The Tiger’s Cave & The Road Less Traveled
Time to catch up with Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle! We finally meet the man himself, Hawthorne Abendsen, and, not surprisingly, he’s a little nuts. The “castle” appears to be a giant warehouse full of alternate reality films. Metamaiden doesn’t like him. She’s confused about where these films are coming from, and how the supernatural aspect plays into the full picture of the show. I (metacrone) think he’s high strung from having seen so many potential future disasters, and he’s weighed down with the possible impact of his choices.
All three factions in the show’s world now have access to information about the alternate realities (and, consequently, have their own man in a high castle). The Resistance and the Nazis access it through films brought to Abendsen and Hitler, and the Japanese through Trade Minster Tagomi’s mystical abilities. Both Abendsen and Tagomi seem to have figured out that Juliana is an important, lynchpin character in some way. Tagomi appeared to feel that her locket was too important as a talisman to offer back to her, even as they were both staring at it in his house. I’m not clear about whether Hitler’s specifically trying to have her killed, but Smith has certainly been keeping up with her status and whereabouts.
Everyone we recognize in the movies seems to be connected to Juliana: Joe, Frank, George Dixon. Abendsen and Tagomi both seemed to be upset that she was there in front of them, maybe because they didn’t want to affect her actions. Knowing the possible outcomes of a wrong move, neither of them wanted that kind of responsibility. Tagomi said as much when he asked Juliana how she knew when to act. Abendsen refused to let her ask him questions, like he didn’t want to influence her decisions in any way.
I believe that Abendsen is benign, or at least neutral, overall. He’s trying to avoid the worst case scenario. I’m not so sure about the rest of the Resistance, especially Connell. He seems too reckless to be so high up in the movement. He could be a double agent. Abendsen didn’t want Juliana killed, yet Connell became obsessed with it. Was he under orders from someone else, such as the Nazis? Everything he’s done so far this season has been dangerously counterproductive. The fact that Lem keeps going along with it all makes me suspicious of him, too. Karen’s death was a blow to us (and to Connell, obviously), if only because this show isn’t overflowing with female characters. But, she was a blonde, so she was probably always destined to die in a show like this. Then again, the series began with Trudy dying in episode 1, and the effects of that are still echoing through the series. Karen doesn’t seem like an important enough character for her death to matter in the long run, but if it continues to fuel Connell’s anger, it could.
Juliana continues to be separated from both Frank and Joe. It’s hard to tell at this point if either is meant to be her end game. We both think that Frank and Juliana are too much alike to end up together. Metamaiden doesn’t like Frank. She finds him harsh and cold, and he rubs her the wrong way. I like him, but then he’ll always be Frank Churchill from Jane Austin’s Emma to me, so I’m biased. He and Juliana are both loyal, smart, clever, calculating, and willing to do whatever is necessary. Both are hardened and their resolve strengthened by hardship where others might be crushed or turned angry and violent. It allows them to keep going without being sidetracked from their missions the way we’ve seen with Joe and Connell. Frank and Juliana both need someone with a softer heart than themselves as their partner, like Ed or Joe, to keep them from becoming too cold and focussed.
Joe is a powder keg waiting to blow. He wants to do the right thing, but he can’t figure out for sure what that is, or how to do it without getting innocent people killed. He has too much heart for this business. They’ve hinted all along that his father was someone important and that he was just pretending to be an everyman as a form of rebellion. Soon we’ll get to see what the truth of that relationship is, and see another side to Joe.
I hope Rita and her son aren’t gone forever though. I liked seeing their part of the world, and I especially liked Rita. We’ve seen very few women in the Third Reich. I’d like to follow Rita’s life a little longer. She’s a working class mother, but also more than that, with a lover who’s the son of a prominent Nazi official and who reads banned books to her son. She covered up that book like it was second nature when Smith arrived at the apartment. Does she have a history with the Resistance, too? I’m hoping she and Juliana will cross paths. I’d like to see Juliana’s search for George Dixon draw us further into the average parts of the Third Reich than we’ve been before.
We have been seeing more of Obergruppenführer Smith’s home life. Metamaiden likes seeing more of Smith and his wife. She thinks they are a good couple. (Rufus Sewell will always be Tom Builder to her though. She’ll never believe he’s capable of true evil. We both may have occasional issues with change.) I’ve enjoyed seeing more of John and Helen’s relationship, too. It’s also interesting to see her interacting with her social circle, to see more of her side of life in the Third Reich. Helen seems to be a very complex person, who doesn’t seem to have had her values tested much yet.
Which brings us to their son, Thomas, and his degenerative illness. The tension surrounding this situation is killing me. I thought that Helen was the more ruthless of the two parents, but then she nearly collapsed at the thought of having to shoot her daughters. She seems 100% on board with the Nazi policy of culling the weak. How will she react when it’s her own child? Will this be different because he’s damaged? Will this tear Smith and Helen apart? When will he finally get up the courage to tell her? Will they try to help Thomas escape his fate somehow? Or will Smith just quietly give Thomas the shot one day?
Since I have a chronically ill child myself, this story is personal to me. My other child is gay. The Nazis would have sent both of them straight to the ovens. Thankfully, we live in the Neutral Zone. (Not that that will mean anything in the real world of Trump’s America, where health care for the chronically ill and civil rights for minorities will be issues we have to fight even harder for. But It Can’t Happen Here, right?)
Inspector Kido is another complex, seemingly villainous character, that we love. Metamaiden feels like his character has quickly become more complex and conflicted this seaon than last. We’ve already discovered that he left a wife and children behind in Japan, and he doesn’t seem inclined to cheat on his wife. That would explain his devotion to work and not much else. He is an honorable family man who is separated from the people he loves. He is the Javert of this story, the law officer who is utterly devoted to duty and to his belief in the rightness of the law itself, to the point of enforcing it obsessively. A good man, but an uncompromising one, which makes him dangerous to himself and those around him. We almost lost him to his rigid beliefs last season, and I still worry about his ultimate fate. The original Javert was a suicide as well. But, for now, he’s got a new spy. (Does anyone believe Ed isn’t his spy?). He was practically dancing with glee when Ed walked right into his trap. Frank, Ed and Childan will now be our inside men, to give us the outsider’s perspective on the Japanese that Juliana gave us last year. We get to go deeper in the Yakuza, the Japanese mob, which seems to operate an extensive black market in San Francisco.
So far, this season has lived up to last season. I know some people don’t like the slow pace of this show, but that’s what I enjoy about it. It gives the show time to develop its world, to create the atmosphere, weight, and denseness that a world like this would have. That heaviness is what it would feel like to live in those kinds of repressive regimes, to have to stop and think about everything you say and do, to move slowly at all times. It also allows time for us to take in the intricately created setting and and characters that I love so much about this show. The Man in the High Castle creates its own world. Well, multiple, alternate worlds. It remains to be seen which one it ends up in.