As the Reich draws closer to the full implementation of Jahr Null, episode 8 explores reinventing oneself and changing directions. Some, like Himmler, stay on the course we’ve seen them follow all season. Others, like Ed, Frank, Nicole and Helen, attempt to explore new paths.
After they’ve seen Juliana’s film, the Jewish characters of Sabra refuse to see that there could be another way, and stick to their traditional fight. Ed and Frank are inspired to use art to inspire others. Juliana has the science behind the knowledge in her acquired memories confirmed, and moves forward with her fight.
In the American Reich, Helen experiments with a little independent thinking about Reich orthodoxy, which causes Dr Ryan to call John again. John puts an end to Helen’s analysis and tries to end her independent thinking, but I suspect that’s impossible.
John tries to make Himmler see reason when Himmler courts another war with Japan, this time on American soil. But Himmler sees the Western Hemisphere as his plaything, to be toyed with or broken as he sees fit. He has no sympathy for the people who’d be affected by an American war.
This is all perfectly symbolized in the opening scene of the episode, as we watch the Liberty Bell melted down, then see its remains poured into a mold for yet another swastika. The Liberty Bell is a symbol of independence and freedom, but it also represents American uniqueness and pluck, with its crack that makes it identifiable amongst all other bells. To turn such a symbol into not just the symbol of the enemy, but also into one with no special characteristics, with Americans voluntarily standing by watching, proves how thoroughly America has been conquered.
Though this is fiction, it’s hard to watch, even a little sickening.
After Edelweiss, we move to the NZ, where the people of Sabra are watching The Grasshopper Lies Heavy. The Jewish people have already lost too much and are still too persecuted for one film to immediately change their minds and goals. They loudly voice their opinions and walk out.
But Ed is taken with the possibilities that the film represents. It’s hard to imagine now, but back in season 1, Jules and Frank didn’t feel close enough to him to risk showing Ed the film, so this is the first time he’s seen it.
One Sabra resident, Dr. Eric Zuckereyck, a physicist, believes the film. He looks over the blueprint and tells Juliana that it’s what lab fabricators call a build-ready blueprint, confirming Juliana’s suspicions. Dr Zuckereyck tells them that the machine, a quantum transfer device, is massive and uses enough power to light up a small city. Quantum transfer has been a subject of research for years, but he had no idea the Nazis were so close to success.
Dr Zuckereyck explains that it makes sense for the Nazis to be building the machine in an abandoned mine. He says that you’d want to put it near a quantum anomaly, where the membrane between worlds is the thinnest, but you’d also want to put it underground, in case of a catastrophic accident.
If the machine were to explode, the yield would be the equivalent to a small atomic bomb. Even with the machine underground, it would turn everything to cinders for miles around. Everyone immediately thinks of Juliana’s memory and the film that shows what appears to be the aftermath of a devastating explosion.
Helen finds Smith in his home office on a rainy evening and tells him that the school wants to schedule Jennifer’s genetic test, to see if she carries the same condition as Thomas. Helen asks if John can get Jennifer exempted from the test, since he’s the Reichsmarschall. John explains that, if anything, there’s more pressure for him to conform and set a good example for the public.
John continues, explaining that if they try to evade the test it will give more ammunition to his enemies, like Hoover. Helen asks what happens if Jennifer tests positive, but they already know the answer to that question. They nod to each other, almost imperceptibly, then Helen walks away.
She’s made some internal decision that she’s not going to share with him, as long as he’s the highest authority in the American Reich. John looks hopeless and hollowed out.
Wyatt meets with the Nazi collaborator again to pick up Juliana’s passport and pay him off. The papers look good to Wyatt, but he tips Wyatt off when he wishes Wyatt a happy holiday, as well. Wyatt didn’t mention taking a trip, and the papers are only for Juliana. Wyatt reminds the collaborator about his threat to the man’s family.
On his way out of the saloon, the document purveyor gives a discrete nod to an SD agent at the next table. Wyatt knows a cop when he sees one, and realizes that the collaborator is actually an SD agent as well. So he follows the agent into the alley and shoots him when he goes for his gun. As Wyatt’s taking his payoff money back from the agent, someone else enters the alley and starts shooting, so Wyatt shoots him too, then leaves.
Helen is feeling feisty and confident at her therapy appointment, and decides to find out where Dr Ryan stands on a few things. She tells him that every morning when she wakes up, she forgets at first that Thomas is dead. She continues, saying that the loss of his life was a waste, because he could have contributed to society in countless meaningful ways. Helen stands near Dr Ryan as he mouths the Reich’s clichés at her, visibly uncomfortable with where this conversation is going.
