The Man in the High Castle Season 2 Episodes 3, 4 & 5 Recap: Nebulous Loyalties in a Tense Game of Chess

Travelers, Escalation, & Duck and Cover


As we move toward the midpoint of the season, it feels like almost everyone is a pawn being moved around the game board by someone. Some players are even being fought over by two or more sides. Frank and Ed (especially Ed) are being watched by the Japanese and the Western Resistance. Juliana is being torn in pieces by the Reich and the Eastern Resistance, by the Smith family, and by George Dixon. Joe’s loyalties are divided by his father and Smith, and a bit by Rita, who may or may not have connections to the resistance. Smith is caught between his loyalty to his family and the Reich. He may also now have a deal with Kido. Tagomi is caught between his desire to save his own reality and the pull to stay with his lost family in the alternate reality. Both Smith and Tagomi are being pressured by Inpector Kido and, ultimately, the General. The General’s motives seem clear, but Kido is too complex to put down to simple motives. His loyalty is to the law, the Empire, and his family, but we’ve seen him exercise his own judgement about what’s best for the Japanese people in the long run before. He appears to be operating on his own again, doing whatever he feels is necessary to accomplish his goal.

The Western Resistance still seems far from benign to me. They manipulated Frank into joining them. Connell withheld Juliana’s letter and made Frank believe she’d betrayed him instead. Lem and Sarah both know Frank’s being lied to, yet they’re going along with it. Sarah’s even sleeping with Frank. Was the seduction part of the plan? Connell is a sociopath who is willing to achieve his goals through any means necessary. A romance with Sarah would further cement Frank’s commitment to them. I hope that’s it’s not true, but Sarah seems to have lost everything and to be just as ruthless as Connell.

The political map of the world that hangs in Smith’s office. Nazi territory far overshadows Japanese land coverage.

The Man in the High Castle is on his way to a new castle. Not surprising, since Juliana fled to the Nazis after visiting his lair. Moment of silence for the lost movie library, including the film that started it all, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy. (It wasn’t important enough to save? Hmmm.)—— Wonder which movies he saved and why he chose those in particular. Hope we get some clues this season. Hope Abendsen makes it to the new castle safely. People tend to have serious travel issues on this show. Especially in cars and trucks.

It feels like Ed’s importance is growing. His attention to the politcal situation and theories about it will prove useful eventually. But he’s a truly good, sincere person, and all of the subterfuge is taking its toll on him. It’s going to be a race against time to see how long he lasts before he cracks. Meanwhile, Frank paid enough attention to his best friend to keep him alive, but is now so busy getting revenge that he can’t see the situation building up around Ed.

Childan is a self-absorbed, pretentious dolt. It’s kind of amazing he’s lived this long.

I really thought Smith was going to kill Thomas when they went to the lake, or later that night. Guess he went with Plan B. Helen surprised me though. They painted her as very dedicated to the Nazi philosophy last season. Now she’s all soft and weepy, with sympathy for everyone’s weaknesses, and afraid of her husband’s ruthlessness. It’s a lousy, but typical, change in direction for the character, from being her husband’s equal partner, to being his sweet wife who needs to be protected from the realities of Nazi Germany. I was really looking forward to Helen being a strong but balanced character, not either the stereotype of a wife who’s even more evil than her husband, or this weaker creature. Oh well. Another female character who’s overwhelmed by her emotions and has to be saved by her man.

Thomas seems to be realizing something is wrong with him, even though he was told the doctor cleared him. He’s a very dutiful person. I wonder how he’ll react to knowing that he should be dead. Will he volunteer to die as the Reich requires? I still wonder if part of Smith’s plan for Juliana is to use her to get Thomas to the Neutral Zone or maybe even the Pacific States, where he could get treatment. Ooh, maybe that’s the deal he made with Kido? He delivers Juliana, his son gets asylum and medical care for as long as he lives. Thomas is developing a crush on Juliana, that could cause trouble if I’m right.

The scene between Kido and Smith was one of my favorites of the series so far. Both Rufus Sewell and Joel de la Fuente deserve Emmys for the depth and subtlety they give their characters. It was like watching two chess masters at work as they slowly circled each other and discovered they were equals. Or two snakes in the grass waiting to see who would strike first.

