The Man in the High Castle
After a slightly hyperactive, way-too-long season premiere, The Man in the High Castle settles in a bit in episode two, but to what end? Is anyone else already a little bored? The show feels like it’s already spinning its wheels a bit. Most of all, the writers need to break John Smith out of his grief about his son now — that dominated a lot of last season and has somewhat sidelined the best actor on the show through 20 percent of this one already. It sounds silly, but something big needs to happen, as this year is too focused on the end of the last one. To that end, the writers are wise to send Trudy Crain, Juliana’s sister, back to her own reality. They really had nothing else to do with her, as turning Juliana’s inspiration for leading the Resistance into a supporting character just doesn’t work. She had to go. With Joe Blake likely to get to San Francisco next episode and the Smith family in even deeper water after the violent end of this one, this slow start to the season could soon pay off. Let’s just be patient.
The biggest arc this episode arguably belongs to Helen Smith, still grieving the loss of her son in a way that seems to be tearing her apart from her husband, who has to maintain a proud, confident face for his party while she grieves in silence. It doesn’t help that reporters like Thelma Harris are sowing seeds of doubt as to the health of the rest of the Smith family. What if Thomas’s two younger sisters get sick, too? After a reporter suggests such a thing, John Smith intimidates her into being on his side. He knows a secret about her and a man named Roger. Interestingly, he doesn’t ask her to stop reporting about his family, only to be kept informed on what she’s doing. What’s his end game? Could it be manipulation of the press? As we know, there’s no more powerful force for a regime that thrives on propaganda.
While the Smiths may have dodged a bullet in the news machine, their arc this episode ends with another one that could do them in. As John and the two girls play outside, Helen goes in to talk to Dr. Adler’s widow Alice. In case you forgot, John Smith killed Dr. Adler last season when he realized that he might reveal the truth about Thomas Smith’s illness. Helen goes to Alice Adler to stop the rumors about her family’s poor health, but it does not go well. First, Alice insinuates that they had something to do with her husband’s death, which Helen denies, and then a slap fight ensues that soon escalates to hair pulling. Before Alice can choke her to death, Helen smacks her upside the head with a glass ashtray. The Adlers never should have met the Smiths.
Meanwhile, Juliana and Trudy have found their way to Tagomi in the Western Pacific States. Juliana even has flashes to one of last season’s most memorable episodes, in which Tagomi traveled to the alternate reality in which Juliana was his daughter-in-law. They have a connection in every reality. And Trudy needs to go back to her own.
While the Crain sisters are just chilling at Tagomi’s house, the peaceful voice of reason gets drawn into a bit of the power structure in the Japanese government. Kido may be trying to quell any Resistance through force, but his superiors are tiring of the failure and the increased strangling of their supplies by the Nazis. As Kido’s new No. 2, Nakamura, seeks a Resistance Leader named Hagen, the Admiral tells him that it’s time to move from punishment to persuasion. Kido isn’t happy about the change in tactic. Is he even capable of playing politics instead of power games?
Meanwhile, Ed McCarthy and Robert Childan are back! Frank’s best buddy and the antiques dealer who none of us thought would be a character this long are traversing the country looking for rare goods and swindles to run on locals unaware of how much their trinkets are worth. They end up at a hotel bar where Ed flirts with a man named Jack. We don’t spend much time with Ed and Robert this episode, but the fact that they’ve returned at all means they will likely find their way back into either Juliana or Joe’s life soon.
A few other plot threads are pushed along this episode, including further proof that George and Edgar are continuing to conspire (as they walk a very big dog), and that Joe is maintaining his Nazi cover, meeting with a couple of serious American Reich Bros who report to Hoover. Could more American Nazis this season be read as a political choice? Not quite yet, but let’s see where it goes.
Finally, after a brief excursion in which Kido arrests them, only to be pressured to let them go by the power that Tagomi wields, we end with Juliana and Trudy Crain performing a ceremony. It’s time to send Trudy home. And they really have to for this season to get going. There are some flashbacks to Trudy leaving Juliana in this reality and dying. Is it kind of odd that the show focuses on Juliana and what she remembers as Trudy disappears? Perhaps the point is that Juliana brought Trudy here, and now she’s the one to send her home.
Join the Resistance
• It was nice that episode two was nearly 20 minutes shorter than the premiere, but it feels like the season has already lost some momentum, right? The divided arenas of The Man in the High Castle are impressive, but it’s sometimes difficult to maintain tension as a show overall. Let’s hope they get some of it back next episode.
• Time for a conspiracy theory. The show relies heavily on audiences and characters presuming that Thomas Smith and Frank Frink are dead. What if one, or both, of them is not? Thomas was taken away by the Nazis, but Helen even suggests that she thinks he may still be alive. And Frank was in the same bomb blast that Kido walked out of relatively unharmed. Couldn’t he have gone into hiding? The way the camera lingers over a picture of him this week made me wonder if he’ll return. If I had to bet right now, I bet both Thomas and Frank come back.
• I was fascinated by the visual of Kido cleaning a gravestone by pouring water over it. If you want to learn more about it, read this.