Welcome back to the Japanese Pacific States, the American Reich and the Neutral Zone. In its final season, The Man in the High Castle focuses mainly on the Smith family, Chief Inspector Kido and a new West Coast resistance group, the Black Communist Rebellion. Juliana Crain, Wyatt Price, Robert Childan and Hawthorne Abendsen also have storylines that the show checks in on periodically. It’s still the same show, with a sweeping story that spans continents, worlds and the astral plane. Events shift between the existential difficulties of everyday people and the rivalries shared by world political powers, in an exploration of what makes us who we are and the war of good vs evil.
While there’s a lot to like about season 4, and some storylines and characters have satisfying conclusions, others are dropped with little or no explanation. Both the TV division of Amazon Prime and this show have had a major amount of staff turn over behind the scenes since the series began, and that shows in the final season, as it has since mid-season 2.
It’s still one of my favorite shows of all time. I’d give both season 4 and the complete series somewhere in the B+ to A- range if I had to give them grades. But it has to to go in the brilliant but flawed category, with so many other shows of the recent era. I can’t help but imagine what it could have been with a single showrunning team in charge for its entire run, instead of the fractured visions we have now.
The Man in the High Castle has been having an identity crisis for a long time. I’m glad it’s ending now, while it’s still great. I prefer a high quality, medium length run that ends before a show rambles off course into endless seasons of mediocrity and embarrassment (cough* The Walking Dead*cough).
Season 4 begins with the ending of season 3, as Reichsmarschall John Smith bursts into Juliana Crain’s cell in the Lackawanna mines, where the Reich is building a portal to other worlds. He shoots her in the shoulder, just as she’s traveling to another world on her own for the first time. Juliana breaks through to the reality on the other side and falls into a flower bed in front of a cute house with a white picket fence and an American flag, complete with stars and stripes. After a moment she gets up and stumbles into the street, collapsing in front of a car which comes to a screeching to a halt.
Regular guy John Smith and his son Thomas jump out of the car to help her while the Beach Boys sing about Surfin’ in the USA in the background.
Cue Eidelweiss and the destruction of familiar US monuments.
I think it’s important to stop here and remember that, whatever happens to Juliana from here on out, she can’t go back to her previous life, because the fact that she was able to travel means that life is gone. The show isn’t going to overtly acknowledge Joe or Frank’s existences, never mind their deaths, but those losses are the reason why Juliana can travel now and couldn’t before, particularly the death of Frank.
Joe died in season 3 episode 5. While he was important to Juliana, their relationship was filled with lies and deceit from the beginning. The films always involved the death of one or both of them. In life, people around them died even before Joe became a trained assassin. In season 1, Juliana and Frank found out he was a Nazi when they saw him kill Frank in a film. Joe and Juliana’s souls were tied together, but not in a way that could ever lead to happiness.
Frank was the person who brought her back from her suicide attempt before the series began (the accident she was recovering from in season 1) and was associated with life for her. After Kido executed him in episode 9, Juliana felt his loss when she woke up in the beginning of the last episode of season 3. Whatever her feelings were for anyone else, Frank was the last living person she felt a responsibility toward which was tethering her to her own world.
We are reminded of Frank by visual references to his art, so keep your eyes open. Joe’s association with death lives on, and Frank’s art has made him immortal.
It takes a year to get through Edelweiss, after which Tagomi is immediately and randomly assassinated. Tagomi is following the crown princess out of a car when a gunman on a motorcycle shoots at him. Kido protects the princess, but Tagomi is killed.
Tagomi has a large state funeral which is attended by Tagomi’s assistant, Kotomichi, and his girlfriend, Tamiko. After this, they are never seen again.
The crown princess gives the eulogy, in which she vows to continue Tagomi’s work to bring peace and harmony to San Francisco and an end to the violence in the JPS. Admiral Inoguchi, who told Kido to use a lighter touch in season 3, defends the crown princess when General Yamori, a new character, criticizes her, a mere woman, for interfering in political matters. The princess assigns Kido to find Tagomi’s killer and orders him to bring his findings to her. Yamori immediately countermands her orders.
