The Man in the High Castle
The fourth episode of Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle transitions us to the meat of the season, but it does so just slowly enough to frustrate. Why we didn’t get here earlier? “Revelations” is about people getting in the way of best-laid plans: Ed (DJ Qualls) tries to stop Frank (Rupert Evans) from his meeting with destiny, while Joe (Luke Kleintank) and Juliana (Alexa Davalos) complicate each other’s trajectories.
As most of these episodes do, “Revelations” picks up immediately where the last one left off. The Marshal (Burn Gorman) is trailing Juliana through Canon City. The chase scene uses many tools of the tense thriller: shadows, creepy music, and creaking floors. How will this end? She can’t die, of course. And the Marshal can’t either: he’s too strong a character, played by too strong an actor. Joe cracks the Marshal over the head, then they run off to find Lem (Rick Worthy), who was last seen cooking pork in the diner.
In San Francisco, we see that Frankie got a gun. Is he going to kill the crown prince, whose visit has been foreshadowed with great narrative importance? Has the Resistance shaped him into an assassin? Shots of Frank pointing his gun at the mirror reflect Taxi Driver, while the set-up is eerily reminiscent of Lee Harvey Oswald. Frank is a loner who wants to kill the leader of his country, and The Man in the High Castle is set only a year before Oswald would climb the steps of the Texas School Book Depository.
Ed figures out that Frank wants to kill the crown prince. Evans is really good in this scene, even better than he’s tended to be throughout the series. (He’s the best actor on the show, but we’ll get into that next episode.) Qualls, not so much — and lines like “Please promise me that you won’t give up” don’t help.
Juliana goes to warn Lemuel, who reveals not only that he was her contact, but that he also knew the woman Origami Man killed. If she gave Origami Man the list that Juliana found in his lair, then they’re all in trouble. Lem reveals that he’s merely a messenger; he takes the films to the Man in the High Castle. Juliana wants to meet this Man, raising an interesting thematic subtext. Some are comfortable as cogs in the machine, even within the Resistance, while others seek greater purpose. Where do Juliana, Joe, and Frank fall?
Joe reports back to Smith, who orders him to kill the Man in the High Castle, even if it costs him his life. If Joe dies, Smith says, he’ll receive a “hero’s funeral with full honors.” Both Joe and Frank appear to be hurtling toward assassinations — one instructed by his superior, and the other as a form of vengeance. Will either of them complete their missions?
After a brief interlude that reminds us the show doesn’t do nearly enough with Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa’s character, Tagomi — he’s still concerned about the crown prince’s speech — we come back to the Rockies, where the Marshal is looking for Juliana. Lemuel doesn’t give her up. He doesn’t even blink. Afterward, Lemuel meets with her in the forest, then pulls a gun on Joe. He knows that the mechanic’s shop in New York was destroyed and figures out that the Nazis wanted Joe and the truck to get away. “He used you to get to the Man in the High Castle,” he says. He’s right, but Joe and Juliana talk him out of his suspicions anyway. Lem says they need to go to Cripple Creek on the other side of the mountain. He won’t help them get there.
After we learn that Colonel Wegener likes sex and Tagomi doesn’t approve, we get a brief scene with Juliana’s parents, as her dad (Daniel Roebuck) tells her mom (Macall Gordon) about Frank’s tragedy. Frank seems to be on a collision course with assassination, buying bullets for a Colt .45. We learn that ammunition can’t be sold to the non-Japanese, but even in this alternate world, money still talks. Frank gives up his identity card to get the bullets. That mistake will probably come back to haunt him. Juliana’s mother tracks down Ed, expressing sympathy about the horrors Frank endured. Can motherly love stop an assassination?
After Joe and Juliana return home — and he continues to lie about watching the film he’s carrying, which was made by the Man in the High Castle — Smith looks for the mole who helped the Resistance about ambush him. There’s no evidence of a security breach, he’s told, and the prisoner is dead, so they’ve lost their chance to learn the mole’s identity. Did Smith call in the attack himself, knowing he’d survive? He’s just the kind of maniac who would do that. And if he didn’t, how far will he go to find the mole?
The Marshal spots Juliana as she heads to her car. He chases after her, and just as he’s about to jump into his car, Joe stops him. He reveals that he’s a secret Nazi agent. (Always a good way to get a bounty hunter off your back.) The Marshal doesn’t quite buy it, but Joe’s diversion gives Juliana time to get away. She fakes her death, strapping the body of the Origami Man’s victim into her burning car. Joe picks her up and they head back to Canon City. They really need to leave this town.
By the end of the episode, the show finally makes moves to get them out. Juliana contacts Ed, who was shoved in a closet after he accidentally shot Frank. She wants to get back to San Francisco, so she jumps on a bus heading West. This is good. The Man in the High Castle needs to split up Juliana and Joe. These characters need purpose apart from each other and Canon City.
At last, we get to the main function of this episode: the crown prince’s speech. Wegener sneaks in with a fake Swedish passport and sits behind his contact. Tagomi handles the introductions in his typically anxious manner, while an equally-worried Kido guards the podium. Despite their unease, the scene isn’t very tense. Why doesn’t the prelude to the speech feel urgent? There’s a nice, wide shot of the crowd, but it’s not filmed in a way that produces tension.
The crown prince delivers a truly boring speech as Frank inches closer and closer. There’s still a big distance between the crowd and the podium, so he’ll need one a hell of a shot. (And if he gets too close, Kido will recognize him.) Wegener looks like a kid trying to pass a love note in class. When Frank pulls his gun in the crowd, the music swells. A child sees the weapon and makes eye contact with Frank. He hesitates — and someone else shoots the crown prince!
I have to admit, even with the aforementioned Oswald comparison, I didn’t see that one coming. Is this really a counterpart to the JFK conspiracy? Is Frank just a patsy? We’ll know more next episode.
- I wonder if The Man in the High Castle would be better served by the 44-minute running time of cable and network television. Every episode, especially the last two, feels a bit padded.
- Gonzalo Amat is an interesting choice as Director of Photography. His major film credits are Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones and The Devil Inside. Found-footage horror isn’t the first genre you’d think of for a sci-fi TV show set in the 1960s. To be fair, though, he’s also worked on CBS’s Person of Interest.
- The director of this week’s episode, Michael Rymer, comes from the world of horror as well, bringing the style of Hannibal and American Horror Story into the fold. Rymer also helmed many episodes of Battlestar Galactica, which I’ve thought might be a visual influence on this show.
- Only one music cue this week, but it was a good one: “Back in the Saddle Again” as the Marshal finds Juliana’s burning car. I bet he listens to that song a lot.