The Man in the High Castle Episodes 9 & 10 Recap: Detonation and Fallout

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We start episode 10, Fallout, with the only cold open of the season, maybe of the entire series so far. It’s December 11th, 1945. Smith and Helen arrive at a small cottage outside of Washington, DC. Helen is very pregnant with Thomas, who she says is kicking up a storm. As they’re settling in, an atomic bomb goes off in the distance, seen behind them through the cottage’s picture window. They realize the Nazis have bombed Washington. As we know from watching the series so far, this is the event that caused the Americans to surrender to the Nazis.

This little scene is one of my favorite things they’ve done so far. It’s so brief, but it tells us so much, and reminds us of so much. And it’s shot gorgeously. We start out watching the couple from inside the cottage with the camera at a slight distance, framing the room as if it were a family portrait or a painting. There’s even a Christmas song playing in the background. Everything is perfect for them, despite the war. The room is dark, and the sky is graying outside the window as the sun sets. They are in the dark about what is about to happen. Change is coming. John turns on the lights, and they discuss his work at the Pentagon and the baby, with Helen telling Smith that she thinks it’s a boy. They are working to keep their situation happy and normal, despite the war. As they’re talking, a loud rumbling starts, along with a flash of light. For a split second, you think it could be thunder and lightning, but the flashes and crashes continue. Helen and Smith turn toward the window, holding hands. They, and we, realize something is very wrong, but they are in this together. The camera pulls closer and closer to them, then finally between them, up to the window, where we finally see the red sky and mushroom cloud from the atomic bomb in the distance. This is the event that will eventually come between them. This is the episode where that comes to fruition. They walk toward the window, and the camera pulls around in front of them. Now the camera is outside the window, looking in. We’re in the Looking Glass world now, no longer the world that made sense just 5 minutes ago. We see the mushroom cloud reflected in the window while we see Smith and Helen at an angle and shadowed, through the window. Everything in their world and their futures is now off balance, askew, dark.

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It reminds us that Thomas was doomed before he was even born, from the moment that bomb detonated. It reminds us that Smith never wanted to be a Nazi, never believed in the anti-defect policy. He was a loyal American officer, who did what he had to do to protect his family. December 11, 1945, so close to the anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day (12/7/1941), was the beginning of another kind of war, just as much as it was the day America lost World War 2 in this reality. It was the day the Nazis truly went to war on anyone in America who didn’t meet their standards of physical perfection, and the day the Resistance movement started its war against the Nazis. The entire series is based on the fallout from this moment. This episode is about the fallout from everything that’s happened since the bomb, and since the beginning of the series.

These 2 episodes are rife with bombs, even in the alternate reality. Despite Tagomi’s relief at being with his lost family, the Cuban Missile crisis has been playing in the background the entire time he’s been there, a time when the US was truly on the brink of nuclear war on our own soil. As in real life, that stand off is eventually solved. Tagomi’s son shows the family a film of nuclear tests in the Pacific Ocean. Tagomi realizes the film could be a valuable tool for convincing his world to stop hurtling toward nuclear war. He returns to his own reality with the film. Before he leaves, he tells alternate-universe Juliana that he will see her again. Platonic soulmates, those two.

Joe tells Nicole that he understands now why his father couldn’t visit him in Brooklyn while he was growing up, because his father is such a busy man who’s doing important work. He says he’s loyal to a person, rather than a cause, implying that his father now has his loyalty. We all know he’s going to regret that before long.

Henry Collins is kidnapped by Juliana and George Dixon, and forced to go on television to prematurely announce Hitler’s death. Nazi troops shoot him dead on live TV. George and Susan promised that Lucy wouldn’t be killed if Henry cooperated, but we don’t see her again this season.

Heusmann is coldly threatening with Smith when he learns Hitler’s death has been revealed. He’s looking for a reason to be rid of Smith, despite the favors Smith’s done for him. Heusmann announces that Hitler was assassinated by the Japanese using poison, and declares war on them.

The Resistance becomes very active in the American Reich after Hitler’s death is announced. In fact, one of the Nazis tells Smith, “We knew the Resistance would react to Hitler’s death but we haven’t seen this level of coordination since the end of the war.” That doesn’t surprise me, since, as I’ve complained in previous recaps, the Resistance had fallen into petty in-fighting and disorganization. I guess the Führer’s death gave them back hope and a common enemy. Or, based on what we see later, maybe just renewed anger. Heusmann sends an officer of his own to replace assist Smith with reprisals. Smith stalls and misdirects the man, since his reprisals involve leveling entire cities. Smith is still an American first, a Nazi only when necessary.

