"Paul Levinson's It's Real Life is a page-turning exploration into that multiverse known as rock and roll. But it is much more than a marvelous adventure narrated by a master storyteller...it is also an exquisite meditation on the very nature of alternate history." -- Jack Dann, The Fiction Writer's Guide to Alternate History

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Man in the High Castle 2.1-2.3: My Heimisch Town

It's harder but also more important and on some profound level also more enjoyable and disconcerting, at the same time, if that makes any sense, to review Season 2 of the superb series The Man in the High Castle on Amazon.  The reason is obvious.  We're a lot closer to Nazis ruling America in 2016 than we were just a year ago.   The bare ugly facts of the matter are that some of the President-elect's most ardent supporters are American neo-Nazis.

But I'll try not to dwell on that, and also not on comparisons between Season 2 and The Man in the High Castle novel by Philip K. Dick.  As I said in my reviews of the first season, and in the video of the Skype lecture I gave in England earlier this year (see below), and the talk I also gave at the Philip K. Dick Film Festival in New York City last January - novels and television series are two very different media, and equations are usually more difficult than apples and oranges.

So ... I'll start with a review of the first three episodes, and be back with one or two more reviews, depending upon how long I take to savor the entire second season.  It starts with a chilling scene, of the kind that worked so well in the first season.   Obergruppenführer Smith's son is going to high school - a perfectly normal high school on Long Island by our American standards, with a girl in the class he likes and a perfect 1960 Paul Anka song playing in the background - "My Home Town" - except, the pledge of alliance the class does is Nazi, ending in a triple sieg heil.  That combination of comfortingly familiar and jarringly not is what made The Man in the High Castle so disconcerting and effective the first season, and the second applies this recipe with the same unnerving skill.   I'll never hear that song again without some hairs standing up somewhere on the back of my neck.

A significant change for the better in the second season is crucial and soon apparent: the man in the high castle is definitely not Hitler, as was strongly implied in the first season (and at variance with the novel), but Abendsen, played by Stephen Root, and looking and sounding just as he should - that is, like Philip K. Dick.

Ok, let's take a little stock of where we are as this season second gets going.  At least two people have some real knowledge of our reality - that is, the world in which Philip K. Dick lived (not Abendsen) and wrote the novel, the world in which this masterful Amazon series is now streaming its second season 50+ years later, and Trump will soon be President (I said I'd try not to dwell on that - or the novel - I didn't say I'd never mention them).  But back to the TV series:  Abendsen knows about our reality - that's what he's making his newsreels about, and so does the Japanese trade minister in San Francisco, Tagomi (who is just a fabulous character, by the way).  How and why these two know our reality - at least up to the early 1960s, to be clear - well, there's no clue about that (yet) in the series.

So that's the backdrop,   As to the proximate stories, no need for me to give much of that away or even discuss, except to say, they're pretty good, with some fine surprises, and also great tests of love in all kinds of relationships, including father and son (the resolution of which was predictable but still satisfying to see).  And some excellent contrary touches, like a Nazi plan to irrigate the Sahara for the good of humanity.

And I'll be back here soon, with more.  Videos of my Skype talk and the Paul Anka song follow, as well as links to my reviews and discussion of the first season.

See also The Man in the High Castle 3.1: Real People in Alternate History...  The Man in the High Castle 3.2: Alternate Realities, Frederic Brown, and Rockwells ...  The Man in the High Castle 3.4-6: "Tis Death that's Dead" ... The Man in the High Castle 3.7-10: The Metaphysics of Alternate Realities

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