The title of episode 2 of The Man in the High Castle season 3, Imagine Manchuria, refers to a line Kido says to his would-be new assistant. If Nakamura thinks San Francisco weather is unpleasant in the winter (it tends toward cool and frequently rainy), imagine what it will be like when Kido turns on him and has him sent to Manchuria, which can be as cold as the Arctic in winter. In other words, things can always get worse.
This is the theme of the episode, as the solution to one problem inevitably causes a bigger problem down the line. If we don’t see the bigger problem in this episode, we’re likely seeing the set up for it. Helen solves the Smiths’ gossip problem one way, but now has a crime scene to deal with. John solves it another way, but now has an ongoing blackmail scheme to finesse at a time when he’s being watched very closely. Kido arrests Juliana, but also catches Trudy, who he executed in the opening scenes of season 1. The triumph of catching a Resistance operative is overshadowed by the mental discord of seeing a woman he knows to be dead, now inexplicably returned to life. And of being put in conflict with Tagomi once again.
Schemes within schemes are revealed within the Reich, until anyone who has any power there might wish they’d been sent to Manchuria. In addition to his other supersecret American operations, Himmler is playing Hoover and Rockwell against Smith, and it’s anyone’s guess which side he’ll favor in the end. Joe is a Lebensborn special operative who works directly for Himmler, apparently as an assassin, but his true purpose is unknown to almost everyone. Even Smith and the head of the Reich Embassy in San Francisco, who is ostensibly his boss, don’t know. And Himmler is a demanding, impatient taskmaster who accepts no excuses.
This episode also sees the return of dynamic duo Robert Childan and Ed McCarthy, who are traveling the New Mexico countryside in a bus loaded down with the Americana loot they’ve been collecting. They plan to bring it all back to Childan’s shop in San Francisco when it’s safe to return. They’ve formed a good cop-bad cop partnership, in which Childan tries to bilk the locals out of their family heirlooms but Ed makes sure the owners get a fair price, ensuring that he and Childan will still be welcome when they want to return to town someday.
The show continues to inch coyly toward outing it’s queer characters. In this episode, Thelma’s husband, who we haven’t met yet, is outed to the audience by Smith as having an affair with a man named Roger. Smith may or may not also threaten Thelma because of her sexualty.
A man named Jack stares at Ed and Childan in the Denver saloon, then buys Ed a drink. Ed is really, really friendly and happy about it. We’ll have to wait until the episode 3 Walk of Shame at the Denver hotel to find out where things go between them.
The episode picks up not long after episode 1 ends. Trudy is asleep on Tagomi’s couch while Juliana and Tagomi talk. He tells her about the films Lem brought him. She says that Hawthorne told her she was in every one of them, and she wants to see them. Tagomi says that would be difficult and dangerous for both of them. Juliana understands, and tells him she’ll find another place for her and Trudy to stay.
Tagomi goes to his closet and retrieves photos of his son and wife. This spurs more visions in Juliana. She tells Tagomi she remembers being married to his son and having a baby. He confirms that he’s seen this reality and that’s why he accepted the films. Juliana realizes that he’s a traveler.
Smith packs up his briefcase for work, giving us a quick glance at an important document on Reich policy toward the JPS. Then he searches out Helen, who’s still in the bedroom, to say goodbye. He tells her to tell Bridget, the housekeeper, that he’ll be home for dinner, as if Helen is the maid’s servant. Does Helen have any purpose in life anymore, other than as a prop pulled out for special events?
Helen is upset because Alice Adler is spreading vicious rumors about their daughters, telling whoever will listen that they have the same disease as Thomas. Smith blows her off, insisting that nothing bad will happen to the girls.
Just like nothing happened to Thomas.
Alice Adler is their former neighbor and the widow of the doctor who diagnosed Thomas. Smith murdered the doctor before he could report Thomas’ diagnosis, and Alice guessed the truth about the murder. Now she won’t stop publicly accusing John murdering her husband. Identifying the two girls as victims or carriers of Thomas’ illness means they will also need to be put down as useless eaters, just like Thomas. Alice is out for revenge.