Meanwhile, Reichsmarschall John Smith is busy breaking treaties by invading the Neutral Zone. Today he’s flattening Denver, particularly our favorite season 3 hang out, the Grand Palace Hotel. Wyatt Price, aka Liam, has rallied Ledette, Lem and the whole Resistance gang who are still alive to fight back, but they have no hope of winning against the full force of the Reich. The Resistance fighters were hoping to get a train load of weapons and films into the mountains, but instead the battle is lost and Ledette is killed, because of course she is. This show has never met a female Resistance fighter it didn’t want to kill. Liam, Lem and a new character named Pablo barely escape as the Reich soldiers move in.
(Ledette should be with them. You don’t get points for including a woman and a Latino character if you immediately kill the woman to make room for the Latino. This show continues to tokenize women. Some are prominent this season, but they are frequently the only women in the room, or the only one who speaks more than a line or two. We are 51% of the population. Deal with it, even if Philip K Dick didn’t. There’s no need to continue the misogyny of another century, especially when characters were changed to reduce the book’s racism but not it’s misogyny.)
John Smith arrives on the scene to survey the battlefield. We meet another new character, General Bill Whitcroft, who is now an old friend and army buddy of Smith’s that’s been by his side since his days fighting WW2 in the Pacific theatre. Whitcroft led today’s battle and shows John the spoils- a heap of films waiting for John to set them aflame. Apparently it gives both men a hard on to kill the dreams of others and reminds them of their days as freedom fighters in their youth, when their own dreams were killed by the Japanese victory.
After John sets the films on fire, Bill is surprised he isn’t enjoying it more, but the Reichsmarschall has other things on his mind. Bill wonders if he’s worried about how the Japanese will react to the Reich violating their treaty, but John knows the Empire’s secrets and that China is a bigger problem for them now, so he isn’t concerned. They mention the Black Communist Rebellion and Tagomi’s assassination. When Bill wonders if the Reich is responsible for the assassination, Smith doesn’t answer.
Bill, who isn’t terribly dedicated to the Nazi credo or their orders from Berlin and somehow gets away with being open about it, thinks they should continue the invasion all the way to the Pacific, right now. He wants to reunify the country under one flag. John doesn’t think the time is right yet, but assures him that the Japanese Empire is crumbling and the time will come. Once they’re done mopping up in Denver, John is headed to Montana to visit Helen and the girls. Bill is happy to hear it.
Up in Montana, Jennifer is lying in in a hayloft in her uncle’s barn, listening to Billie Holiday.
Helen and Amy come looking for her and Amy quickly rats her out for listening to “black music”.
And that tells you everything you need to know about Jennifer and Amy.
Helen’s brother, Hank, comes out of the barn and tells them that the music calms the cattle. He’s the cool sibling. Amy proudly tells Hank that she and Helen just built a fence. There’s probably no hope for Amy, though Hank thinks her love of fences means she’s meant to be a farmer, not a Nazi.
Maybe he can deprogram her.
When Billie Holiday finishes, a female DJ comes on and announces that they’re listening to Miss Evangeline broadcasting on Resistance Radio from a secret location with updates on the Nazi invasion of Denver. The next song is Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land, a political protest song about inequality, especially income and property inequality.
Jennifer asks Helen if she thinks John is in the Neutral Zone. Helen doesn’t answer the question.
In the JPS, Kido tells Yamori that he’s worried Smith might be preparing to invade their territory and might also be responsible for Tagomi’s assassination, since the Reich had already made two attempts on his life. Yamori isn’t concerned about either of Kido’s issues. He commends Smith for clearing the rebels out of his neighborhood and feels they should do the same with these pesky black rebels who’ve sprung up lately. He’s sure they’re the ones responsible for Tagomi’s death.
The black rebels have been responsible for 17, now 18 attacks in the last 3 months. Yamori wants Kido to meet with General Masuda, who is flying in soon for an art sale, to plan how they will eliminate the Black Communist Rebel threat.
