The Man in the High Castle
It turns out that the endgame for Juliana Crain after four seasons will see her back where she’s been before — close to Helen Smith, disappointed wife of a leader of the American Reich. Her plan is to play on Helen’s dissatisfaction with life in the Nazi party and get close enough to the Smith family to finally put a bullet in the head of her husband. And then what? The Nazi empire topples after the death of someone they seem to be wanting to push out anyway? That seems unlikely. It’s hard to see exactly where this is going, although perhaps we need to accept the idea that The Man in the High Castle doesn’t end with the Nazis leaving the United States? Could they do that? Would you be satisfied watching four season of a story of resistance that doesn’t end with that resistance clearly victorious? You may have to be, because it seems like any other solution at this point would be rushed.
With no knowledge that Juliana Crain is planning to come back into his life, John Smith is still in the alternate reality, and he’s about to learn the very harsh truth that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the multiverse. He wakes up and his son Thomas is gone. After a fight with Helen, who can tell this man is a bit different than the husband who left the house a few days earlier, Thomas comes home and drops a bombshell — he’s enlisted in the Marines and ships out shortly for Vietnam. Did John’s aggression push his son into danger again? What a horrible thought. Consider if John had never jumped into this world — Thomas probably would have at least tried to wait till his dad came home from his latest sales trip to make such a major decision. The image of Thomas marching with men in uniform is meant to recall that of Reichmarshall Smith handing his ill son over to the Nazis for termination in the other reality. It’s almost too tragic for John to take, and he vows to somehow fix what he’s done.
The writers subtly parallel one lost son with another in a brief interlude with Kido’s troubled boy in an opium den. Meanwhile, Kido himself talks to Inokuchi, the man who is going to be court martialed for daring to negotiate with the BCR. Things get particularly tense when the Crown Princess claims that Inokuchi was acting on her orders, but the military hawks do not seem to care. It’s close to a coup when they order the Princess to her room under armed guard. Kido is uncomfortable.
Just as the Japanese seem unclear what to do next, the BCR is in a state of flux after the carnage that destroyed the chance for peace. It’s an interesting dilemma — which path stops the conflict without sacrificing control or need? And how can groups of people possibly agree on the best path to take? There’s a harrowing scene with Bell, in which she discusses being mutilated so she couldn’t breed when she was 13 and living in an internment camp. It gets a parallel a few scenes later when it’s revealed that Yukiko was forced to marry her rapist when she was just a child. These scenes add depth to the show, revealing how much these characters have been through to get to this point.
Back in New York, Amy Smith is turning out to be an annoying kid. She’s feeding into the belief that her mother isn’t loyal enough to her father, or to the Nazi party and the Aryan race. She’s creepy. She even suggests that perhaps mommy dearest needs to go to a Reeducation Camp. What a good little Nazi.
While Amy is learning to toe the party line, Inspector Kido finally stands up against one in the court-martialing of Inokuchi. During the hearing, Inokuchi asks Kido to confirm that Tagomi’s assassination was an inside job. Kido knows it was, but he’s caught between truth and loyalty to his superior. In a horrible turn, the powers that be decide to pin the murder on Inokuchi — if it was an inside job, he worked with the patsy Mingus Jones to do it. Kido starts to crack even more at this horrible lie, and then Inokuchi is sentenced to death. Like right now.
They march outside to a firing squad where Kido is told he will give the order. It’s one final test of his allegiance. He stops and turns his gun on his superior. He shoots a man who pulls a gun on him and then the firing squad all follow Kido’s order and turn their weapons on the nefarious Yamori, who is arrested. It’s a little too easy, but a nice scene for Joel de la Fuente, who finds a new register to his voice when he’s finally doing what he knows is right. He later hands the Crown Princess the evidence that Tagomi was shot under Yamori’s orders. The occupation of the United States has led to corruption within the Empire. Maybe it’s time to leave?
John Smith comes home and is handed a Nazi cupcake made by his dead-eyed Reichdaughter while Helen reads on the couch. They have an emotional scene that Amy overhears in which Helen really asks the question on all of our minds with only four episodes to go: “How does it end, John?!?!”
Join the Resistance
Credit to Chika Kanamoto, who has done a lot with relatively little, turning Childan’s BFF Yukiko into one of the more interesting supporting characters.
Frances Turner also deserves a game ball for this episode, doing her best work to date as Bell Mallory. She’s a character I wish had been introduced earlier. It would have given what the BCR is going through now more weight.
The episode actually ends with a shot of the hideous monstrosity the Nazis put up in place of the Statue of Liberty at the end of last season. I love this kind of detail in the world-building and wish the show had done more of it overall.
Won’t Helen Smith 2.0 in our reality soon wonder where her husband is? Sure, John goes on long sales trips and doesn’t call home, but for how long? Like after a couple days, especially with their son newly enlisted, won’t someone wonder what happened to the other John Smith? Or is the John Smith we know going to have to start living life as the patriarch of two families (that are really sort of the same family)? That sounds exhausting.
Is anyone else a little shocked there are only four episodes left? Do the stakes feel high enough? It feels like the Kido/JPS arc is coming to a natural end with the withdrawal of the Japanese from the United States, but how can they wrap up what’s going to happen with Juliana and John in such a small window of time?