You’d think she’d figure out that it’s not safe to continue accusing a man who’s as powerful and favored as Smith, and who’s already committed murder, but I suspect she’s slightly unhinged and doesn’t have much left to lose.
Major Metzger, Erich’s replacement, informs Smith that Agent Matthews, from the ARBI, is waiting for him. He’s there to inform Smith of the botched raid on Hawthorne and Caroline’s farmhouse, which happened 5 days ago. He says the operatives were SD special kommandos. The mission was for the director’s eyes only and the target was known only by a code name, Lotus Eater.
Smith asks where the target is now. Matthews says that they’re searching for Lotus Eater. He’s being sent to join the search. Smith tells the man to stay in touch. When Matthews is gone, Smith orders Metzger to send one of their own teams to Colorado.
Admiral Inokuchi and Tagomi discuss the unofficial, covert oil embargo that the Nazis are using to slowly strangle the Japanese Pacific States. The Reich owns most of the world’s oil reserves. Tagomi predicted it would come to this. Inokuchi expects Tagomi to find a way through this. We get a good look at the Japanese version of the world map.
Mark Sampson, a Jewish friend of Frank Frink who’s from San Francisco, drives his truck home from Denver, passing through JPS checkpoints. When he gets home, he unloads secret compartments in his truck, showing he’s a smuggler. He gives boxes of printed posters to a woman who was waiting for him. She asks about his kids, who he says are thriving. They must live in the Neutral Zone.
Then he goes inside his apartment and removes religious items from a vent. He sits down to pray and study the Hebrew Bible, both illegal activities for Jews.
All over town, kids are stapling the posters Mark brought back on walls. The posters show a painting of a sunrise. Nakamura and the Kempeitai interrupt one group and arrest one of the kids, asking him about the meaning of the poster.
Nakamura tells Kido that the kid gave him information on the Resistance cell he ran errands for, and pointed to the Criminal Priest Hagan as the ringleader. Kido reminds Nakamura again that he can’t question a corpse.
Trudy has a few moments alone in Tagomi’s peaceful home, and attempts to travel back to her own world. She draws some energy, but not enough to make the jump. Later she tells Juliana that Tagomi told her she needs to relax and that she and Juliana need to let go of each other. They both agree that they’re trying to let each other go, but it’s hard. Trudy says that maybe Juliana will find it easier after she watches the films. Tagomi will send Kotomichi for her early the next morning.
Childan and Ed are traveling the Southwest on a long shopping spree. They’re currently in Northern New Mexico, buying turquoise pieces from a Native American trading post. Childan tries to get the owner to throw in a squash blossom necklace that the owner said had great sentimental value for him, since it came from his grandfather. Childan dismisses the man’s sentiment, saying that everything has a price. Ed steps in and is respectful, smoothing over the interaction.
The price of gas has also doubled since the week before. The Neutral Zone is feeling the squeeze from the Nazi’s fake oil shortage.
Helen goes to her first psychotherapy session, with a Jungian analyst named Dr Ryan. He assures her that no one practices according to Freud’s theories anymore, so the Jewish taint is gone from psychiatry. “Jung was an absolute Aryan, I assure you.” (He was Swiss.)
Helen is there to deal with her grief over Thomas. Dr Ryan asks how John is handling Thomas’ death. Helen tells him that John is also grieving, but he has his work and the family, which keeps him busy. He’s not falling apart like she is. She and John don’t talk about Thomas much. “Some things are too sensitive.” Dr Ryan says that she can talk to him about her son, and asks her to tell him about Thomas now. Helen looks overwhelmed and doesn’t know where to begin.
Kido is called to the main battleship in San Francisco Bay to meet with Admiral Inokuchi, who appears to live there. Inokuchi congratulates Kido for crushing the Resistance, but questions why reprisals are ongoing. Kido tells him it keeps the natives in line. Inokuchi informs Kido that he’s implementing a change in policy toward the Americans.