He tries to convince her that genetic purity is all important and that Goebbels doesn’t have a deformity, but she verbally slaps him down like a fly. She’s met Goebbels, and she knows the truth. So Ryan takes another approach, and asks why this is coming up now. Helen says that she wakes up everyday feeling sad and angry. “It isn’t fair. Of course I’m going to lash out. I’m going to act on impulse…”
Dr Ryan doesn’t know what she’s talking about. The “impulsive act” she talking about is the accidental death of Alice Adler.
When Dr Ryan ends the session, Helen calls him by his first name, Daniel. He corrects her, saying he wants to maintain professional decorum. Then she kisses him goodbye, on the mouth. He says she’s experiencing transference, which is totally normal. Helen answers that nothing about the situation feels normal.
Tagomi shows off his martial arts training for Tamiko. He’s doing a kata called Kasumi, which means “through the mists”. Tamiko thinks he looks graceful. Tagomi explains that this kata is for killing enemies.
Kotomichi fetches Tagomi for a meeting. Tamiko notes that Tagomi seems sad. He tells her these are dark times. She says that she has faith in Tagomi, the same thing that Helen said to John Smith.
Smith couldn’t live up to the expectation. Can Tagomi?
Himmler’s latest Lebensborn assassin watches them from a distance.
Wyatt returns to Sabra and is greeted with hostility from everyone but Juliana. Frank doesn’t like the way he’s cozied up to Juliana. Mark doesn’t like the way he does business with Nazis. Lila doesn’t like strangers, particularly ones Mark doesn’t like.
When Frank asks Wyatt why he’s helping Juliana, he gives the same not quite satisfying answers. He’s fought them before, he’s followed Juliana this far… Juliana demands more. Wyatt comes clean, and admits that the Nazis killed half of his family in Ireland, and the other half in NY. Whether or not the film is real, it and Juliana have inspired him to get back into the fight. He promises to have Juliana’s back.
Mark returns from Denver and tells Lila that the bounty hunters are ruthless and will definitely be back eventually. Lila realizes that Sabra needs to prepare to defend itself.
Juliana gathers her things and says goodbye to Frank. She takes a print of The Fascist Threat so she’ll always have him with her. She promises to return, but she doesn’t know when. Frank tells her that she doesn’t have to come back. Juliana scoffs at him, because of course she wants to see him again. They’ve finally reached a place where they’re in sync again, and can remember who they are to each other.
Frank tells her to be careful. He doesn’t walk Jules out, so that he can pretend that she’s in another part of the camp instead of gone. They share a heartfelt hug and kiss goodbye. We all cry a little.
They say, “See you later,” instead of goodbye.
We only see the end of Juliana’s goodbye to Ed, from a distance, but it’s warm and loving. Uncomplicated, like Ed himself.
Kido returns Childan’s shop to him as a reward for service to the Japanese Pacific States. After Childan is given the news, he calls Jack at the Grand Palace to warn him and Ed. The call is cut off as soon as Childan tells Jack that Ed may be in danger, suggesting that the Kempeitai are listening in.
Childan has at least grown enough as a character to feel terrible about whatever trouble he’s caused Ed.
Frank and Ed are inspired by Juliana’s fight, so once they recover from her departure, they decide to go to Denver. They’ll spread the word of resistance to fascism through Frank’s paintings.
Dr Ryan put in a call to John Smith after his session with Helen, and is once again surprised when Smith shows up in person. Ryan tells Smith that Helen “has been articulating opinions incompatible with Reich orthodoxy.” He also tells John that Helen mentioned “acting impulsively.” Thinking that he’s heard everything, John gets up to leave, but Dr Ryan has to inform John about Helen kissing him. Dr Ryan asks to terminate his treatment with Helen. Hopefully John will let him live.
Tagomi and Tamiko have another date, this time at Tagomi’s house. They hear a strange sound outside, putting them on alert. The noise is made by Hans the Lebensborn, Himmler’s latest pet assassin, killing Tagomi’s guard. Tagomi picks up his kata stick just as Hans enters the house. A small knife is his only weapon. Hans is an inexperienced assassin who assumes his youth and size will be enough to overpower any enemy. Tagomi has decades of training to counter Hans’ lack. He uses the stick to knock the knife out of Hans’ hand, then to stop Hans from strangling him.
