Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Man in the High Castle 2.7-2.10: Alternate Reality to the Rescue, Literally

Well, I couldn't resist watching the rest - the last four episodes - of The Man in the High Castle, Season 2, and I'm glad I did.  Much as I love a good night's sleep, it isn't all it's cracked up to be, especially when there's a series like this to be binge-watched.

Let me start this review by saying my favorite scene in the final four episodes - well, maybe not my favorite, but the one I enjoyed most in a perverse sort of way - was when that Nazi newscaster in New York was shot dead on the air right in the middle of his announcing that Hitler had died.  He was actually telling the truth, and didn't want to make that announcement (he was blackmailed into doing it), but, boy, there's a satisfying example - in fiction, of course, where it should stay - of a propagandist newscaster getting a just desert.  (A less over-the-top way of silencing him would just been to cut the power - but, hey, this is alternate reality, and a Nazi alternate reality at that.)

Now on to the major plot:  the use of a tape from our reality, showing a hydrogen bomb test conducted by the US in the Pacific Ocean, in what would have been Japanese territory had it won the war, was a brilliant twist and an ingenuous, unpredictable use of alternate reality.   And it didn't even come from the man in the high castle.

Which gets us to Tagomi.  As I said in an earlier review, he's a fabulous character - literally, because he can travel back and forth between our reality and the one in which the Axis powers won the Second World War.  One slight hole in the plot is why he wasn't missed more, especially in such crucial times, when he was away from the Axis-victorious reality and at home with his family in ours. But that's a small quibble.  On the plus side, we find out that one his colleagues also made the trip, and that possibly the US atom-bombing of Japan was the trigger.  I like that a lot better than the I-Ching.

The doings in Nazi Germany were outstanding television, especially the evolution and devolution of Joe's father.   One point, though, that I'm not 100% clear about regarding Berlin:  Did Hitler die of (a) natural causes, (b) Japanese poison, or (c) part of a plot pulled off by Joe's father?   Smith cleverly uses "evidence" of (c) to get Joe's father out of the acting Chancellorship, which therein saved the world (for now), but I certainly wouldn't put it past Smith to have concocted some or all of this evidence.

And speaking Smith - an Emmy-worthy performance by Rufus Sewell, and memorable work by Alexa Davalos, too.   Frank Spotnitz left the show-running after episode 5 - did I notice a difference before and after?  Maybe a little - after was a little less metaphysical, a little more large in terms of big developments and important characters killed, and the ending with Abendsen and Julianna was a little mawkish.  Also, I don't know whose fault this is, but we basically learned everything we would about the man in the high castle - and not very much - in the very first episode, with not much in any later episode.  We still don't know the all-important source of Abendsen's news reels - fake news, of sorts, in today's parlance, with the twist that the news is real in our reality.  But all together, the 10 episodes continue what I thought after the first season: The Man in the High Castle is the best series on television this year, and in many ways the best science fiction television series ever made (Star Trek the original series and the next generation are the only competition, in very different ways).

See also The Man in the High Castle 2.1-2.3: My Heimisch Town ... The Man in the High Castle 2.4-2.6: Rails and Realities

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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