It’s been almost 2 years since we last visited with the residents of the Greater Nazi Reich, the Japanese Pacific States and the Neutral Zone, and things have changed both in the real and fictional worlds. The Man in the High Castle has undergone huge behind the scenes changes, including a new showrunner. So has Amazon’s television division. There has been turnover in the cast as well, and last season brought the end of the first “book” in the series.
This season starts a new long-term story arc. Let’s see if it’s worth the wait.
At the end of season 2, Juliana is in the Neutral Zone and reunited with her sister from another reality, Trudy, as the Man in the High Castle, Hawthorne Abendon, looks on. Frank and Sarah appear to be lost in the explosion they set in the San Francisco Kempeitai building to assassinate General Onoda. Kido and Tagomi survive the explosion. Kido gives Smith one of the movies that Tagomi brought back from an alternate Earth, as proof that Japan also has the bomb, in order to avoid nuclear war. Ed and Childan have left San Francisco on a bus bound for the Neutral Zone.
Smith brings the film to Berlin. Hitler dies, Joe and his father are imprisoned in Germany for treason and Himmler assumes control of the Reich. He rewards Smith for his loyalty. Thomas is inspired by his father’s service to the Reich and turns himself in to be euthanized by the state as a useless eater. Juliana kills Dixon, Trudy’s father and a Resistance member, which sets off a chain of events that prevents Germany from dropping an atomic bomb on San Francisco. Hawthorne has Lem bring Tagomi the remainder of his films after he burns most of them.
Season 3 picks up almost 6 months later. The cold opening shows an alternate Juliana who is a resistance soldier. Her armed, uniformed unit attacks a Nazi unit in a forested restricted zone. Juliana stops and takes a handheld movie camera from one of the dead Nazi soldiers, then she continues into the restricted area.
Time for Eidelweiss and the desecration of monuments, which will be a major theme this season. We’re going to be weighing values and considering what’s worth fighting for, what’s worth preserving from the past and what it is that makes us who we are. Or who. Sometimes the consideration is who we’re saving, remembering or allowing to have influence, and that’s an equally important question.
First, let’s take another look at the atomic bomb test from the season 3 trailer that destroys Monument Valley in Southern Utah. All of the major players of the Japanese Pacific States are in attendance at the viewing station, and drink a toast in celebration.
No matter how long I live, I will never understand celebrating the thought of mass murder, or of the destruction of wild spaces and landmarks.
Admiral Inokuchi, who’s in charge of the affair, notices that Trade Minister Tagomi isn’t as excited as the others. Tagomi cautions the admiral that they haven’t achieved arms parity with the Germans and an arms race will bankrupt them. The admiral feels they have no choice but to play out their part in an arms race.
The officials leave, other than Kido and Tagomi. Kido, ever the voice of optimism, tells Tagomi that sooner or later the Germans will figure out that the film he showed Smith was a fake. When they realize that the Japanese don’t have the powerful weapons they claim to have, what will they do? Tagomi thinks the Germans still might attack anyway, even without figuring out the Japanese don’t have the weapons. The Germans will use more subtle, long-term means than an atomic bomb.
Juliana picks up her mail from the Denver post office in the Neutral Zone and discovers she has a post card from Santa Fe. It says, “Made it to Aunt Judy’s. All’s well.” It’s not signed and there’s no return address. Juliana is using a post office box as her address. She tries to answer the card right away, but realizes she can’t without an address. Clyde, the postmaster, sends her to the Grand Palace Hotel to look for Wyatt Price, who’s known for being able to get anything you need in the Zone.
My guess is the post card is from Ed and Childan, who were last seen on their way to the Neutral Zone. They would be looking to continue their antiquing business, which would require moving around to buy and sell stock.
Wyatt is doing business with another man in a small private room inside what can only be described as a saloon when Juliana finds him. The bar is gilded and ornate, like it was decorated during the Gold Rush and hasn’t been touched since.
Once Wyatt is free, Juliana tells him she needs the mailing address for Judy Bridger, who lives in Santa Fe. Wyatt gives her a calculating look and tells her to come back tomorrow.
Oberst-Gruppenführer Smith returns home from Berlin to find that Helen has gone out, sent the maid home for the day, and left their two daughters alone in the penthouse apartment in which they now live.
