With only three episodes to go, The Man in the High Castle enters a more transitional mode with “Loose Lips,” setting up the pieces for the season’s closing hours. With that in mind, the episode is serviceable, ending in a few shocking reveals, but it takes some serious time to get there.
Nobusuke Tagomi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) is still in the alternate reality in which the Allies won World War II and his family has fallen apart. He’s been there for quite some time, raising the question of what exactly has happened to Tagomi in the “real world” while he’s been lost in this alternate timeline. Is he still meditating in his office? If he disappeared, shouldn’t someone look for him? The Japanese are planning to start World War III and no one cares that the trade minister of the Pacific States just disappeared? What exact purpose will this narrative arc ultimately serve? I’m hoping we’ll find out soon.
In the meantime, we get some solid character work from the Alterna-Juliana (Alexa Davalos), whom I actually like more than the real Juliana. Davalos is better at playing “relaxed hippie” than “undercover Resistance fighter.” In short order, Tagomi learns more about his broken family. He’s a more violent, defeated man in this better world, which raises all sorts of interesting thematic questions. Should Tagomi choose to stay in the better world where he’s hated but his loved ones are happier, or should he go back to a world that likely needs him to avoid nuclear disaster? We also learn that Alterna-Tagomi was planning to kill himself. It didn’t dawn on me until after I watched this episode, but maybe he did, and that’s why our Tagomi hasn’t run into the alternate version of himself.
Joe Blake (Luke Kleintank) is living the high life with his father, Reichsminister Heusmann (Sebastian Roché). They talk about the space program and his crush on Nicole (Bella Heathcote) when a whole bunch of important-looking Nazis rush the place. They need the reichsminister now! Remember, Hitler collapsed at the end of last episode. Joe tags along and meets Himmler, who turns out to be his godfather. He learns that his father will now be named Acting Chancellor in Hitler’s absence. Heusmann claims this is not a good position to be in, since he’ll be held responsible for everything that goes wrong. It’s a bit like being the interim coach for the L.A. Rams: It’s not a job anyone wants and you’re definitely not keeping it.
As power struggles erupt in Berlin, Juliana is being watched through the vent while she vacuums. The power goes out just as Smith (Rufus Sewell) comes to the door. Creepy. He’s in interrogator mode. She met the Man in the High Castle, she admits, but she only met him once and was drugged. She does tell Smith about the film, though, how she saw Joe shooting people in the film. Smith seems to take her answers as truthful. He leaves and the power comes back on. It’s an effectively shot scene.
Juliana goes to tell George Dixon (Tate Donovan) about what happened and he wants her to stay undercover. He knows the SS are on high alert and securing key locations. Something is going down. Why did Smith choose today to pressure Juliana now? Is it because she’s getting closer? Meanwhile, a high-powered Nazi comes to Kido (Joel de la Fuente) to defect. People are fleeing the Third Reich like mad.
Of course, the Nazi Wives Club still soldiers on. Lucy (Emily Holmes) and Helen (Chelah Horsdal) and Julia/Juliana are drinking wine and gossiping, although one can sense Mrs. Smith is tense. She talks about how a woman’s role in the Reich is to run her house and rear her children. On cue, Smith calls. Don’t pack for Thomas yet, he warns. There’s too much going on for their Andes kidnapping scheme. While Helen is on the phone, Lucy drops a bombshell: The footage of Hitler on vacation that’s airing on the TV is archival. She knows because her husband was told to program it. Helen accuses Lucy of treason while Smith learns of his comrade’s defection. The house of Nazi cards is collapsing. It gets worse as Kido discovers that the defector brought evidence that the Crown Prince wasn’t shot by Resistance members, but Nazi agents. This is how wars begin.
Juliana calls George with a report. She wants to get in front of his people right now. She’s figured out what’s going on with Lucy’s insider info. Now that she’s got the information, she’s done. She goes to meet with the Resistance Powers That Be and they discuss what to do if Hitler is really dying. They inform her that Hitler’s death is a trigger for an uprising. Juliana calls Arnold (Daniel Roebuck) and warns him to get everyone she cares about out of San Francisco right now.
Our first scene with the Resistance comes as Childan (Brennan Brown) informs Ed (DJ Qualls) that he wants to keep working with him and Frank (Rupert Evans). Mr. Frink has other things on his mind. He tells Ed about the bomb that the Japanese are building — and how they’re going to do something to stop it. Cue Arnold, who informs Frank that Juliana is still alive. She asked him to come and get Frank to safety. Frank goes and tells Gary (Callum Keith Rennie) about Hitler and Juliana. He knew all along, but chose to let Frank believe Juliana was dead. The dialogue throughout this scene is atrocious. “This is war! It’s bigger than all of us!” is topped minutes later by “This whole time I convinced myself that I was the one saving her … but it was the other way around.” Evans deserves better than that.
As the episode comes to a close, Joe decides to stay in Berlin to stand by his dad and Smith makes one of his boldest moves yet. Remember Heydrich (Ray Proscia)? He’s been hanging in a prison cell for days now. Joe tells him that Hitler is dead and San Francisco has been flattened by a nuclear bomb. He swears that Heydrich’s side won and he’ll be in charge. Can he promise that he’ll keep Smith’s family safe? Heydrich takes the bait, revealing that Heusmann is set to become the new Fuhrer, calling him “the man with a much greater vision.” Smith shoots Heydrich. Hitler dies. And suddenly, Joe’s daddy has a very evil look.
- The excellent array of guest stars who signed onto this season are being wasted. Stephen Root only got two episodes, while Callum Keith Rennie and Tate Donovan have been relegated to mere plot devices. Same goes for Bella Heathcote. Those casting choices are great, but the show hasn’t found a way to use its improved ensemble.
- Several people have asked me if Frank Spotnitz’s departure from High Castle can be felt onscreen. I’d say yes and no. Many of the season’s strengths and flaws are echoes of last season, but one wonders if Spotnitz had a greater vision to fix the show’s lack of momentum. It has felt at times like the writers were making up this narrative as they went along, which may have been the case after their showrunner departed.
- Only two episodes left! Do you think any of the regulars might not make it to season three? I have a suspicion we’ll lose at least one of the major players. I’m looking at you, Frank Frink.