The Empire’s resources are spread too thin, so they must try to win over their subjects through persuasion rather than forcing obedience through violence. This concept is so foreign to Kido that at first he can’t even grasp what Inokuchi is trying to tell him. Inokuchi explains that they must teach the savages that the Japanese way is the superior way, so that they will stop rebelling.
Kido lives for the fight, so this is the worst news he could get. Inokuchi tells him it’s time to stop the reprisals and deal with the Americans with a lighter, friendlier hand. The faces Kido makes during this conversation are hilarious. He’ll never stop fighting his war, and doesn’t understand instructions to do otherwise, but he can’t argue with his commander.
Inokuchi puts Kido in his place by commenting that Kido has been in America so long (10 years) that he’s developed an American accent. Kido replies that his (estranged) wife tells him the same thing. His family visited while he recovered from the bombing, but before that he hadn’t seen them in years. He never visits Japan, since he’s so devoted to his work. Inokuchi instructs Kido to visit his homeland more often and remember where he comes from.
Kido’s face looks even more sour than usual. Maybe his wife got Japan and he got the West Coast of America in the separation. There’s certainly no love lost between them.
While doing his exercises in the park, Tagomi meets a woman who is painting a view of the bay. They strike up a conversation. Her name is Tamiko. She is of Japanese/Okinawan descent, but was born in Hawaii. Tagomi is intrigued to meet an Okinawan and Hawaiian.
Helen floats into John’s home office late that night with a glass of wine in her hand, and tells him about her analysis session. It was hard, and she cried a lot, but it got her wondering if Thomas could still be alive somewhere. She has a sense that he is. John tells her that Thomas is definitely gone and she needs to move on. Helen wants to try supernatural means to contact Thomas, but John is against it, probably because he’s afraid it will lead Helen into an embarrassing obsession.
If Helen feels that Thomas is alive, he probably is. We never saw a body, and Dr Mengele, famous for his human experimentation, was introduced this season. He could have randomly chosen Thomas as a research subject, ot specifically chosen him because of his genetic disease. It’s also basically certain that there are Thomas’ alive in other realities, which could be what Helen is picking up.
Who will be the traveler in the family, Helen, Thomas or John?
Rockwell gets a video call from Himmler, checking on his progress in investigating the botched raid on Abendsen’s house and the continued search for the Man in the High Castle. Himmler wants to know how an old man got the jump on 3 of his elite Lebensborn operatives. Rockwell points out the obvious, that Abendsen wasn’t alone. Himmler isn’t amused. He needs more detail!!
When Rockwell hangs up, we see that Hoover is also in the room. Rockwell asks Hoover what they should do? Hoover mouths to Rockwell that they’re being listened to. Rockwell is outraged, since they’re in his home. He’s shocked to find out that he’s not above Himmler’s scrutiny.
Or is it Smith who has Rockwell’s office bugged?
Metzger shows Smith Juliana’s photo and explains that one of their Yakuza spies saw her get on a bus in the Neutral Zone, after getting out of Hawthorne’s car. If you rewatch the scene from episode 1 closely, you can see an Asian woman pause outside of the bus for a moment.
Smith asks Metzger about Erich, but there’s still no sign of him. He hasn’t been seen since he dropped off Joe’s paperwork. Smith looks so worried that I think it’s doubtful he ordered the hit. He orders Metzger to broaden the search for Erich. After a thorough search of prisons, morgues and hospitals, Erich is still missing.
It’s time for Nakamura to take another shot at rounding up the Criminal Priest Hagan. He instructs his men to bring the resistance leader out alive, but these soldiers were trained by Kido, and that isn’t a concept that registers with their brains. They go in shooting and don’t slow down. One purposely shoots barrels full of gasoline or something else that’s highly flammable, causing the building to explode. Oops. Nakamura orders his troops to look for Hagan’s body. The lighter touch isn’t going well.