They reach Yamori’s office, where the crown princess and Admiral Inoguchi are waiting. Yamori instructs the princess that it’s time for her to return to Tokyo, as the JPS are much too difficult and dangerous for her stay and rule. She tells him to buzz off, because the emperor agrees with her, and she intends to continue the peacemaking work she started with Tagomi, as she said at the funeral. Then she walks out.
After she’s gone, Yamori assumes that Inoguchi put those words in her head, but Inoguchi tells him that the emperor does indeed back the princess, as she claimed. Yamori falls back on his anti-appeasement argument, which Inoguchi counters by saying that the empire’s resources are spread too thin, since the Chinese are winning in Korea and Manchuria. They can’t hold the JPS and continue to fight China. Yamori says surrender will only happen over his dead body.
These are desperate times all around.
Down in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco, Bell Mallory, a black nanny for the Takahashi family, is stopped and required to show papers by Japanese soldiers at a gate into the district. Bell cooperates and she and the baby she’s pushing in a stroller get through the gate without incident. Nearby, a black man named Elijah has his bag checked thoroughly, and distracts most of the guards from checking Bell’s stroller too closely.
Once Bell and Elijah reach their destination, a warehouse, they remove a cache of guns from underneath the padding in the stroller. Once the padding and the baby are back in place, Bell returns to work.
After work, Bell finds Elijah in their room in the ghetto, working on the guns they keep stashed under the floorboards. They discuss Tagomi’s murder and Bell’s sangfroid (cold blood= nerves of steel) as they clean the weapons. It’s clear the Black Communist Rebellion didn’t kill Tagomi and doesn’t know who did.
Captain Iijima and a team of Kempeitai goons arrive in their building to harass the tenants about Tagomi’s death and arrest a few to serve as examples who will be questioned, tortured and probably executed in the name of the Empire’s harsh justice. Elijah barely escapes being one of Iijima’s victims. Once the Kempeitai leave, Elijah says they should cancel their next operation, but Bell insists they push on. She feels Equiano wants it that way.
Wyatt, Lem and Pablo pull over somewhere in the woods to recover from the battle they just lost. Reich radio plays in the background. The DJ calls Wyatt a treacherous Resistance leader and claims that the Reich has liberated Denver to the joy and cheers of the residents of the Neutral Zone. The DJ announces that the rebellion has been destroyed.
Wyatt tries to send everyone home so that he can give up. Lem talks some sense into him. He mentions that women died in the battle, not just men.
As always, the Resistance women are thin on the ground. I’m not noticing any, other than the late, great Ledette.
All Wyatt needed to hear was that there are more guns available. Fastest emotional turnaround ever. In every reality, white men are motivated by guns.
He asks Lem to get him a meeting with the BCR so he can sweet talk some guns out of them.
In the Alt-World, Juliana waits for Russ, a man she’s dating, in a diner. Costumes, camera angles and reflections are cleverly used to remind the audience of season 1, when Juliana took a bus to Canon City and briefly worked as a waitress in Lem’s diner. Once Russ arrives, they discuss the news. The space program in the Alt-World is having failed Saturn rocket launches.
Next Juliana leads a children’s Aikido class with Alt-Thomas as her assistant. As they do breathing exercises, she slips into deep meditation, then has a vision of the astral plane, which is a flat sandy stretch of land with a dark, cloudy sky and a single, barren tree. Tagomi kneels in meditation with his back to Juliana, with the sticks from the I-Ching on the ground by his side. He is dressed in black; she is in white. As Juliana approaches, Tagomi leans to the side and writes the diagram for Hexagram 64 in the sand with his finger. Then he gradually turns to dust, which blows away.
The astral plane is clearly in the MCU and Thanos just snapped his fingers- most overused effect of the year.
Juliana comes back to the Alt-World reality, where Alt-Helen and Alt-Thomas are shaking her to wake her up. They were worried because she was out for so long, but she assures them that she’s worked hard to reach deep states of meditation. They say goodbye and leave, since she’s okay, but promise to pray for her.
In the High Castle reality, Kido is examining the evidence from Tagomi’s assassination when he’s told that they’ve found a suspect. The Kempeitai raid a warehouse where a black man who’s known as Mingus Jones lives. When Jones tries to give his legal name, Captain Iijima stops him.
