The New Colossus is such an eventful episode that it’s hard to know how to even summarize it. The title refers to the centerpiece of Nicole’s Jahr Null plan, replacing the Statue of Liberty with a new statue based in part on the image of Thomas, but also to John Smith and the power he accrues, which is supposed to keep him and his family safe, but instead hangs like an albatross around his neck.
The themes of identity, spirituality, community and responsibility continue to be explored this episode. Frank engages in soul searching before his bar mitzvah, trying to discern how to best atone for his sins while keeping his current community safe. Helen works through her grief and wonders how to reconcile her feelings about Thomas’ death with being a strong wife and mother. Juliana struggles with the meaning of the films and how they relate to her relationship with Joe in this world. John has to come up with yet another scheme to retain power and protect his family, this time breaking up my dream team of Rockwell and Hoover.
The episode begins with Himmler overseeing the graduation
exercises executions of more Lebensborn assassins. His favorite is a tall, broad, blonde named Hans, who is the best the Reich has to offer. Hans is able to shoot fleeing Jews in the back faster than anyone ever, making Papa Himmler ever so proud.
Keep repeating to yourself that even in this reality, the Reich will fall eventually, and take some deep breaths.
Then it’s back to Joe and the gun he has pointed at Tagomi’s head. Before he can fire, a Japanese patrol comes into view, so Joe melts back into the shadows, disappointing everyone who thought Tagomi would travel. Joe must’ve known the patrol schedule and timed that right, so that he had another excuse for Himmler. Tagomi tells the patrol that everything is fine and continues walking home.
Smith visits Dr Ryan to inform him that Helen will be resuming her therapy sessions. He wants them to restrict the sessions to the subject of Thomas, since Helen has been imagining some crazy things lately,
like killing a former neighbor. He also wants to make sure that what Helen says will remain between her and the doctor, as doctor-patient privilege would dictate.
There will be many unscrupulous people who’d like to know what Helen says during her sessions, and the doctor may be tempted to take some of them up on their offers. That would be a terrible idea though, because the doctor or his family might discover they’re no longer safe or healthy, should he sell out the Smiths.
Dr Ryan almost chokes when he figures out that he’s being threatened. Such an innocent babe. Imagine how he’d handle Hoover.
Hoover has a pile of new evidence against Smith proving that he was trying to get Thomas out of the country after his diagnosis. He’s also close to proving that Helen murdered Alice. Then they’ll present the evidence to Himmler.
Tagomi tells Juliana that Joe tried to kill him. She says that she needs more information from Joe, because the films show that he’s important. They argue, but she refuses to back down. She packs her gun and prepares to visit Joe.
Joe tells Himmler that he failed to kill Tagomi, but he got more information from “the asset”, Juliana. He’s trying to win her trust so that she’ll lead him to Hawthorne. Himmler orders Joe to get rid of Tagomi, find out what Juliana knows about Hawthorne, then meet him in NY.
Are any of Joe’s feelings real? It probably doesn’t matter. He’ll follow orders, no matter what he actually thinks or feels. Until he reaches whatever crisis point makes him snap and kill himself and Juliana in this reality.
Dr Ryan asks Helen to recount a memory about Thomas. She closes her eyes and tells him how she begged and pleaded with Thomas not to get into the van that took him to his death. While he walked to the van, the neighbors heard her crying and everything she said. She’s so ashamed and feels so weak.
Dr Ryan says that it takes strength to grieve openly. It’s the weak who pretend to be tough in order to conceal their feelings. “There is nothing more important to the Aryan State than a powerful mother who brings the full force of her emotions and convictions to daily life in the Reich.”
Dr Ryan’s words must help, because later that day, Helen is able to calmly and fondly look at Thomas’ photo. But she’s interrupted by Hoover, who’s reopened Alice Adler’s murder case because they found a women’s button with Alice’s blood on it under the chair. He’s there to compare the button to Helen’s clothing.
Hoover’s men go through Helen’s closet while he’s talking to her, and find the item that’s missing the button. Helen tells Hoover that she’d visited Alice and argued with her, but came home when things got ugly.
When he gets home, John tries to calm Helen down. Then Himmler demands John’s presence at an impromptu meeting. Helen gets panicky, but John reminds her that it’s his job to protect her.