Next, Tagomi uses the move he was practicing earlier in the park, and slams Hans onto the table, followed by pushing the end of the stick down into Hans’ windpipe, hard enough to break it. Hans’, unable to breathe, dies.
Tagomi doesn’t go looking for a fight, but if you bring one to him, he’ll finish it. Himmler’s so caught up in the Lebensborns’ power and loyalty that he doesn’t teach them nuance or finesse, so they’re easily outsmarted by a well-trained fighter.
The Kempetai toss Hans’ body on the street in front of the Nazi Embassy. Before she’s escorted home, Tamiko tells Tagomi that she’s grateful he was able to save them from the assassin. Tagomi seemed worried about how she was reacting to the incident, so this must be a relief.
When he reaches John’s apartment, Himmler is in a rage over the Japanese treatment of Hans’ body. Irony isn’t a word in Himmler’s vocabulary. John tries to run interference. He informs Himmler that the Japanese are demanding that the Reich drop the oil embargo and honor their trade agreements, or the JPS will initiate military action.
Himmler is certain that the Japanese are bluffing and won’t actually risk a war. Smith reminds him that the Japanese have the bomb, and, while Europe is safe, the American Reich is not. Himmler orders Smith to reject the Japanese demands, categorically.
Smith looks like he’s going to be sick.
Kido and Sato arrive at the Grand Palace Saloon just as Holt and Earle are leaving. The bounty hunters purposely bump into Kido, causing him to curse at them in Japanese. Holt and Earle turn around to start an altercation. Kido stands his ground. Holt and Kido are ready to go all pistols at dawn, but Earle reminds Holt that there’s no money in killing “Pons”, so they move on.
Wouldn’t be surprised if Kido puts them on his kill list.
Kido and Sato meet with one of the Yakuza who’s a regular at the Grand Palace. He hasn’t found Frank, and thinks he’s dead. Kido gives the Yakuza a photo of Ed and tells him about Jack. Kido tells the thug to redouble his efforts, because Frank is definitely alive, and those two might lead them to him.
Childan tries to put his ransacked shop to rights.
Mark takes Frank, Ed and Frank’s painting supplies into Denver.
Nicole explains to Thelma that the Double D club, which is glamorous and surprisingly well-lit, is for Europeans only, and their guests.
On the long drive from the NZ to coal mine #9, Juliana shows Liam/Wyatt where Lackawanna is on the map. She explains that she wants to destroy the mine and the machine, but first she’ll have to get inside and take a look at it, so she can figure out how.
Liam thinks they’ll need help, which I thought was the point of her quest during the last couple of episodes. Liam was there for all of those strategy discussions at Hawthorne and Caroline’s house. He should know this already.
Juliana never loses sight of her ultimate goal of destroying the machine, then destroying the Reich and JPS. Everyone else seems to get mixed up about the order of operations and whether she should do either job at all. Maybe if she put a sign on her chest, they’d remember.
Kido uses his usual subtle interrogation techniques on the Grand Palace bartender. After Kido breaks his nose, the bartender points out Jack, sitting across the room.
Kido has basically lost whatever sanity he once had and become a violent sociopath. There are times when he’s still human and sympathetic, which is a credit to the writers and Joel de la Fuente, but this isn’t one of them.
Kido lies to Jack, saying that his name is Baku and he’s come into possession of Ed and Robert’s busload of antiques. He’s willing to get them back to Ed and Robert for a finder’s fee. Jack lies and says that he knows nothing about the business, and that Ed and Childan have headed south toward Albuquerque and El Paso.
Thelma and Nicole enjoy everything about the club, from the music to the other patrons, but especially each other. While they’re dancing to C’est Si Bon, the lesbian club is raided, and the patrons are arrested. Nicole shows her German Nazi ID and is cut loose, but Thelma is arrested. Nicole promises to get Thelma out.
She calls Billy Turner at the Ministry of Propaganda and asks him to get Thelma released. There were photographers, so he’ll have to get rid of the photos, too. Nicole wants Billy to get Thelma from the lock up himself, instead of sending someone.
Juliana and Liam watch the NZ/Reich border checkpoint from a hidden spot and wait for the right time to cross. Liam has a contact who works as a border guard, so they’ll wait for when he’s on duty.
In the morning, John tells Helen that Dr Ryan called the night before, to let him know that Helen brought up traitorous ideas about Reich policy. They argue for a minute over whether she was actually talking about Thomas when bringing up subversive opinions.