John and the girls make dinner together. Helen comes home while they’re eating. She tells John that she went to visit their old house. The people who live there now gave her a ride home.
She’s not coping well with the loss of Thomas.
Trudy as been in this alternate reality for 6 months, and is getting antsy about returning to her own world, but she also isn’t ready to leave Juliana behind. Juliana is dead in her world, just as Trudy is dead in ours. She can’t travel because she’s too attached to Juliana.
Trudy becomes ill, and Juliana takes care of her, reminding Trudy about when she used to do the same thing when they were younger and Trudy had the measles. Trudy says that she never had the measles. Juliana still soothes her.
Juliana and Caroline, Mrs Man in the High Castle, do some target shooting out in a field. They’re both good shots. And they have a spectacular view of the Rocky Mountains.
Joe has been in prison for the last 6 months, growing a mountain man beard and hairstyle and getting woken up with an invigorating spray from a fire hose everyday. He’s also been tortured and enduring the infamous Dr Josef Mengele’s behavioral conditioning program. Or reeducation, as they refer to it. He’s eventually taken to see his father, who says that the Germans have been teaching him how wrong he was to conspire against the Reich. He makes Joe promise not to go against the Reich, and to remember their bond of blood and love.
Joe reads a confession in front of a camera that was clearly written for him: “Martin Heusmann was my father. His false beliefs came to infect me. We were both guilty of wrong thinking against the Führer, which gave rise to an unspeakable criminal scheme to assassinate our great leader, our one true father. Wrong thinking against the Führer, against the Party, against the true science of National Socialism. Martin Heusmann was my father.”
Martin is still alive at this point.
Joe is dragged into a large room where Martin is waiting and a camera is ready to record. Joe is given a hand gun by Dr Mengele, and told that he knows what he needs to do. Everyone stands back. Martin tells Joe to kill him and save himself. He chants “A heart of steel” until Joe shoots him in the head.
A very satisfied Himmler comes from behind Joe and attaches a small pin to his lapel. It looks much like a peace sign, but I doubt that’s what it means to Himmler.
Hawthorne shows Juliana the first film in his collection, a fake that he created himself in order to boost morale. He was a projectionist in a little theatre in the Neutral Zone, so he had access to old movies and news reels. He cobbled together a short film that made it look like the Americans had won World War II, using old news reel and documentary footage.
He showed it publicly a few times, and people loved it. Travelers started bringing real films from alternate realities to his door, and he accidentally became a symbol for the Resistance movement.
Juliana asks Hawthorne to rewind the film a bit. She’s spotted herself as a 7 year old child at a victory parade in the archival footage. Hawthorne didn’t even know that he’d put her in the film. It’s a shot from February, 1942, when the US retook Hawaii. The whole city of San Francisco was in the streets celebrating the victory.
Caroline sees it as the sign they’ve been waiting for. Hawthorne is ready for someone else to take over for him as the shadowy head of the Resistance. He and Caroline think that Juliana’s presence even in the first, supposedly fake, film, when she’ so important to the movement and the films overall, prove that she’s the one who needs to step up and take charge.
Juliana promptly rejects this idea. She’s had enough of being a chess piece who doesn’t understand the rules of the game. Hawthorne tells her, “You can either embrace your destiny or dodge it.” The bad guys are catching up to them, and he’s getting too old and tired to keep running. He tries to impress on her that he didn’t choose her as his replacement, fate did.
In the middle of the night, Juliana, who sleeps in the attic, hears noises coming for downstairs. She grabs a gun and tiptoes down to find out what’s going on. There are two men dressed like cat burglars attacking Hawthorne and Caroline. Juliana guns them both down before they realize she’s in the room. A third man steps out of the shadows, but Trudy followed Juliana downstairs, and she shoots the third man.
Those bad guys were even closer than Hawthorne thought. The dead men are wearing lapel pins like the one Himmler put on Joe, with the symbol that looks like a peace sign. It’s hard to imagine Himmler having any interest in a peace sign.
The four Resistance fighters realize they have to get out of the house immediately, before someone comes looking for their attackers. Hawthorne and Caroline drive Trudy and Juliana into Denver. Caroline tells them to get a room at “Danny’s”. Hawthorne gives them some cash and says he’ll contact them when it’s safe, and send for them.