Kido and Yoshida watch Heusmann’s broadcast, and agree that they wish they hadn’t failed to prevent this outcome. I’m not sure how they think they could stop the Nazi Chancellor from going on TV and making up whatever lie he wants. They have no control over the made up stories that come out of his mouth, so this was no failure on their parts.

General Onoda shows up in Kido’s office and tells Kido the assassination accusations are lies, but they can’t prevent the war anyway. “This will be our last war, and it pleases me that we will fight this together,” Onoda tells Kido. Kido doesn’t look quite as thrilled as Onoda. At least he isn’t in a hurry to commit ritual suicide this time.

Childan and Ed are packing to get out of town. Childan is still traumatized from nearly being shot in the face by Yoshida. Frank realizes that Ed didn’t mention that part of the story to him, and confronts Ed. Ed confesses that Kido is forcing him to spy, but says he’s been able to avoid revealing anything incriminating. Frank is angry, but tells Ed to get out of town with Childan, as planned, before the Resistance figures it out, since they will try to kill Ed for it. Of course they will. Frank tells Ed he’s going to drive the bomb to the detonation point. Ed realizes it’s potentially a suicide mission and begs him not to, telling Frank that the two of them, along with Juliana, are family. Frank tells Ed to leave San Francisco and find Juliana.

The Western Resistance makes its plans to bring a “plague to the pharoahs.” They plan to plant a bomb in the basement of the Kempeitai building using the explosives Frank and Ed stole for them. Frank volunteers to drive the bomb in, even though it has the potential to be a suicide mission, or possibly because of that. He wants to make sure that Kido is dead, since Kido is the one who ordered the deaths of his sister and her children. Sarah also goes along, as Onoda’s “niece” (we all saw Pretty Woman, we know what that’s code for). They plant the car bomb in the underground parking garage, and are on their way out of the building when they run into Kido. Frank takes out his gun and starts firing. He wants to make sure Kido is dead. The bomb explodes in the midst of the gunfight. General Onoda and all of the senior officers had been directly above in a meeting, and are all killed. Yoshida is also killed. 😪  We don’t see Frank or Sarah again in this episode or the next, which in TV and comic book code means Frank is most likely still alive. No Body = No Death. Sarah could go either way, since she’s female, and a featured, rather than a main, character.

Kido is still alive. He crawls out from under the rubble, surveys the damage, and gets back to work. (This is why he’s my favorite.) He is now the senior ranking Japanese officer. Did you ever just have one of those days? Tagomi had arrived at the Kempeitai building just as the bomb was going off, but was unharmed. He shows Kido the film he brought back with him, and they come up with a plan.

In a flashback, we learn more about Juliana, Ed, and Frank’s pasts together. Juliana and Frank met after Juliana’s bus accident. It was actually a suicide attempt. Frank helped nurse her back to health, regain hope and the will to live. Ed says Frank did the same for him after his lungs were damaged by mustard gas as a child.

Thomas goes to visit Juliana, to try to get the truth about his medical condition from her. She tries to get him to be quiet and ask his parents, but he’s desperate, and says enough to be incriminating. The security guard who monitors the cameras gives the recording to Smith. We aren’t shown whether or not he kills the guard, but he gives him the evil eye with ominous music playing, so the guard’s odds of survival aren’t good.

Thomas looks up his symptoms at home. His parents find him there, and finally explain his diagnosis to him. He’s overwhelmed at the realization the he’s a useless eater. Smith explains that that isn’t true, that it’ll be fine, but doesn’t give Thomas any details or any idea that he has a plan for Thomas. Big mistake. They’ve raised Thomas to be the perfect Nazi son. He’s never known anything but the Nazi world. He’s a dutiful child who’s expressed that he would never bring shame upon his family. Where did they think Thomas’ mind would go? They were too caught up in world events to think it through in that moment, unfortunately.