Then Helen asks if that’s all Dr Ryan said. John asks if there was something else he should have said. Helen remains silent and staring at her vanity mirror. John tells her that she won’t be seeing Dr Ryan anymore, and he thinks they both understand why, letting her know that Ryan told him about the kiss. John leaves the room, and Helen throws a tea-cup.
That was a cold and bloodless discussion of what amounts to John’s wife proposing the possibility of an affair with another man. In John’s mind, Helen’s become a showpiece to be managed rather than a helpmate and spouse. Everyday, he emotionally withdraws further from her and the girls, while Helen looks for some kind of rescue or solution.
Juliana and Liam must get tired of waiting, because they go down to the border crossing before Liam’s man, Carter, comes on duty. The other guards are suspicious of Juliana’s papers. The official signature is a forgery, and one guard recognizes her. Carter wants to send Liam and Juliana back into the Neutral Zone, but the other guards are overzealous and won’t let them go. They try to arrest Juliana, a gunfight breaks out, and the guards all end up dead.
Liam and Juliana drive through the closed gate into the Reich and keep going. That was not the quiet entrance they’d hoped for.
Helen is back to herself again, but with a new purpose in life. I’ve been waiting to see her use her intelligence, practicality and confidence against the Reich, and I think we’re finally getting there. The way she made Dr Ryan squirm, after he told her the murder of her healthy son was for the best, was glorious. Excess animus for the win.
When she alludes to Alice’s death during her session with Dr Ryan, Helen is trying to process what happened. What she’s saying is true. Alice invited a confrontation by provoking the Smiths, and, at the time, Helen had no other outlet for her emotions. She and Alice are both victims in this scenario, nearly as much as Thomas.
The Reich and prewar America taught her that her worth sprang from her to ability to bear and raise healthy children, and from her marriage to a successful man. Sons were valued more than daughters, and they took her only son away. Now Helen faces potentially losing both daughters anyway.
Her marriage is falling apart, and she’s been unable to save it. She has a murder on her conscience. And it all started with the Reich’s attitude toward those with the potential for genetic illnesses.
Alice didn’t appear to have any children, so her status and worth, as an older woman, came from her husband. When John killed Dr Adler, Alice began to lose her place in the world. I’m willing to bet that she would have been forced out of her house before long, so that it could be given to a young family.
It’s doubtful that the Reich would support nursing homes full of old ladies who can’t do much for themselves anymore. Elderly women with no close relatives are most likely declared useless eaters. That would help explain why Alice didn’t bother to keep her head down, and complained loudly about John murdering her husband. She probably had little to lose.
John Smith and Takeshi Kido are both taking a new road in this episode. Kido has gone on personal vendettas before, but he generally stayed within the JPS and within the law. Now, he’s going cowboy. He’s operating outside the law, outside the Kempeitai’s jurisdiction, and in full cooperation with the Yakuza. Not the quiet, underground cooperation he’s had before, but fully partnering with a Yakuza lieutenant.
His interaction with Holt and Earle at the Grand Palace makes it clear that he’s in the mood for a fight, and just waiting for a gaijin to give him an excuse to kill someone. Kido is consumed by his need for revenge, and the need to make it personal. He may still work for the Japanese, but he’s fully integrated into the independent mindset of the wild, wild West.
John Smith has gone from watching the films for hours every night to sitting and staring into space. He’s put aside the fantasy for the moment, and accepted that this reality is over for him in many ways. He’s risen as high as he can rise in the Reich, since the Germans will never accept an American Führer. Despite the power of his office, Himmler watches his every move, so he’s unable to save his family or to protect the American people.
He’s essentially become a puppet-hostage, expected to parrot Himmler, and punished severely when he doesn’t. For possibly the first time in his life, John Smith has reached an obstacle he can’t get around. He’s become exhausted and given up trying. I doubt that will last forever. He’s still gathering information and letting the calculations play out in his mind. But for now, he can’t see a way out.
The only other time we know of when John possibly also felt this helpless was when his brother was dying of the inherited disease that Thomas also carried. There were hints that he originally went along with the Nazi eugenics program because he didn’t want to be involved with that kind of family suffering and feelings of helplessness again. Yet here he is, on the verge of losing all of his children and his wife because he tried to take the easy way out to avoid pain and suffering.
Now he appears rooted in place, unsure of which direction to take next. This is so completely unlike the consummate master of manipulation and ambition that we know him to be, that it’s truly frightening.
Times Square Reich, or whatever the kids are calling it these days:
Images courtesy of Amazon Prime.