagomi. It seems Tagomi’s method of meditation is more powerful than anyone could anticipate as he travels to a parallel universe where the Pacific States are just plain ol’ America. He sees what life is like there, the difference between that and his own solitary life as Trade Minister in the Japanese ruled U.S. Tagomi’s scenes with family and a life outside of his job, surrounded by people who care, are quite quite touching to watch and, along with the films, are one of the few signs that maybe there is a way to exist elsewhere or at least change the future they’re in. In a Nightmare On Elm Street style move, we even see Tagomi bringing back a souvenir from his parallel world journey, one that could prevent the destruction of their homes and lives. This ability to bring things back also raises the question whether other people could be taken on Tagomi’s meditative journey to see the alternate life. By the end of the Season though, other plot threads appear which further fuel potential travel between both existences and possibly even more. I guess the only way we’ll find out (or not if Lost was anything to go by) is by seeing what Season 3 brings.
Season Two of THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE delivers on what I’d initially been hoping for and brings action, mystery and drama to a world where every word you say and every move you make has the potential for severe consequence. Roll on Season Three.