Juliana meets with Susan to force her to honor the deal to get Juliana to the Neutral Zone. Instead, Susan tries to have Juliana killed out of revenge for Karen’s death. (OMG, Karen’s death was Gary’s fault. Can they all just move on, already? Why is Juliana their scapegoat for everything???) Susan doesn’t realize Juliana is a martial arts expert. Juliana leaves Susan and her henchman either dead or unconscious. That looked like a sleeper hold to me, so Susan is probably unconscious. Then she will have another reason to hunt Juliana down and terrorize her for “revenge” next season. I’m imagining ten seasons from now, Juliana has an army of former resistance fighters, who follow her around like dogs, all hoping for the perfect moment to get their revenge on her for some perceived slight against a long dead resistance. Every once in a while, one gets too close, and she flicks them away with her aikido as if they were a fly who was annoying her.

Moving on, Juliana heads out to the alley behind the bar they were meeting in. George Dixon has a recording of her conversation with Thomas about his illness. George is going to go use it to expose Smith’s crimes, for which he will be executed. Juliana can’t allow a child to be used that way. She rightfully points out that the Resistance is no better than the Nazis. George doesn’t care what she wants, and walks away. Juliana shoots him in the back, rather than let him expose a child that way. And there we have George Dixon, dead in the alley in NYC, as the Man in the High Castle wanted.

Joe’s father drops the big bomb: his master plan is to use the Reich’s nuclear arsenal to wipe out the Japanese Empire within the space of a few days. 20 million people are expected to die. Joe is horrified and tries to talk his father out of it. His father explains that this will be the war to end all wars, the last war they will ever have to fight. After this, the Nazis will rule the world, and can go about making it perfect for the master race unfettered.

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Joe is confused as hell. He wants to trust his father, but knows this can’t be right. In a completely inexplicable scene, Joe talks to Nicole about it, and they have the most unsexy sex ever. It didn’t make sense for the scene, and the actors looked like someone was forcing them at gunpoint. Maybe the producers were contractually obligated to include one more sex scene.

Kido comes to NYC to meet with Smith. He shows Smith Tagomi’s film, and they make a plan for Smith to take it to Berlin. Smith says goodbye to Helen, but she begs him to stay with the family. She’s been drinking, and curses him for dooming her children genetically.

Smith arrives in Berlin and goes to Joe. He convinces Joe to help him get the film in front of Heusmann. In order to gain Joe’s cooperation, he tells Joe Juliana is still alive, and in NYC. After he shows the council the film, Smith shows Himmler the evidence he has on Heydrich, Heusmann, and the entire conspiracy, implicating Heusmann in Hitler’s death. It’s enough to get Heusmann and Joe arrested for treason just as Heusmann was about to set off the bombs anyway. Himmler becomes the new chancellor, and publicly thanks Smith on global television. Smith looks a little ill. He didn’t need this much attention on himself and his family at this time, and now he’s helped cement the Reich’s power. While it’s a better outcome than world annihilation, it’s not ideal.

Thomas is inspired by his father, and doesn’t want to be a burden or disappointment to his family, so he turns himself in to the Public Health Department for euthanization. Saw that one coming. Only the good die young. It’s still a sickening tragedy. Helen tries to stop Thomas from leaving, but can’t. She’s left crying in the driveway.

Childan and Ed catch their bus out of town. They see the smoke from Frank’s bomb in the distance. Ed remembers the picnic he, Frank and Juliana had when Frank introduced him to Juliana. You get the feeling Ed doesn’t have a lot of warm, happy memories like that. Now, as far as Ed knows, he’s lost both of them. At least he has Childan for now, and Juliana is out there to be found eventually.

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Juliana has hitched a ride to the Neutral Zone. When she arrives, she burns the tape of her conversation with Thomas. Then she sees Abendsen watching her nearby. He calls her over, and they talk. He tells her that he learned from the films that she was the key to everything. Everyone else revolved around her. Their behavior changed according to circumstances, but hers never did. He counted on her consistency and goodness to do the right thing in the alley. George had to die so that he couldn’t stop Smith from going to Berlin and stopping the war. Juliana crumbles when she hears this. It’s a relief it’s over, but she’s lost everyone. Abendsen tells her no, she hasn’t, and takes her out the back door. Trudy, who died in the first episode of season 1, is standing outside. One or the other Trudy must be from an alternate reality. We’ll have to wait for season 3 to find out which. Dead Trudy said some strange things before she died, so she could have been the alternate. Or, this one could be from an unhappy world where the rest of the family died, and came here to find a new family, the way Tagomi came to our reality.