They’ve turned into an adorable family of fugitives.
Before they leave, Hawthorne tells Juliana that he sent the remaining films to Tagomi, and that she’s in every film. If she wants to understand her story, she should go to see Tagomi, because she has a deep connection with him, and she should watch the films with him.
Hawthorne’s dramatic streak strikes again. Did he have to wait to tell her that until just before going into hiding? But on this show, all information is need to know. I’m pretty sure Hawthorne is the Phillip K Dick stand in who’s dreaming this universe into being, so he’s probably making up the rules.
He is, after all, the omniscient narrator in the recap video.
Tagomi contemplates the videos, as if he’s trying to divine their meaning without watching them.
Kido arrives at Kempeitai headquarters, unmoved by the ongoing executions that are part of the JPS’ excessive reprisals against the gaijin for the bombing. In his office, Kido examines his murder board. He’s after Preacher Hagan and Juliana, and has former Resistance leader and violent psychopath Gary and Resistance fighter Sara listed as definitely dead. He also has Frank Frink listed as definitely dead, but until I see a body or hear an honest eye witness account, I won’t believe it.
Kido interviews an applicant for the newly vacant position of his assistant, since the last one, Hiroyuki Yoshida, was killed in the bombing. The candidate, Sergeant Nakamura, describes himself as “hapa”, Hawaiian slang for half Asian and half white, or anyone who is mixed race. He is American-born and Japanese is his second language, which makes him questionable to Kido, just barely better than any old gaijin off the street. Or the firing line. Though Kido gives Nakamura a chance, he treats his new assistant with disdain from the start.
Nakamura’s first mission is to round up the Criminal Priest Hagan, since Kido has received a tip on his whereabouts. In what will become a running
joke theme this season, Kido explains to Nakamura that he needs Hagan brought in alive, since he can’t question a dead man.
Joe presents himself to Smith with orders from Himmler to go to San Francisco semi-undercover as a deputy trade attaché at the Reich’s embassy. Smith assigns his right hand man, Erich Raeder, to make Joe’s travel arrangements, and to do it discreetly.
Joe is all business, a thoroughly reeducated Nazibot. Smith tries to act a bit fatherly toward him, giving him some cash for walking around money while he waits for Raeder to create his new identity, and offering condolences for the loss of Joe’s father. The condolences might seem more sincere if Smith wasn’t the one who got both Joe and Martin arrested to begin with.
Joe says he’s sorry too, waits a beat to give the message a double meaning, then adds, “About your son.” He leaves without another word. I don’t think Joe’s going to forget that Smith got his father killed and him tortured for 6 months, even if Martin did need to be stopped. Smith conveniently benefitted from his supposed good deed, as always.
Nicole Dörmer, Lebensborn and bad influence extraordinaire, is sent to Manhattan to work with the Ministry of Propaganda. She’s teamed with Don Draper wanna-be and Minister of Propaganda Billy Turner, who isn’t happy about being forced to coddle the Führer’s inexperienced pet. Nicole bats her eyelashes and puts him in his place, immediately telling him how to improve the marketing campaign he’s got set up in his office, a supposedly heartwarming series of posters based on painter Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms series.
Turner’s posters are cold and militaristic. They’re too close to the reality of the Reich. Nicole quickly zeros in on the one image that is welcoming and inspirational, a woman’s torso cradling a globe, and suggests the slogan, “Now more than ever, we care about you.” The image and the sentiment are much closer to the nostalgic, idealized mood created by Rockwell’s images of a home we never really had, but all wanted to go back to.
This is what the Reich and the Ministry of Propaganda are going for, since pretending to be a warm, family-oriented culture is what the GNR is all about. But Turner and the other ad men are too cynical to pull it off.
Turner takes another shot at shutting Nicole out of the process, so she gives him her letter of introduction from dear Uncle Reichsminister Goebbels, which informs Turner that she’s in charge of the new propaganda campaign. She tells him that she needs a film crew for the documentary she’s about to begin filming, then dismissively takes her leave.