Juliana prepares for her visit with Tagomi, then steps outside when she hears a car, assuming it’s Kotomichi. Instead, it’s Kido, who’s there to arrest her. Trudy runs outside to see what’s happening, and Kido’s brain almost explodes again. He distinctly remembers executing her in the street. But Kido always knows what to do in a crisis- kill or arrest someone. He attaches Alt Trudy’s mug shot to the murder board next to the photo of dead OG Trudy, and looks like his head is splitting apart.
It’s a tough episode for Kido. He’s imagining Manchuria himself.
Kotomichi informs Tagomi that the sisters have been arrested.
Juliana and Trudy are placed in side by side cells. Juliana tells Trudy that Kido stared at her funny because he’s the one who killed OG her on this world. She coaches Trudy on how to answer Kido’s questions, and suggests that Trudy travel now. She has a Get Out of Jail Free card, after all. But Trudy refuses to leave her replacement sister alone in jail. Still too attached to travel.
Rockwell and Hoover take a walk in the park with Rockwell’s giant dog and security, which they consider private enough to talk. They plot their next move against Smith, since Himmler is grooming Smith to replace Rockwell. Hoover knows all about the Adlers, the illness that runs in John’s family, Helen’s issues and the potential issues with Jennifer and Amy. He and Rockwell have no problem using some aspect of the situation to bring down John.
Nazis aren’t known for their respect for privacy or children. Or the disabled, obviously. It was true in the past, it’s true now, it’s true in fiction. This show is as much of a warning for real life as The Handmaid’s Tale.
Nakamura finds Kido in a graveyard, cleaning Yoshida’s grave, a Japanese tradition. Kido reiterates that he can’t interrogate a dead man, but Nakamura shares the happy news that the Criminal Priest Hagan wasn’t among the bodies created in the raid. Kido gives him another chance, but with a strong warning that failure is not an option, unless he wants to be transferred someplace very unpleasant.
Inokuchi calls Kido back to the battleship. Tagomi has asked him to release Juliana and Trudy to his custody. Kido wants to hold them at least until he can solve the mystery of Trudy, but Inokuchi won’t budge. As they’re leaving, Kido questions why Tagomi is engaging in treason. Tagomi points out that Kido has also engaged in treason in order to keep the peace. He tells Kido that Trudy is simply not the same person as the one Kido executed.
Thelma prints a not-so-blind item in her gossip column implying that the Smith girls will soon succumb to the same fate as Thomas. Helen is sure the information came from Alice Adler, but John thinks it came from Hoover. Helen tells John that the school called to let her know that Jennifer started her period. Now that she’s fertile, she’ll have to be tested for genetic illnesses that she could pass down. Her time is up.
John says that after the testing, at least they’ll know. Maybe it’ll be fine. But his voice shakes as he says it. Helen asks if he can stop the testing somehow. She cries, and tells him she won’t lose another child. He doesn’t respond.
Joe meets with the Ambassador Weber and a couple of flunkies in the San Francisco German embassy. The flunkies fill him in on all of the racist information he’ll need as a single young man in the JPS, then the Ambassador sends them out. He lets Joe know that the flunkies are SD who report to Hoover, and that his office is bugged.
The ambassador has an envelope from Berlin for Joe, that’s for his eyes only. When Joe opens it, he finds details on a defector who is his next target.
Robert and Ed check into the Denver hotel, then have a drink in the bar and discuss their business strategy. Ed notices a guy staring at them. Robert is sure the guy is a competitor. Ed wants to give the guy a chance. His name is Jack, and he offers to buy them both a drink, but only Ed accepts.
Smith invites Thelma to his office for a friendly chat about her marriage, which is a marriage of convenience, as it happens. Smith is sympathetic, and only wants to help her. He’s aware of her husband’s illegal dalliance with a man named Roger, and the jeopardy that puts both of them in. Especially since “unscrupulous operators”, like Hoover, will try to take advantage of her because of it.
