What’s the show all about?
The Man in the High Castle, based on the novel by Philip K Dick, tells of an alternate universe following on from World War II, where the Allies lost the war. In this reality, the U.S is divided into the Great Nazi Reich and the Japanese Pacific States. There is also a Neutral Zone spanning the Rocky Mountains, which possesses certain qualities of the lawless Prohibition era.
The Man in the High Castle mostly follows the story of Juliana Crain, born in the Pacific States, who unintentionally joins The Resistance after undertaking her murdered sister’s mission. During the mission, she meets heartthrob Joe Blake, an SS covert agent who ends up saving her life multiple times. The pair spent most of the season almost dying, almost kissing, being part of The Resistance, then be hunted by them, oh and transporting a film reel showing alternate realities around the country. Finally, they are forced to part ways after Juliana betrays The Resistance and saves Joe’s life for a change.
The second season follows their separate journeys, which enables them to become stand alone characters. They’re finally able to become more than just the ‘will they, won’t they’ couple, even though that’s still very much a part of the show. Joe now has to deal with the struggle of being part of the Nazi regime without actually liking any of them, as well as some serious daddy issues. Juliana, who managed to royally p-off The Resistance finds refuge in the Great Nazi Reich under the wing of Joe’s former boss Obergruppenführer John Smith (Rufus Sewell), who like Joe is a Nazi that actually displays appealing qualities. This leads me to think that he will ultimately be the hero of the story.
Themes of the show.
The constant question of who is good and evil plays havoc with anyone’s conscious. Can you really ever root for a Nazi? Though the novel is anti-fascism, the show weaves empathy into every character’s story. For example, John Smith’s son Thomas is incurably sick, he’s a member of Hitler’s Youth but he also wants to help disadvantaged people and he loves his family. Does he deserve to potentially be exterminated?
The show also toys with the notion that there is no such thing as a perfect society, in any reality. The Great Nazi Reich is clean, safe, and modern but even John Smith, a high-ranking officer would rather betray his country for his family, who wouldn’t? The Smith family make the show, they create some tense viewing and leave me desperate to know if this will be the episode he takes down the Nazi Empire from the inside.
Over in the Pacific States, where terror is a lot more overt than in the east, Juliana’s ex-fiance Frank Frink has all of a sudden become an angsty teenager, after copying Juliana in joining The Resistance. He’s also dabbling in some illegal activity but unfortunately, his character is unconvincing and a little stiff, it would make for better TV to just kill him off already.
Again the show plays into the notion of good vs evil, John Smith and Joe Blake are relatable, likable and by far the best characters but ultimately they’re Nazi’s. Also, Juliana has only become interesting after she moves into the Reich and starts to integrate herself into their lives. The Resistance characters come across as brutish thugs just in it to bring down the regime, not to necessarily make a better life.
Is it worth watching?
Essentially The Man in the High Castle’s storyline is great, the ultimate ‘what if?’ What if the Nazi’s won the war? It blurs the lines of ethical and moral reasoning for the audience and creates interesting characters, most of the time. However, it is a little slow going, if it were a week by week release, then it would be easy to lose interest.
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