Could this entire season of The Man in the High Castle be transitional? After creator Frank Spotnitz left the project, Amazon decided not to hire another showrunner to finish out season two, so perhaps we’re watching a bridge to a whole different version of the show, one that doesn’t take place in an alternate history as much as a post-apocalyptic vision of America. If that’s the case, let’s hope future episodes take after “Detonation,” a shocking hour that promises an action-packed season finale.
We begin in the alternate reality, where Tagomi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) is finally preparing to leave. Before he does so, he watches intense footage of nuclear explosions. Will this be the warning to stop nuclear fallout in his real world? As Kennedy ends the Cuban Missile Crisis, Tagomi may use the knowledge he’s gained of what happened at Hiroshima and what almost happened in Cuba to save millions of lives.
But first, the Resistance has kicked into action. When Juliana (Alexa Davalos) brings in Lucy’s husband under the guise of a health issue for his wife, George Dixon (Tate Donovan) pops up with a gun. They’ve got Lucy, they say — and they tell him that she’s pregnant. “Do it for your kid.” This is a theme of the show: How much will we do for our children? How much will a parent sacrifice for their child’s safety? Of course, this could all be a scam because Juliana learned that Lucy has been trying to have a baby for a long time. The threat nevertheless convinces Lucy’s husband to go on TV and reveal the death of Hitler. “You’ve all been the victims of a lie,” he says. He is shot to death on the live broadcast, but the whole world knows that Hitler is no more.
Releasing this information before the Nazis were ready does not make Reichsminister Heusmann (Sebastian Roché) happy. He calls Smith (Rufus Sewell) and conveys his disappointment. Now that he’s been revealed as the next Fuhrer, Heusmann is shot in full-villain mode: pursed lips, red room, low lighting. He might as well have horns, too.
As Frank Frink (Rupert Evans) continues to plan the Resistance bombing, “Happy Days Are Here Again” plays on the radio. (Perhaps “Ding Dong, the Witch Is Dead” would have been too on-the-nose?) They’re still planning to attack the Kempeitai, which is a little surprising given how alert the Japanese would certainly be after Hitler’s death. Also, Frank discovers that Ed (DJ Qualls) might have been followed and bugged by the Kempeitai. It’s increasingly hard to believe that Frank would go through with what he does in this episode.
Meanwhile in Berlin, Nicole (Bella Heathcote) is impressed with Joe Blake’s new power position, though she’s still skeptical of his allegiance to the cause. “I’m not sure you even believe in what the Reich stands for,” she says. Which reminds me: I’m not sure what this Reich stands for, either. Or what any of these characters believe. Who is Nicole? What does she want from Joe? What’s the cause? Maybe we’ll find out next season . For now, Heusmann reveals that Hitler was assassinated. Everyone is stunned, and Kido (Joel de la Fuente) looks grumpy. “Vengeance will be swift and proportionate,” he says.
Thomas (Quinn Lord) visits Juliana to ask her about what happened after the funeral. He wants to know the truth about his own health. She’s touched, but tells him to go to his parents. Unfortunately, she’s already sealed his fate. Remember how Smith turned off the power in the dorms before confronting Juliana in the last episode? He did that because the dorms are monitored. This conversation with Thomas was recorded. His secret will be revealed.
Before we get to the episode’s most unexpected twist, it’s time for a flashback! Ed and Frank are hanging out at a picnic table. It’s the day Ed met Juliana. “Dream a Little Dream” is playing and the sun is shining. Davalos is quite good here, more relaxed and genuine than the plot-heavy bulk of High Castle usually allows. It’s a cute flashback that ties Ed/Frank/Juliana together again, it reminds us of what’s been lost, and perhaps most important, it adds weight to Frank’s emotional good-bye scene. Yes, he’s going to drive the bomb into Kempeitai HQ himself. He knows he may not come back. As a parting gift, he gives Ed his share of the Yakuza profits. I love Evans, but he’s been underutilized this season. I think a grand sacrifice of his character could greatly help the show. We need a shock. The season needs to end with a bang.
Not if Tagomi can do anything about it, though! He returns from the other side with a film reel of nuclear explosions from the Ban the Bomb group. He also figures out that his assistant Kotomichi (Arnold Chun) is from the “real world,” too! His family and friends perished in the bombing, so he traveled to this world to escape the pain. What? Huh?!
A few questions: 1) Did anyone expect that physical items could travel back from the alternate reality? Think of the things that Tagomi could have brought — like a history book! 2) Tagomi’s not alone?! How many people are also jumping back and forth? How does that process actually work?
We don’t get any conclusive answers, but Kotomichi tells Tagomi that it’s too late to save the world. Hitler is dead and nuclear war is coming.
Before the bombing, Smith attends a briefing about the Resistance uprising. Although the rebels are trying to take advantage of the Fuhrer’s death, Smith doesn’t seem too concerned. He goes to hear the recording of when Thomas met with Juliana. Sewell does so much here with his eyes and his brow. It’s all coming down on him. Thomas knows he’s sick. Smith asks the man with the recording, “Have you shown this to anyone else?” Always say yes to this question. Especially if a Nazi asks you. Say there are copies everywhere, too. You know, just to be safe.
As Childan (Brennan Brown) and Ed board a bus out of town, Frank and Sarah (Cara Mitsuko) drive the bomb into Kempeitai HQ. Is the show really going to blow up San Francisco? Kill Frank and Sarah? They start the detonation sequence and head into the building, as Tagomi arrives outside. Kido comes down and spots Frank in the lobby. Frank pulls out a gun and shoots Kido before everything goes BOOM. I did not expect that. There’s no way that Frank, Sarah, Kido, and Onada are all dead, right? There are bloody bodies everywhere and a Japanese flag burning outside.
Of course, Kido is still alive. Nothing can take him down. Shoot him, blow him up, it makes no difference. He’s the Terminator. He puts his glasses back on and sits up to see the rubble of the building around him. Where Frank stood is now a fire-strewn pit. Kido straightens his suit as Ed and Childan watch the explosion from their bus on the Golden Gate Bridge.
- The Tagomi story line has always been a little confusing, but “Detonation” adds to the complexity instead of clarifying it. He literally disappears to the alternate reality, he can bring things back, and he’s not the only one who can do it? I have more questions than I think High Castle will answer.
- Do you think Frank is really dead? I could see them killing off smaller characters like Onada or Sarah, but do they actually have the guts to kill one of their leading men? Again, as much as I love Evans, getting rid of Frank is the kind of big move this show needs.
- One episode left! What do you think is going to happen? Who has been your season MVP? I’ll save my pick until the finale.