Trudy and Juliana get stoned in their hotel room. Juliana confesses to Trudy that she killed Trudy’s father, Dixon, in this world. Trudy already knows, and understands, because Juliana had to stop a terrible event from happening. Plus, Trudy knows that this world’s Dixon wasn’t her actual father.
They decide to get a drink in the saloon, which is loud and busy. Wyatt finds them and gives Juliana Judy Bridger’s address. He hangs around, looking for some company. Trudy goes back to the room, but Juliana dances with Wyatt to the Elvis song “Can’t Help Falling in Love”, which isn’t an Elvis song in this reality.
The tragedies caused by the Reich just keep piling up.
They have a drink and a kiss afterward. Wyatt tells her that he moved from Ireland to NY, then eventually to the Neutral Zone. He’s a Black Market smuggler. They agree to keep the rest of their information secret, since they don’t know each other well.
When Juliana gets back to the room, Trudy is having a seizure. While she’s helping Trudy, Juliana suddenly acquires memories from her alternate self in other worlds. She remembers being Tagomi’s daughter-in-law, as she was in the world he traveled to.
Nicole visits to Joe’s hotel room and apologizes for not being able to help him or his father while they were imprisoned. He’s cold to her but lets her stay. She tells him that she wants him to be part of her film on the Lebensborn and their specialness.
Joe shrinks from Nicole’s touch. She realizes how terrible the reeducation was, and soothes him. Once he feels more comfortable, they have sex.
Smith has a discussion with Helen and the girls about the ceremony they’ll be attending tomorrow honoring Thomas, who’s being celebrated as a hero of the Reich for his noble and willing sacrifice/choice to die because he had a chronic genetic illness. His high school is being renamed after him with all sorts of pomp and circumstance involved.
Smith tells the girls that they need to play along no matter how they feel. One asks how he feels, and Smith explains that he misses Thomas everyday, but Thomas also belongs to the world now. Amy says she’ll be happy and sad at the ceremony. Helen drinks a big glass of wine.
The next day, the family is dressed up, all of the dignitaries of the American Reich are there, and Nicole and her film crew are shooting everything for their documentary on Thomas. Helen didn’t stop at the one glass of wine and likely had more before the ceremony.
We’re introduced to two intriguing historical figures, the American Reichsmarschall George Lincoln Rockwell and J Edgar Hoover, Director of the American Reich Bureau of Investigation. In real life, Rockwell was the founder of the American Nazi Party and a Holocaust denier. Hoover was the first director of the FBI and held that position for 37 years.
When Rockwell greets Smith it’s obvious that there’s no love lost between them. Hoover kisses Helen on the cheek and tells her, “Your son is an inspiration to the youth of the entire Reich- a hero to last a thousand years.”
Thomas offered himself up for a pointless death because he wasn’t perfect, even though he lived in a prosperous country that could have afforded to pay for his medical care for years to come. The Reich is still a death cult that’s trying to engineer a master race, teaching its children to glorify the death of anyone who doesn’t match their image of the perfect human.
Inside the high school, there are memorials and shrines to Thomas. It’s difficult for John to bear, but Helen can’t handle it at all. A newspaper reporter, Thelma Harris, attempts to ask Helen a question, but Helen doesn’t hear it amid the crowd noise and flashing lights.
Rockwell pulls Hoover aside for a consultation in the mens room. Himmler will be calling later to check in about the operation to capture Abendson. He’s not happy that three Lebensborn were lost. This gives us confirmation that the pin Himmler gave Joe is a symbol representing the Lebensborn, who are his secret weapons.
Rockwell and Hoover debate how to handle the fallout, since they want to keep the failure from Smith, but also wouldn’t mind blaming him for it. Hoover reminds Rockwell that there are other things they can use against Smith, like Helen’s drinking.
We enter the ceremony during a solo performance of “Tomorrow Belongs to Me”, a song with a fascinating real life history.
During the song, Hoover tells Thelma that he’ll have a juicy tip for her soon. Thelma says that she loves juicy. Hoover says that he knows she does, his way of telling her that he knows she’s a lesbian, which is illegal in the Reich.
Rockwell makes an inspirational speech, praising Thomas for his heart and his ability to make the tough call in a crisis. He calls Thomas an exemplar of the Aryan Race, and he says it without irony. A curtain rises behind Rockwell, revealing a 15 foot tall mural of an angelic Thomas with his hand on his heart, looking heavenward.