Nicole and Thelma prepare to get dressed and part ways after spending time in bed together, but Nicole tries to convince Thelma to stay. Thelma explains that Manhattan isn’t as sophisticated as Berlin. Their affair is dangerous and she has to be careful about how much time she spends at Nicole’s apartment.
When Thelma leaves Nicole’s building, John is waiting for her. He knows about the affair, but won’t out her. Right now, he needs her to step up and help him. She tells him that she’s always at his beck and call.
Ed and Robert are still standing on the side of the road in the Neutral Zone, where we left them in episode 4. They argue about whether to go to San Francisco or Denver. Ed makes the point that they could walk back to Denver in a few hours, even without money.
He also managed to save John Wayne’s belt buckle and the photo that goes with it. In his underpants. He gives it to Robert and says there’s nothing left for him in San Francisco.
Oops, he forgot about his grandfather again. This show needs a better continuity editor.
They hitch a ride into Denver and decide that Robert will sell the buckle there, once he’s within range of some handsoap. He’s not interested in touching what’s in Ed’s underpants. Then he’ll head back to San Francisco.
Juliana pays an unannounced visit to Joe in his flophouse hotel. She wonders why he’s staying there instead of the embassy. He says that the embassy is bugged, and he likes his privacy. He’s left his briefcase spy phone out, so she questions that next, and he tells her what it is.
Juliana gets serious, demanding to know where he was the night before, and she wants honesty for once. Joe feigns ignorance, and claims that he’s been more honest than she has. Juliana asks why Himmler let him live, then badgers him until he admits that he was the one who executed his father, in front of Himmler. Then he says, “There’s not a day that goes by, that I don’t wish I’d put a gun under my own chin and blown my f–king brains out.”
Juliana goes to him and says she’s sorry. They hold each other. How much of this emotion is real and how much is manipulation, for either of them?
Frank and Mark prepare for Frank’s bar mitzvah and discuss Frank’s journey to atonement for the bombing. Mark feels that Frank has shown that he has a moral compass and should go through with the ceremony, but Frank is upset that the Yakuza are looking for him and putting the community in danger. Frank wants to throw himself into his painting for whatever time he has left. Mark thinks that it’s important to make him part of the community, because then they’ll be more motivated to protect him in the future. Frank says his future is in doubt. Mark tells him that’s what it means to be Jewish.
John makes a dramatic entrance into Hoover’s office, which Hoover has likely been expecting. John wonders aloud how Hoover thought he’d get away with what happened at the Smith’s apartment. Hoover says that he and Rockwell want John to take early retirement, and all of this nasty murder and treason business will be forgotten. If John doesn’t take the deal, execution is likely on the table.
Mark convinces Frank to continue with his bar mitzvah plans, but then they discover that the community is holding a meeting to decide whether to make him leave because of the Yakuza threat, or not. Frank tells them not to vote, he’ll just leave. They vote for him to stay, so he does.
John arrives in Rockwell’s office to meet with Himmler. He looks nervous and flustered. Rockwell catalogues Smith’s crimes, but Hoover denies that they have proof that the crimes were committed. Himmler becomes irate and has Rockwell taken away, because it’s treason to falsely accuse a high-ranking Nazi of high crimes.
Flashback to John’s meeting with Hoover, where he gave Hoover evidence of his own crimes. Hoover claims that most of it is just rumors, but John says that he has the actual proof. Thelma must have been busy.
Himmler asks Hoover to leave, then gives John a talking to. He doesn’t care about any of John’s crimes. He cares that John was stupid enough to almost get caught, after Himmler has invested so much in grooming him. He had Joe take care of Erich Raeder because it was too dangerous for John to have one man who knew all of his secrets. If Rockwell and Hoover has interrogated Erich it would have been all over for John.
Himmler warns John that Helen is rapidly becoming just as much of a liability, and if John can’t get her under control, he’ll take care of her, too. John reacts like he’s been slapped. Himmler tells him that he’s now the acting American Reichsmarschall. “Do not disappoint me.”
