The Man in the High Castle
Arguably the most transitional episode in the history of The Man in the High Castle, “History Ends” spends most of its running time getting Juliana Crain back to where she started the season, in the sphere of the title character, a.k.a. Arthur, back in the Neutral Zone. At the same time, Frank Frink is embracing his Judaism, going through a Bar Mitzvah ceremony in his new community in the middle of nowhere, complete with a reunion with his best buddy Ed McCarthy, and John Smith is ascending the power ladder of the Third Reich, becoming the Reichsmarschall under Himmler’s foreboding eye. It was a slow, languid journey from the brutal death of Joe Blake at the end of the last episode to the Nazi rally that ended this one, but at least it feels like the writers are setting up some interesting themes for the final four episodes. It just would have been nice to have a more engaging, memorable episode in which they did so.
The languid hour opens with Juliana Crain grabbing Joe’s files before fleeing the scene of the crime. She gets Wyatt/Liam to deliver a package of Joe’s files to Tagomi, who learns that he has been targeted by the Reich. Not only is it a bit disconcerting to find a file with your photo in it in the possession of a German assassin, but Tagomi knows that someone in Kido’s organization must have leaked it to the Germans. Juliana doesn’t just need Wyatt to be a messenger, she also needs help herself to get out of the Japanese Pacific States and back to the Neutral Zone, and Wyatt is the man to do it. She slowly lets him in on her background and her plans as they travel, but the scenes between Jason O’Mara and Alexa Davalos as they drive cross-country are brutal. It’s not clear yet if these two are supposed to have chemistry, but they look like they’re putting each other to sleep. Hopefully, the writers figure out this dynamic soon. It doesn’t help that Juliana remains a mystery of a character. She doesn’t seem particularly traumatized or emboldened by the bloody death of Joe Blake. She’s just, as Juliana so often does, going through the motions.
Meanwhile, in a much more interesting arc, John Smith continues to be pushed into a position of power, and it looks like his wife, Helen, has finally reached a point of closure with her son Thomas’s sacrifice that can allow her to go on. She’s back in therapy, cooking eggs, and making plans in ways she hasn’t since Thomas left, but there’s an ominous feeling in all of these scenes that perhaps her stability will be short-lived. Helen has struggled through so much in this season and last that it will be truly tragic if she meets a bloody end, finally determined to be a liability that the Nazi regime can no longer let live.
Interestingly, John Smith lays a lot at Helen’s feet this episode, indicating how much he trusts her and relies on her sticking around. She’s all that he has left. She’s kind of the only one around that he can trust now that Joe is dead — he’s certainly not about to buddy up to J. Edgar Hoover. So not only does John tell Helen about Joe’s death but reveals that Joe murdered Raeder last season. These two can have no secrets if they want to survive together.
Will he tell her about what he sees this episode in Dr. Mengele’s lab? At Smith’s request, the doctor brings the traveler out of her coma, and things go predictably awry. The traveler says only one word — “Nazis” — before going into what looks like a seizure and disappearing, back to her world. John Smith was told that this woman was from another reality, but he’s still startled to see her literally disappear. You probably would be too.
The most moving material this week happened with Ed McCarthy, who just happened to stumble into Mark Sampson in Denver, where he’s returned after being robbed on his way back to San Francisco. Perhaps taking a risk that doesn’t quite seem believable, Sampson tells Ed that Frank Frink is still alive. (And it’s worth noting that Frank rather quickly tells Robert. It’s very possible that decision could come back to haunt all of them.) Anyway, Mark takes Ed to the Jewish community, where he reunites with Frank, hugging his scarred friend. Ed has finally accepted who he is; of course, he’s going to accept and forgive Frank. It almost feels like Ed gives Frank the strength to go through with the Bar Mitzvah, which he was nervous about earlier in the episode.
What will Tagomi do with the information from Joe’s file? Not only does he now know way more about what the Nazis are doing in Pennsylvania but also that they’re targeting him personally. Kido calls Nakamura in, suspecting that he’s the leak, but Kido is way more interested in finding Juliana Crain than anything else. So the question is who will get to Juliana first — the Yakuza, the Germans, or the Man in the High Castle? And, maybe more importantly, how long do you think it will be before Ed, Frank, and Robert run into Juliana and Wyatt? Now that they’re all back in the center of the country, it only seems a matter of time.
Join the Resistance
• It’s clever of the writers to keep bringing up Stagecoach in a show that’s essentially, especially this season, about revisionist history. Of course, the Western is notorious for revising the history of America, particularly those that starred John Wayne.
• Tagomi’s package includes a file on Kokumin Energy. If you don’t remember, Kokumin means “people,” or “citizens.” Or “People’s Energy,” if you will.
• Does anyone else think that there’s a stronger version of The Man in the High Castle that takes a different structure, focusing on a different character with more emphasis each episode instead of bouncing around as much as this show does? They could structure next season like Lost, intercutting the overall narrative with emphasis on one character per episode. Just a thought. It might help with some of the pacing and tonal problems.