Nicole makes sure the camera is on Thomas’ family. When Rockwell finishes his speech, first Amy, then some of Thomas’ classmates, then Jennifer, then the whole room stand and salute Thomas, chanting, “Sieg Heil, sieg heil…” Helen and John stand last, and clasp hands rather than saluting. It’s a chilling, disturbing moment, watching the children salute their comrade for choosing suicide over a life with a chronic illness, especially for anyone with a chronic illness or disability of their own. Especially if you paid close attention to the last presidential election.
Tagomi watches one of the films. Juliana is brought to a military camp as a prisoner. Joe is one of the military guards. They are taken inside mining tunnels to meet the infamous Dr Josef Mengele, who is known for his horrific experiments on prisoners in the concentration camps.
The film is interrupted by Juliana and Trudy knocking on Tagoni’s door. Trudy is mostly unconscious.
Erich brings Joe’s new credentials to him at his hotel. Joe meets him outside, in a dark corner behind the building. Once Joe has the paperwork and knows how to pronounce his new last name, Cinnadella, he picks up a nearby shovel and hits Erich in the head, hard enough to kill him. As he walks away, two men move in to clean up the body. This was a planned assassination.
The costume and set designs continue to be amazing this season. I was born in 1961, so I remember the time not long after this. It’s stunning how the production designers make everything look authentic to the time period and culture, but then give them a little twist that brings the context into this reality. And they’ve set up four distinct cultural settings, NYC, Berlin, San Francisco and Denver/the Neutral Zone, that are easily distinguishable from each other and feel like fully fleshed out, real places, with so few episodes.
Nakamura’s heritage is the same as Frank’s fellow Resistance fighter and lover Sarah’s. If I remember right, she’d been raised in the Manzanar concentration camp and was hated by both the Japanese and the Americans, driving her to the Resistance. Something to keep in mind regarding Nakamura.
Is Trudy supposed to be sick because she’s stayed in an alternate reality for too long? This goes against the show’s previously established rules, since Tagomi’s assistant Kotomichi came from another reality and has lived in this one for years without issues. Does he briefly travel back to his home reality every few months to avoid this illness? Or is Trudy’s illness something else, perhaps a fraying between worlds? Other strange things are happening, like Juliana’s recovered memories of lives she hasn’t led, that may indicate a pattern.
Elvis got famous by incorporating African-American musical styles into his own in the 1950s. He was a significant early influence on the development of rock music. It would make sense for the Reich to squash any public use of African-American styles, given their adherence to white cultural supremacy. Does that mean that rock and roll would never develop in this reality? Or would it take a different, more winding underground path, with the Blues still surviving and evolving in pockets of the rural South and in the Neutral Zone? Seriously, does this mean there’s no Berry Gordy and Motown in TMITHC? Or does he operate in the Neutral Zone creating underground music sold on the Black Market? Think of how culturally sterile this world must be.
The same would be true for film and television. The Japanese Pacific States are unlikely to encourage the continued evolution, or even existence, of Hollywood as we know it. They would have no interest in most of the material produced, much of it would be too subversive, and, probably most importantly, the entertainment industry has always had many Jewish people working at all levels, top to bottom. They’d all have been executed in the 40s, between the Reich being in charge of New York and pressuring the Japanese to purge their Jewish residents.
Theatre, film and television would also be culturally sterile, other than whatever artists managed to escape to the Neutral Zone and continue to work there. Art, literature and music would probably thrive in the Zone, since it would be the only place people could express themselves freely. There would be a huge underground market for banned works, with books being hoarded, and hidden if necessary.
Joe Cinnadella is a name Joe uses in the book.
Tomorrow Belongs to Me is from the 1960s musical Cabaret, which takes place in 1931 Berlin, as the Nazis are rising to power. The songwriters, Kander and Ebb, who were both Jewish men, meant for it to sound like a German folk song, but it is not. It’s been used in our reality as an anthem by white supremacist groups, against the wishes of the surviving songwriter, John Kander. Ironically, it would never have been written in the reality of TMITHC, or in the one white supremacists wish to create.
Images courtesy of Amazon Prime.