Himmler’s next stop is the Ministry of Propaganda, where Nicole and Billy make their Jahr Null presentation. The destruction will start with the public destruction of the Statue of Liberty. Himmler is delighted with this idea. “She has the narcissism one associates with the female of the species, particularly the decadent French. But, she’s not only an egomaniac, she’s a pyromaniac!”
Smith is at the meeting, but he’s not taking it in. He’s stuck in the horrible realization that his success has doomed his family, instead of saving them, and the harder he tries to save them, the more endangered they become. He’s never cared about power for the sake of power. Power keeps himself and his family safe, so he acquires it, and he’s very good at that game. Too good, as it turns out.
Nicole wants the destruction of Liberty to be a spectacle. Then she’ll be replaced by The New Colossus, an even bigger statue featuring Thomas and an Aryan girl holding a flag, saluting the future. John Smith looks like he might be sick.
As John packs up his old office, Hoover visits to congratulate him on his promotion. They agree that they’re buddies now, and Hoover will turn over all blackmail evidence that he has on John. John will of course keep everything that he has on Hoover. Hoover would expect nothing less and is thrilled to be serving under such a capable man. In fact, it’s his duty to serve.
You know, that almost sounded like Hoover was flirting with John.
Rockwell hasn’t been executed, he’s just exiled to his Cuban sugar plantations to lick his wounds and plan his comeback. He begins by scouting out mercenaries, scoring drugs, and procuring the services of a pair of married dancers for a private performance.
The performance is the most sexual thing this show has ever done. I appreciate the Latin rhythms. But just when things heat up, an assassin stabs Rockwell in the back and the dancers take off. The assassin says that Smith sends his best.
Back in NY, John has spent the evening with his family, pretending that everything is normal.
Joe and Juliana wake up in bed together after having had sex. Juliana confesses that the images she saw weren’t in a dream, they were in a film. Joe asks where she saw the film. Juliana says she wants to show it to him, to see if he remembers anything that would help. He says he wants to help. Then he goes to the shower.
Juliana jumps out of bed and searches Joe’s things. She finds his files, including information on Lackawanna and the Ahnenerbe Institute. She put everything back where it was, then reaches for her gun. It’s not in her bag anymore. As she’s searching, she finds Joe’s Lebensborn pin.
Joe comes out of the bathroom pointing the gun at her. He tells her that the pin means Lebensborn. She says she already knows, from those other Lebensborn she killed. Then the crazy really comes out. He questions her about where Hawthorne is, and tries to win her over to the perfection and happiness of the Reich and the Nazi plan for Multiverse domination, Die Nebenwelt.
He points the gun at her head and tells her to get dressed. Juliana tells him that she’s watched him kill her over and over. Everytime, he kills himself right afterward. He says she’s going to take him to Tagomi and Hawthorne. She knows Tagomi is on his kill list.
Juliana pretends that she’s going to be sick and runs into the bathroom, locking the door behind her. She frantically searches the room for a weapon, while Joe tries to get in. When he does get through the door, she turns to him, holding a razor blade, and slices his throat open. He looks stunned as blood pours from his neck. Soon he collapses onto the floor and dies.
Juliana watches him die, then takes what she needs from his files and belongings. She wipes her fingerprints from the room’s surfaces, then quietly leaves.
There is a lot of stained glass this season. It evokes the sense that the same view can be seen differently from different perspectives, depending on your angle.
John Smith is well and truly trapped at the top, a victim of his own success. He’s too well-known and has too many enemies to flee. Even defecting to the Japanese wouldn’t be enough. He could try to go into hiding in the Neutral Zone, but Hawthorne and Sabra are always on the verge of being caught, and no one recognizes them. John’s only ways out may be to take over the Reich or to topple it from within. Or both.
It had to be a revelation for John to realize that it hadn’t even occurred to Dr Ryan that blackmail was a possibility. John has amassed all of this power based on the theory that it would keep his family safer than they’d be if he were an ordinary citizen. But here is an intelligent, educated citizen in a profession ripe with opportunities for abuse, and it’s not happening.
Until John enters Dr Ryan’s world. Had John retired from the military and gotten a normal, middle class job, no one would have noticed when he tried to send Thomas out of the country or killed his doctor. He could have picked up the entire family and moved to the NZ or the JPS and hardly been noticed. Instead, he’s one of the most famous men in the world, can’t escape his own sins and schemes, and his family is enduring the brunt of the punishment.
