Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Man in the High Castle 2.4-2.6: Rails and Realities

First, let me say that I what I like most in The Man in the High Castle on Amazon television - and there's a lot to enormously like in this extraordinary series - is the almost casual way it shows the melding of our American history with the way it might have been had the Germans and the Japanese won the Second World War.   Signs like see the "American Reich on rail" - hanging in a New York City train terminal (I couldn't tell whether it was Grand Central or Penn Station), next to a picture of Hitler with white hair - says everything you want to know about this story.   Europeans always put more stock than we did in travel by rails - in the aftermath of World War II, American rail travel was systematically overtaken and dismantled by our love of automobiles - but the rails also had a special, horrible role in the Holocaust, being the vehicle of delivery of victims to the death camps.

So that sign, on screen for just a fast moment, conveyed all of that.   And more ... because if you love rail travel, and wish there was more of it today in America (I take Amtrak to Washington and Philadelphia and Boston whenever I can, and wish I could take it further), then that sign also speaks of a kind of progress we missed here in our real history in America.   Just as with those super fast, Nazi rocket planes.

The second group of three episodes of The Man in High Castle - 2.4-2.6 - are all about comparison between that alternate reality and ours, so much so that Tagomi actually goes into and back to our reality for the better part of two episodes.   Indeed, the ending of 2.6, with Tagomi watching JFK address the nation about the Cuban Missile Crisis, with his voice playing in the alternate reality with Joe in Nazi Germany in 1962 and Smith and his family in American Reich New York, is a memorable piece of cinema in itself.   We victors of WWII came close to blowing up the world at that point, lest we comfortably sit back and smugly assume even for a moment that our winning World War II led to a world of unbridled peace, prosperity, and security. In all realities, we humans are never too far from the precipice.

Lots of outright surprises and surprising interconnections in these three episodes, too.   Juliana is married to Tagomi's son in our reality - that is, in the America that won the Second World War.  That closes a nice loop which opened in the first season, when she went to work for Tagomi in the Japanese-won reality, which in turn jump-started in some way his entry into our reality.   And Joe is not just an American working for Nazis - he was born in Germany, like a boy from Brazil, part of the Hitler perfection of the race program.

How all of these pieces on the alternate-reality cross-dimensional board will fall out is anyone's guess - and we likely won't have final answers at the end of the season, either.  Which is good, since this story needs all the room it can get.  The man in high castle himself no doubt knows some of the answers.  It occurred to me that he's also a time traveler of sorts - or has access to futures in some way.  But he burned most of the films, and now has all of that crucial knowledge of all of those realities only in one place - his head.

See also The Man in the High Castle 2.1-2.3: My Heimisch Town ... The Man in the High Castle 2.7-2.10: Alternate Reality to the Rescue, Literally

See also The Man in the High Castle on Amazon ... The Man in the High Castle 2-10: Timely Alternate Reality Par Excellence ... The Man in the High Castle in Reality - Well, on NYC Subway Cars


podcast review of 2nd season
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