The Man in the High Castle
Two of The Man in the High Castle’s most powerful men are watching their reigns come to an end. As the Japanese pull out of the Pacific States, Chief Inspector Kido really has no power left, and he nearly dies when he crosses paths with the wrong people. On the other side of the country, Reichsmarschall John Smith learns that the year his wife spent away from him in the neutral zone will be used to take him down. As the episode ends with his planning a trip to Berlin, viewers are left to wonder how he can possibly return from Germany alive. As his friend Bill suggests a literal coup, taking the military might left to them by the Germans and reclaiming the United States for the Americans, Smith claims he will be a good Nazi for possibly the final time.
Transitions of power are going down everywhere in this episode. While the Japanese and the Reich are signing agreements that basically say they won’t mess with the withdrawal, the BCR has to figure out how it’s going to rule a part of the country that now looks as if it could easily succumb to vigilante justice and mob rule. The fact is the Japanese had an intense, violent rule over the Japanese Pacific States, but their leaving won’t automatically put the structures in place for the development of what they’re calling a Negro State. As we learn later in the episode, the Yakuza wants to stay to help with that development. Toppling a government isn’t the same as running your own. It’s interesting that the writers have chosen to go here. They could have evicted the Japanese, installed the BCR, and rolled credits. But the show has always been about the difficulty in maintaining control and power as much as it has been about getting it.
Someone who has no power left is Kido, who could also have been written off the show with his good-bye speech to the men who served him but apparently has a bit more story to tell. With the other leaders jumping on boats for Japan, Kido is mostly powerless and nearly dies when he’s captured by American vigilantes who string him up and almost lynch him. That’s when the BCR jumps in and saves the day. Not only are they not keen for anyone to lynch on their watch, they want Kido to help them find political prisoners who may still be alive, or at least their remains. This leads to a nice touch for fans of the show with good memories. Kido is led through the halls of the Japanese government building to a room with children’s toys and a heavy steel door. It looks familiar to him and probably to you, too. He looks up at the vent. Remember back in the series’ second episode when Kido kills Frank Frink’s family by filling a room with Zyklon B? Everything comes full circle, and it’s a nice reminder that Kido is no angel. He’s a vicious, horrible murderer, and there may some justice coming for him yet. Or he may just be stuck in that room forever, haunted by the ghosts of people he killed there.
While Kido is having a flashback, Wyatt, Juliana, and their team are putting a plan in motion to get under Helen’s skin. During a recon mission, one of the men, a guy named Earl, is spotted by Martha, who, it turns out, is way more than just a “companion wife.” She’s also some badass German security. She thinks Earl is a pervert, follows him to the bathroom, and threatens to take his eye out with a switchblade if she ever sees him again. Yikes. Earl does learn that Helen will be at the department store tomorrow, and the plan goes forward, though Earl’s face could get them all busted. This leads to a horrible scene in which Juliana, Wyatt, and their associated red shirts sing, drink, and dance, for tomorrow they may die. The writing here thinks we care about these characters way more than we do. The imbalance of interest is so far gone by this point that it’s easier to root for John, Helen, and maybe even Kido; we just don’t have enough invested in Wyatt, and Juliana isn’t as interesting as she used to be. She has been a character in search of a purpose all season, the biggest weakness of the year.
Four major things happen in the lives of the Smiths. First, Wyatt and Juliana’s plan goes down. While they distract Martha, Juliana gets close enough to Helen to say three life-changing words: “Thomas is alive.” She claims John has been lying to her and gives her a card, telling her, “I think you’re ready for the truth.” While this happens, Martha gets to Earl again, and he takes a cyanide capsule. One lady with a knife in a stairwell and you kill yourself? Seems harsh, right? Poor Earl. But Helen doesn’t betray that Juliana talked to her, so Juliana claims the plan is still in motion.
The second thing is that Hawthorne Abendsen is done with John Smith. His wife, after a lovely, tender scene with her husband, sharpens a spoon into a knife and kills herself rather than be under Nazi control forever. So there’s nothing to hold over Hawthorne anymore. He lets John have it with a great speech that rings true: “You’re cursed, John Smith! You’re damned. You fucked with the fates, and they don’t like that. You’ll never know peace, John! You’ll wander forever between the worlds! Lost! Lost!”
Third, John learns that the Thomas in the other world is shipping out in three days for Vietnam. There will be an R&R break before leaving. Is John going to kidnap Thomas and bring him to this world? Is the Nazi world safer than Vietnam? Not really. And how horrible would that be to Alt-Helen, who has to wonder by now if her husband is dead? We always thought Nazi John would jump to the alternate reality, but what if his plan is just to bring Thomas into his?
Finally, John learns from his buddy that Hoover is building a case against him just as he’s been asked to go to Berlin. If he goes, will he ever return? We’ll find out soon.
Join the Resistance
• There’s a lovely little subplot in this episode, in which Childan and Yukiko get married. It’s a nice parallel to the end of the union of the Abendsens. I really love what Brennan Brown does with limited screen time, and Chika Kanamoto has been a highlight of season four. Unlike some elements this season, I’ll actually miss these two.
• The musical rendition of “Hitler Has Only Got One Ball” was legit. That’s a real song. Here’s a great clip of Steve Buscemi singing it in a movie called John Rabe.
• Two episodes left. What do you hope happens? What do you expect happens? John Smith must have a greater endgame planned than just marching into Berlin to be taken as a traitor, right? That can’t be the end of his arc. And it probably involves the alt-world. Let’s see if he can pull it off or ends up starting World War III instead.