We aren’t shown what John’s proof is or told what he’s blackmailing Hoover for. In real life, Hoover was rumored to be gay and a cross-dresser, so those are the most likely options here.
I can’t believe they teased us with a whole Cuban plantation and coup adventure, then took it away again. I want that spin off, too. If Rockwell’s really dead. The assassin stabbed him once, in the middle of the chest, where he’d miss the heart. It might have been between the lungs, or on the edge enough to recover from. I think there’s a chance this Rockwell will be back, and we could always meet another one from an alternate reality.
Die Nebenwelt= the next world, parallel worlds
Joe is the 4th of Himmler’s Lebensborn to fall, that we know of, all of them taken out by Juliana and Trudy, which is fantastic. Except for the part about Joe having his mind broken and then being dead. I suspect that they will continue to fall easily, because they have so little stealth and so much certainty that they are the best. We’re seeing two giant Colossus’ fall this season, the Statue of Liberty and the Lincoln Memorial. The giants of the Reich will be just as easy to topple. Easier, since there’s nothing real behind them.
Joe’s death might be the most shocking thing this show has ever done. He’s been one of the main cast members since the beginning, but more importantly, it was so sudden, brutal, and came from an unexpected source. (Unless you’ve read the book. Even then, it was sudden and unexpected, in the moment.)
While this world’s Joe and Juliana have been far apart, even enemies, for a season and a half, the films have reminded us that they’re meant to be close allies. The level of betrayal between them is a sign of how out of whack this world is. But even when they’re allies, they’re always star-crossed lovers who are followed by death.
We haven’t seen a world yet in which Juliana doesn’t end up alone or dead. Did Hawthorne curate the films that way, or is that what her journey requires?
I think Juliana had the sense that Joe was leading her toward one of the futures where they end up a murder-suicide, if not in the tunnel, then somewhere else. He’d become disillusioned with the Nazis sooner or later, and find out some horrible truth about their experiments. He’d kill Tagomi, capture or kill Hawthorn, then bring her in. She’d end up as a test subject in Lackawanna, and he’d shoot them both.
He may have been doomed as soon as he talked about wishing he’d shot himself after he shot his father. It’s the same image that’s in the film, and it was already in his head, just waiting for him to decide to use it. Juliana decided to prune away the possible futures that could result in her and Joe dead in the tunnel. With Joe dead, that can’t happen.
Himmler is a short, stocky little toad surrounded by tall, slim, beautiful people who meet the Aryan ideals. He’s loud, crude and immoral. He doesn’t actually practice most of what he preaches to the sanctimonious Aryan youth. How long before they turn on him?
I think Nicole has some serious issues with Reichsführer Himmler. She, like much of the youth raised under the Nazis in middle class conditions, believes what she’s been taught. She’s a creative person, so she wants to expand on that philosophy, rather than rebel against it. She sees herself as the peak of what humanity has to offer, and doesn’t see why meaningless limits should be put on herself and others like her.
That’s the new world she wants to create with Year Zero. A world where the conflicts and prejudices of the past no longer hamper the superior humans that the Reich has created. A world with an ultimately positive outlook, because they are the best and the brightest to ever live. Why shouldn’t their world and their outlook be positive?
Meanwhile, Himmler is still fighting the war and has become a relic of the past. He’s sending her fellow Lebensborn to their deaths after training them to be nothing but killing machines. He makes horribly misogynist statements in public, while the propaganda machine tries to build the women of the Reich into strong, confident citizens who can raise the next generation of the best and brightest. He sees only the destructive side of Year Zero, but not the side that will create a new culture from the ashes of the old.
I have a feeling that Papa Himmler’s children are going to rebel. Especially when Nicole finds out how Joe died, and how he was reeducated. In our world, cultural change happened in the 60s, led by the young people born after the war. The GNR has encouraged a similar baby boom. They are probably reaching critical mass. The New Colossus is also the oncoming wave of Nazi youth, who have a very different outlook from their parents.
Images courtesy of Amazon Prime Video.