Smith would like to help protect Thelma from such people. All she has to do is keep doing what she’s been doing, but report her actions to him at all times. That way he can keep her safe.
In other words, he wants to know everything that she knows and everything that she has on everyone. He wants to turn her into a double agent against Hoover. And in return, he’ll make sure she doesn’t suffer any reprecussions, while Hoover is likely using threats to keep her in line.
Smith continues to be the scariest man in the room at all times.
Smith calls Kido to give him a heads up that Juliana might be headed his way. Kido obviously already knows this, but pretends he doesn’t. Smith is slowly depriving the Japanese of their oil supply, thus bringing their society to a halt, but neither mentions it. Kido thanks Smith for the warning, hangs up, and closes the cabinet doors around his murder board, as if Smith could see it.
Against everyone’s better judgement, Helen visits Alice Adler to “clear the air.” Alice is profoundly uninterested in clearing the air, but she lets Helen in.
Alice and Helen’s sequence is interspersed with John and the girls at the park. The girls are playing the pat-a-cake clapping game at high speed, helping to ratchet up the tension between the two older women. I kept expecting Jennifer’s hand to slip as a sign that she was developing symptoms of the family’s genetic illness, but that didn’t happen.
Helen asks Alice to stop her smear campaign against Helen’s family. Alice says, “Why should I?” When Helen says it’s the decent thing to do, Alice tells Helen that John killed her husband. Then Alice moves on to sneering that the girls should have been tested by now, so that they can be “taken care of”, meaning executed, just like Thomas, “for the sake of the Reich.”
Mama Bear Helen slaps Alice. Alice slaps back, which leads to hair pulling, and then to Alice choking Helen. Helen grabs an ashtray and hits Alice in the head with it in self defense to stop Alice from murdering her. She hits Alice hard enough to kill her. Alice’s body lands on a chair, with blood from her head wound dripping onto the floor. Helen tries to pull herself together.
Tagomi, Juliana and Trudy sit together while Tagomi explains the implications of his latest I Ching throw. Hexagram 40 means liberation. Changing line into Hexagram 56 means transition. The signs look good for Trudy to be able to travel back to her home world.
Juliana admits that she’s never really mourned her own Trudy. She thinks back to the events of the first episode of the series, and remembers the Trudy she lost, finally letting her go, and in the process, letting Alt Trudy go. Once Juliana is no longer tethering her to this world, Alt Trudy makes the jump back to her own world.
Juliana accepts the loss of her sister Trudy, which was her motivation for joining the Resistance in the first place, and truly closes a chapter in her life. From now on, she fights for the cause, rather than the person.
ARBI= American Reich Bureau of Investigation, the Nazi FBI
Interesting that Russia/Central Asia is never mentioned on the show, though it appears to be a large Neutral Zone. I wonder if there are ongoing battles to conquer or encroach upon the territory. I could swear that the American Neutral Zone gets smaller every time we see a map, and the Reich and Japanese have a larger presence there each season.
Sweden is also colored white on the map. Perhaps it was bombed into being uninhabitable, or negotiated a neutral stance? Maybe the Reich and JPS allow Neutral Zones and Black Markets so that people have ways to let off steam, in the hope that it will lessen the drive to rebel against the empires.
Is Helen just a grieving mother, as John would like to believe, or is she feeling the pull of either an alternate Thomas or her living son in this world? How far will she go to find out?
I can’t say I feel bad about Alice’s death or that I’ll miss her. It’s hard to feel sorry for anyone who thinks they can justify executing children, including those who passively execute them by denying them healthcare or revoking their healthcare and the other benefits that keep them healthy and out of poverty.
This show depicts a future that could be America’s in real life. The programs that take care of the supposed “useless eaters” of our world- in other words, the disabled, the chronically ill, the elderly and the children who live in poverty, are rapidly disappearing.
Please remember to vote in November.
Images courtesy of Amazon Prime Video.