The Man in the High Castle
“War is far too grave a matter to go through traditional channels.” So says Trade Minister Tagomi to Reichsmarschall Smith, knowing that he is probably the only person in a position of power in the Nazi regime who can stop World War III. “Baku” brings two of the best characters on The Man in the High Castle to the Neutral Zone, one seeking only peace and the other more information from the title character, at the same time. It also ends the life of a fan favorite, as poor Frank Frink is decapitated in the desert. Will his message of Resistance continue to grow without him?
Before Frank’s disturbing death at the blade of Kido’s sword, we get the best cold open in the history of The Man in the High Castle. John Smith is watching the film for what feels like the 800th time, and we see not only Thomas in the alternate reality in which the Allies won the war but also John and Helen. They’re a happy family, drinking Cokes and laughing on the street. And then we see John and Thomas notice a speech being given on the TVs in a store window. It’s Martin Luther King Jr., someone who knew how to use the power of the image to provide hope. It’s an issue of a leader transmitted to a world sadly bereft of them. Will it inspire John Smith to become one himself?
Before we find out, Wyatt and Juliana make their way back to Wyatt’s people, who call him by his other name, Liam — but we’ll continue to refer to him a Wyatt, for consistency’s sake. They run into Chuck, a Resistance member whom Juliana recognizes from her memory/dream of what happened at Lackawanna. He has to come with them. Before they make their way to the Poconos, Juliana and Wyatt show the Resistance members the film. It’s an interesting comparison to consider how they respond as opposed to the people of Sabra. There, it felt like the Jewish residents in hiding felt like the film was too much a fantasy, an impossibility. The people here know the power of propaganda and are inspired by the film. One of their leaders asks to see it again.
While Juliana and Wyatt are recruiting through the film, Frank and Ed are trying to encourage the masses through Frank’s art. They are painting versions of Frank’s “Sunrise” around Denver, hoping they inspire a revolution, but also drawing the authorities to them. Frank was scared to leave Sabra just a few episodes ago, and he should have been. The Yakuza, Kempeitai, and Reich are descending on Denver, and even though Robert Childan finally speaks to Ed and warns him to flee, it’s too late. As Frank was dragged off from Ed and Jack, his last words to his best friend are “Tell Jules I love her!”
While the Frank arc was the most impactful this week, “Baku” spends more time with the Smith family than most episodes this season. First, we see how Helen is essentially preparing to betray the Empire. It starts when she tells her friends over cocktails about Goebbels’s deformity, basically highlighting his hypocrisy. The major moment for Helen comes later. After John assures her that the medical test for their daughter Jennifer will be delayed until his return, a nurse barges in to conduct it anyway. Just as the needle is about to pierce Jennifer’s skin, Helen stops the procedure, and the Smith family basically flees New York. There’s no way this ends well.
All of this drama unfolds while John Smith is in the Neutral Zone, meeting with Tagomi and hunting the Man in the High Castle. Smith wants their summit to take place at the Man’s farmhouse. Did he choose that place to see if there were any remaining films there that included Thomas? Maybe. He does find a photo in the basement of Hawthorne (the Man) and his wife. That’s a bit of a stretch, isn’t it? This man has helped fuel a revolution and stayed in hiding for years but left a photo of himself in the basement? Hmmmm. Anyway, John recognizes the photo as that of two people from the film he’s been watching. It’s how he will find him, and the episode ends with a shoot-out that brings John Smith closer to the Man in the High Castle. What will he do with him? Turn him over to the Reich? Try to see more films that include Thomas? Or maybe even travel to a reality where he can join him?
Meanwhile, Juliana, Wyatt, and Chuck get to the forest outside the Lackawanna coal mine. It’s a fortress, and Juliana spies the test subjects wearing uniforms like the one she wore in her dream. Is that how Juliana will gain access? Pretending to be a test subject?
There are a few other important beats in this episode, including Tagomi’s deepening affair with Watanabe, and Sampson going gunslinger on the Jew hunters in the Grand Palace, but it was all building to the death of Frank Frink. Kido takes him to a hill near the site of a former Japanese internment camp. He tells him about dying with honor, puts on his uniform, and Frank kneels. As he says a Jewish prayer, Kido chops his head off.
Join the Resistance
• If you’re wondering where Kido and Frank were in the final scene, it’s the outskirts of a camp called Manzanar. You can read more about it here.
• I love the idea that Denver has become a sort of modern Deadwood in this universe — a lawless place where people can be shot in a bar in the middle of the day and bounty hunters serve the highest payer. I hope the show continues to develop this setting even more next season. It’s been some of the most consistent world-building in this one.
• The title of this episode, and the name Kido gives himself, is Baku, which is also a supernatural being in Japanese folklore. Read more here.
• A buyer comes to Childan looking for a baseball signed by Murderers’ Row. If you’re wondering what the heck that means, it’s a famous lineup of the New York Yankees in the 1920s. Read more here.
Anyone else fast forward through the “Edelweiss” version in the opening credits? It’s a wonderfully designed sequence — one of the best on TV — but the song is so creepy that it’s tough to listen to ten times in a row. Call me weak. I can take it.