My husband describes The Man in the High Castle as a ‘morbid soap’, and he’s not wrong. Laugh a minute it ain’t.
After the action of the first couple of episodes, not much actually happens in the rest of the series. No-one ever has a proper conversation – they all just look meaningfully at each other and then look away, also meaningfully. However, this creates an impressively oppressive atmosphere – we have no idea what is going on but we know it isn’t anything nice.
Most impressive is the setting – a grubby, run-down America, with pompous Nazi symbolism and mystical Japanese culture pasted over the top.
There are too many coincidences and mumbled misery to take it all too seriously; the chances of Juliana running into Joe the amount of times she does is ludicrous, for a start, and why does Frank’s friend Ed take the gun back to work to dispose of? I mean, the place is full of suspicious eyes and the Japanese have been crawling all over it. Drop it down a drain, for gawd’s sake!
But in most parts, the storyline is solid and the acting is excellent. Top US Nazi John Smith discovering his son has an incurable disease was cleverly handled without histrionics, and the relationship between gentle Mr Tagomi and nervous Juliana was touchingly portrayed.
The closing scene (with the i-ching consulting Mr Tagomi opening his eyes to an alternative 1962 America) was so beautiful and compelling I watched it three times.
After a few episodes of running around and hard stares, the ending of the final two episodes was masterful. It turned the whole premise of the series from ‘what would have happened if?’ to pure sci-fi. Do these films show the future, or a scenario of different futures? Or are they not the future at all, are they different realities? Are we in a time-travelling situation here? Hitler had racks and racks of films – did they help him win the war? Do the films change depending on the things he does? Is he the man in the high castle?? Bring on season two.
Things I think about when I trek to the airing cupboard:
- Who was the second man in the film Juliana and Frank saw being shot?
- Is Joe Blake John Smith’s son? Has that actually been said, out loud, by anyone?
- Why does the nasty Nazi want to kill John Smith? I know it all has to do with the plot to kill Hitler, but that’s as far as I can go.
- What conditioner does Juliana use? Is it some sort of Japanese concoction? Because, despite all her troubles, her hair is unfailingly divine.