We get a final little teaser scene of Tagomi praying in front of an altar with pictures of his family. No indication of whether he’s gone back to see them again yet. There’s a knock on the door. It’s Lem bringing the films that Abendsen saved when he burned the barn full of films down. Those films must be the start of a new adventure. Tagomi is set up to be the main Man in the High Castle next season. Smith seems to have inherited Hitler’s collection, so he will be the Nazi’s man. Kido is poised to be the middle man. This whole thing would go much more smoothly if there were fewer secrets next season.

We answered some questions, but left others open. We know how people travel between realities, but now you have to wonder how many people travel? We learned more about the films and the Man in the High Castle, but not which realities the films come from, and who brought them here. We know Tagomi has films, but not what’s in them. Was Abendsen just sick of his role, or is this something that specifically pertains to Tagomi? Is Tagomi in the films? We know Juliana and Tagomi are connected. Will she still be a lynchpin character? Will we ever find out what happened to all of the characters that were left hanging? Will Joe get out of jail and start making better decisions again? Maybe go back to Juliana or Rita, and let them tell him what to do? Nicole is no good for him. Will Helen ever be able to forgive Smith for being in Berlin when they lost Thomas, or is their marriage over?

All in all, I think it was a good season. I’d give it a B. I love the look of the show, and the world-building. The characters are varied and have depth, and the actors are well cast. It could use more female characters, but that’s nothing unusual. The music is good, but the sound is muddy. The plot was a bit rambling, and started things then forgot them a few times. But I’m still intrigued by the story and still want to spent time with the characters, so I’ll be back for season three, if there is one.

Check out our season three speculation article HERE.

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4 thoughts on “The Man in the High Castle Episodes 9 & 10 Recap: Detonation and Fallout

  1. First off, let me just say thank you. I have read many reviews of season 2 and you are the first person to accurately point out that Juliana is not responsible for Karen’s death. The man in the High Castle clearly ordered Gary to return Juliana home unharmed, and Karen reiterated that fact when she told Gary that Abendsen did not want Juliana killed. From that moment on every choice and action that Gary made is what ultimately led to Karen’s death. I kept getting so frustrated throughout the season when resistance member after resistance member we’re constantly telling Juliana that it was her fault that Karen died. It really got annoying when they attempted to kill her for it. I was hoping so badly that someone would kill Gary before season two ended. I absolutely cannot stand him.

    Anyways, as I said before, it is very refreshing to read a review from someone who not only paid attention but also comprehended the TV show they claimed to have watched. I just got done commenting on one of the most ignorant reviews I’ve ever read over at some website called nerd list. The guy that wrote his review made a mistake in almost every paragraph that he wrote. An example, he thought he was being a smart-ass by saying that the show made no sense because it never drew a connection between Smith stopping the nuclear Holocaust and how Juliana killing Dixon was relevant to it. I thought it was extremely clear how one affected the other.

    It was a pleasure reading your review!!!

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    1. Thank you! I try to pay attention to detail. This show is so complicated it can be hard to keep up. Gary and the resistance made me crazy. They’d forgotten what they were really fighting for and fallen into fighting for revenge and petty rivalries.

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  2. Also, I have not had a chance to read through your speculations yet but I would like to formally make a speculation in regards to Frank and Sarah. I’m thinking that right before the bomb went off Sarah and Frank may have slipped into another reality to avoid being blown up. After the bomb goes off you will notice that the giant crater in the floor is directly underneath where Frank and Sarah were standing. So if they didn’t happen to travel, then there is no doubt in my mind they are dead, and if they aren’t than the writers are going to have some serious explaining to do in season 3.

    I also noticed that the key to traveling between realities seems to be related to a persons ability to calm yourself and seriously meditate. Since Frank is always super worked up, I would guess that Sarah is the one that initiated it , and she happened to bring Frank along with her to protect him.

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  3. Ooh, I went in a different direction with Frank and Sarah, but I like yours better! The producers have hinted pretty strongly that Frank is still alive. They didn’t mention Sarah in the interview I watched, but I haven’t seen everything, and it’s still early in the process for season 3. Maybe Sarah is from one of the alternate realities. Her reasons for fighting with the resistance always seemed a little off. Maybe the invading Japanese army killed the interned Japanese-Americans in her reality, but she somehow escaped and went to the show reality. We already have the example of Tagomi’s assistant doing a similar thing, with a similar story. When she told her story to Frank I really thought she was going to end with the interned people being killed, but then she veered away.

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