An interesting theme emerges in the second episode of the final season of The Man in the High Castle. The world we leave for our children has been an undercurrent for three years of this Amazon show, but the dynamic between parent and offspring is front and center in “Every Door Out…,” an improvement over the slow season premiere. Whether it’s John Smith fighting with his daughter Jennifer or Inspector Kido pushing his son to follow in his father’s footsteps, there’s a sense that this alternate reality isn’t a good one for future generations. Will the children of men like Kido and Smith fight against the beliefs of their parents? And will there be anything left to save if they don’t?
The concept of a broken family tree is there in the opening scene, detailing a recruitment of people for the Black Communist Rebellion. Young men and women speak the names and locations of camps to which their loved ones were taken, never to be seen again. The most consistent theme of this show has been the need for something to fight for, whether that’s the hope for a better world offered by the films of the Man in the High Castle, or just the need to correct a past wrong and make it right. John Smith has no loyalty to the Nazi party beyond the fact that it keeps him safe and powerful. It feels like this difference — a hollow allegiance compared to an emotional reason for loyalty — will define the final arc of the series, and using a group of minorities who have a strong reason to fight as a counter is a smart move.
Back to the Nazi Stargate! John Smith visits the experimental base where great progress has been made over the last year, and where they’ve taken the time to make a huge 3-D model of the multiverse. Nazis from this plane are going to the “real” one just like people go to their 9-to-5 jobs, learning about the nuclear programs being advanced by the Americans and Russians. No one else yet knows about portal technology, but Smith is worried about overusing it — after all, as he says, “Every door out is a door in.” What could come back the other way? Of course, this is also John’s subconscious expressing his desire to have his son from the other reality brought to this one. He learns that he has no daughters over there, which feels like a twist that’s designed to get Jennifer and Amy to our reality. Remember, one can only jump through the portal if they don’t exist in that world. Can’t you just see John sacrificing at the end of the season to get Jennifer and Amy from his plane to safety in the “normal” timeline?
After a pleasant viewing of Judgment at Nuremberg, Juliana ends up out for a night with the Smiths, and even dancing with John to Patsy Cline’s “I Fall to Pieces.” It’s a complex scene in that Juliana still sees John as an enemy, the man she fought in the Resistance and who shot her in the alternate timeline. And their dance number feels like it has a bit of menace from the other side too, doesn’t it? Does this John Smith know something about Juliana? Probably not, but it’s well done enough to feel unsafe. Perhaps it’s just that Juliana knows the Nazis are coming. Maybe she’s just wondering if this John Smith will fall in line with them like the other one did. Could she ever really trust him?
We get a bit of back and forth between the BCR and the rest of the resistance, who will now work together to disrupt an auction of Americana that will be attended by key members of the Japanese ruling party. This means Robert Childan (Brennan Brown) is back! Reasonably safe again after his journeys in the neutral zone, Childan is again a character torn between loyalties. He would probably tell you that he’s a firm supporter of the Resistance, but he’s also very much drawn to Japanese culture and ritual. His final scene, in which he excitedly participates in a Japanese tea service, could hint that he will side with them when it really matters.
Poor Jennifer Smith is also faced with a conflict between her character and her surroundings. Her time in Montana introduced her enough to the rest of the world that she’s rebelling against life back in New York with her father. Other kids throw around Seig Heils and kind of hysterically misread The Merchant of Venice, but she’s more excited about introducing a classmate to Slim Harpo’s “I’m a King Bee.” Her little sister Amy destroys this moment just before dad gets home (like little siblings always do). Dad tells Jennifer, “The rules are different here.” John has to figure out how to control Jennifer without making her so loyal to the Reich that he loses her like he did Thomas. She calls her mom and wants to come home. Who can blame her?
Before the auction, Kido discovers that his son missed a job interview. Something is wrong with junior, who appears to be suffering PTSD from his time in the war, and even some of the violence he’s seen back at home. Dad pushes him to go to the interview and repress his pain. There’s no way that ends well. Again, parenthood — how much to push versus how much to protect — is a theme. Even the new characters from the BCR talk about whether or not to bring kids into this violent world. As the guns are unloaded at the auction, one has to wonder if there will be anyone left to guide the next generation, or if this series will end in slaughter.
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• John reads Alice in Wonderland to Amy. Clever or a bit too on the nose? Not only is the Lewis Carroll classic an inspiration for any story that features fantasy worlds like this one, but I don’t think it’s coincidental that John reads a chapter about the Queen talking about beheadings after poor Frank Frink lost his at the end of last season.
• The Crown Princess stops and looks at a poster for Bill Pickett in The Bull-Dogger. If you’re wondering, this is a legitimate 1921 silent film, and Pickett was an actual rodeo star and actor. Read more here. It’s always nice when this show digs deep for its examples of lost Americana.
• Anyone else miss DJ Qualls? He added a different energy to a show that sometimes takes itself a bit too seriously. At least Brown is back. He’s been one of the MVPs of the entire series.
• Two episodes and I’m already super creeped-out by the credits version of “Edelweiss” all over again. I’ll miss a lot about this show. Not that.