The Man in the High Castle
More than any episode this season, the narrative of The Man in the High Castle moves away from John Smith for a bit for this brief chapter, although the subplot involving his wife’s TV debut on what looks like a kind of Good Morning Nazi America arguably steals the episode. More importantly for the overall endgame of this story, the Japanese Pacific States fall after the dissolution of its military complex and a series of attacks by the Black Communist Rebellion. While the Kido/JPS material hasn’t been as strong this season — and the show truly misses the nuance and elegance of Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa in this arena — it does reach an interesting endpoint in this episode. Basically, Kido gives the Crown Princess the advice to take back to the Emperor that leads to the end of the Japanese occupation of the West Coast of the United States. The combination of force by the BCR and Kido’s discovery of his backbone lead to a major turning point for the show.
Before then, we learn that Harlem was basically depopulated and taken off the map since 1949, making it a perfect place for Wyatt and Juliana to hang out and plan their infiltration of the Smith family while playing dress-up. The idea that Harlem would be essentially turned into a ghost town under German occupation is an interesting one that should have been developed in earlier seasons. Not only would it deepen the elements of civil rights introduced this season but could have made for an interesting setting previously. The scenes this episode in which Wyatt and Juliana go through the belongings of who lived there before should feel haunting, but come off more as silly and time-killing.
More interesting is the arc in which the Smith family is still threatening to unravel in the bright glare of the Nazi spotlight. Helen is visited by Margarete Himmler again, who encourages Helen to be a “faithful wife” and show the world that she supports John. Can Helen do that? She makes a noble effort by going on a show called Hausfrau with Gabriela, where she shares a family recipe they make every Reichsgiving. Helen puts on a good face, but she’s struck a bit when asked to tell a story about her first Reichsgiving. She remembers a day back in 1946 when the war had just ended — the same day we saw at the beginning of episode five. It’s almost like she’s sending a message to John alone in the same way that Hawthorne seems to be sending messages to Juliana through his intros to Tales from the High Castle. Will she reveal the truth of Danny being there too? She does not, although it clearly reminds her husband of that betrayal. While everyone else thinks Helen did a great job on TV — she even gets a note from Lady Himmler — John barely gives her a passing grade. The image problem for the Smiths may be better, but the home life is still suffering.
There’s another potential chink in the armor revealed when surveillance overhears how dissatisfied Jennifer Smith is with her life. Sure, the cute Henry is falling for her, but Jennifer is revealing the harsh truth about her mom in public, talking about the “Helen Smith Mask” she’s forced to wear. It seems like the Resistance and Juliana will use Jennifer’s awareness of her mother’s dissatisfaction as a way in.
The bulk of the back end of “No Masters But Ourselves” takes place in the Japanese Pacific States. First, Childan is back at his store reading Call of the Wild, which is a nice choice for a show that’s often about changes in civilization and returning to animal instincts. Yukiko has a wonderful moment with him, and they finally kiss, just in time for the Kempetai to show up and haul him away. No can be happy for too long on this show.
It turns out that Kido sent the money and he doesn’t want to hurt Childan. He wants information on the BCR that Childan may have gleaned from the time he was in their custody. Perhaps he has been reading too much Jack London because he refers to them as savages, while at least also admitting that they are “shrewder” than everyone thinks. Kido is clearly on the edge of admitting defeat. He gets an excellent line in “Perhaps this country is like a wild horse or dog who needs to be set free … or put down.” The status quo isn’t working. It’s time for all-out war or withdrawal. He knows it. And then the BCR helps him make the decision by detonating bombs across the West coast of the country, decimating the supply line. The Crown Princess directly asks Kido what he thinks they should do. He finally admits to himself and her that even if they were to prevail that the price would be too high. “We can prevail,” he says. “But I no longer believe we should.” And the Crown Princess takes this news back to the Empire, leading to the announcement of a withdrawal two days later. As the BCR celebrates, Yamori hangs himself in his cell. Even peace has its casualties.
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Is there much story left to tell in Kido’s arc? We will likely get some closure with his son, but it feels like we’re in the epilogue phase of this character.
If you’re wondering and don’t know your Nazi history, Margarete Himmler really was the dearly beloved of legendary leader of the Third Reich Heinrich Himmler. Of course, in our timeline, hubby died in 1945 at the end of the war, but Margarete lived until 1967. According to reports, she was “narrow-minded” and “humorless,” so the High Castle version of her seems pretty accurate. After the war, she claimed no knowledge of her husband’s crimes. Uh-huh.
We get a brief reference to a character we’ve seen before when Helen decides to call Billy Turner, played by Giles Panton in past episodes as the Minister of Propaganda for the American Reich. He appeared in several episodes in season three.
It was nice to see Wesley Strick return for writing duties on such a crucial episode for the arc of the Japanese Pacific States. While this episode wasn’t perfect, it had the confident tone of the man who arguably knows the show best behind it.