Kido looked entirely too relaxed and satisfied on his way into the elevator. We’ve never seen him look that way. It was chilling. The deal probably involves trying to catch Abendsen and question, then kill him, as well as extraditing Juliana and rescuing Thomas. Kido was likely there secretly, as well, since the extradition order was what Kido had the general sign when he was too drunk to remember. Manipulations within manipulations.

Juliana is making all kinds of new friends in NY, from Trudy’s father George Dixon, who stopped the Eastern Resistance from killing her so that he could make her work for them, to the Smith family, who are going to use her for something that hasn’t been revealed yet. Just to make her feel extra safe and welcome, her door doesn’t lock, her room is bugged, and there’s a camera in the vent. Not surprisingly, she’s having a difficult time relaxing. She did go look up Joe Blake, and ran into Rita, like I hoped, but Rita ran her off. Still hoping they’ll run into each other again. There are no ongoing female friendships on this show. Even Juliana’s work friendships have been short-lived. Her only long term relationship with another woman who’s currently alive is her strained, distant relationship with her mother. Frank and Joe both connect with other men as friends, mentors and allies much more than Juliana has been allowed to connect with other women. The other women in the Resistance seem to be disposable. Sarah is already playing with guns and bombs, so she probably won’t last long either. (Not that Juliana has a chance to interact with her right now, but maybe eventually.)

Atlantropa, the Reich’s ambitious plan to dam the Mediterranean Sea, desalinate the water for use in the Sahara Desert (Nazis care about Africa!) and produce hydroelectric power.

Joe starts his time in Berlin hating everything about it, and resenting his father for abandoning his family. In order to keep Joe from leaving Berlin, Reichsminister Heusmann takes Joe to a creepy abandoned hospital and reveals that he is a vampire who hunts other vampires  is the leader of the shapeshifters  took part in a creepy Nazi breeding program that led to Joe’s birth. Joe is one of the Lebensborn (which was real-at least the first two I listed were fictional). Joe was born to expand the perfect Aryan race, and his father tells him that the German people are in awe of the Lebensborn to this day. The Reichsminister’s housekeeper certainly looks worshipful when she meets Joe for the first time. This is most likely going to fuck with Joe’s head for a while. He’s been taken to Oz, and told he’s one of the wizard’s favorites. No matter how fucked up it is, anyone would need time to digest it and explore the possibilities for a bit. Joe is one of the three truly good characters on this show (Ed and Tagomi being the other two) and this is going to test his values. Stay strong, Hufflepuffs!

Trade Minister Tagomi has learned to transfer realities at will. He’s lonely and frustrated with his ineffectiveness in his own reality, so he’s spending more and more time in the other reality. It appears to be our world, or one very similar to it. His alternate self keeps taking off on “benders.” Is that cover for the same kind of trips Tagomi is taking? Could he be the one who is making the movies and bringing them to the show’s reality? Tagomi is selfless and brave enough to do something like that.

How does Juliana being Tagomi’s daughter-in-law play into it? It was obvious they had a connection from the start. It seems like there’s an element of fate involved in this universe. Juliana and Tagomi mean something to each other no matter what. Frank, Juliana and Joe are involved in each other’s lives no matter what. Thomas was supposed to die, so now the girl he likes is moving on. Which events are predetermined and unavoidable, and which are random and can be changed?

We’re seeing Frank and Joe being lured into position for the execution scene from the film. Joe is on his way to allowing his father to promote him to a position of power, and he already knows his way around San Francisco. It makes sense to send him there. Connell’s Resistance is pushing the Japanese harder and harder, taking bigger and bigger risks. The Resistance doesn’t care who, or how many, end up dead. Their actions could well bring about the worst case scenario, with Frank set up to take the fall.

Unless George Dixon ends up dead in an alley in NYC. He’s in a position to for that to happen now, protecting Juliana from being killed by either the Resistance or the Nazis. Or, he could be killed in the middle of an operation when Juliana turns him in, maybe after she realizes the Resistance has a dangerously bad plan.

All of the pieces are set up on the chess board. Now we just have to watch the rest of the game play out during the second half of the season.