Jones ran to flush drugs down the toilet as the Kempeitai entered the building. The character was first seen in S3Ep6 when he sold antibiotics, painkillers, amphetamines and other drugs to Wyatt Price in San Francisco, which Wyatt then brought to the Neutral Zone to sell to those in need. In the present, Kido identifies the drugs Jones was flushing as penicillin.
Iijima roughs Jones up. Kido asks if he’s a member of the BCR. Jones says that he plays jazz music. My guess is that he plays at the Yakuza club the Bamboo Palace, though I don’t think we were ever given the name of the player Kido’s friend Gina talked to between sets. If he’s the player Kido was jealous of in season 2, that would add extra motivation for his arrest and treatment.
Iijima finds a drawer full of incriminating evidence, including a Chinese gun and the autobiography of Equiano Hampton, the founder and leader of the Black Communist Rebellion. Mingus swears that he’s never seen any of the items in the drawer before. As Kido looks through the drawer, Iijima “questions” Mingus by brutally beating him, which coincidentally doesn’t allow him to answer questions at all.
Kido stops Iijima before he kills Mingus, mostly because one of the new soldiers, a corporal, is breaking down from witnessing such uncalled for violence. Kido sends the corporal outside to compose himself and has some of the other soldiers take Mingus away.
John’s giant hover jet drops him and his protection detail off in Hank’s front yard. Amy rushes out to greet him. The rest of the family isn’t as surprised or happy to see him, but they invite him in for dinner.
John: “I had some official Reich business in the area, I thought I’d surprise you.”
He flattened Denver so he’d have an excuse to show up for dinner unannounced. Helen needs to go back to NYC, before he annexes the entire western half of the continent, one holiday and birthday at a time.
Juliana returns to her meditation and the astral plane. Tagomi is gone, but Hexagram 64 remains and has been written more firmly. When Juliana looks around, she sees crowds of people emerging from the fog in the distance.
Juliana comes back to herself and looks up Hexagram 64 in her book on the I-Ching. She copies its meaning into a notebook where she’s been recording what she’s learned in meditation and in the Alt-World. Hexagram 64 means “Not Yet Complete.”
Before they eat, Hank, Helen and Jennifer say a prayer while the family holds hands around the dinner table. Amy stays silent and looks at her father. John joins in on the last line of the prayer. The Reich is atheist, so Amy was watching to see whether John would follow the Reich’s teachings without compromise or respect the traditions of his host’s home.
During dinner, John thanks Hank for taking care of Helen and the kids. Hank replies that they’re his family, so they’ll always have a home with him. Then he tells John that he saw one of the Man in the High Castle’s films recently, where the Allies won the war. John calls them propaganda films.
Kido returns to his apartment where HIS SON, Toru, the corporal who had a hard time controlling his emotions, is waiting. Toru apologizes for his behavior. Kido says that new recruits often have a hard time at the sight of blood. Toru says that he has already seen blood in combat.
The two men watch a baseball game together. Kido gives Toru advice for a job interview he has the next day. He wants Toru to wear the medal he won in battle because it will impress the interviewer.
Lem brings Bell to meet with Wyatt so they can barter for guns.
John gives the girls magazines from the Reich, then asks them to read in their room so he and Helen can talk. He’s given Helen a year to think about things, but now he wants her to come home. School has already started in the Reich. Helen isn’t worried about that because she’s homeschooling the girls. John points out that they’re only safe on the farm because he has soldiers guarding them so the rebels don’t kidnap the girls.
Helen says that he’s always so worried about keeping them safe. It’s his excuse for everything, but it was the Reich that murdered Thomas. John says that he and Helen made decisions together. She can’t blame him for what happened to Thomas. Helen is upset because none of the children chose the pressures the Reich puts on them.
She warns him that in the Neutral Zone, people talk about subjects that are swept under the rug in the Reich, things that she and John took part in. She talking about the concentration camps and other atrocities. The girls have heard those conversations. John points out how dangerous that could be for Amy and Jennifer if they voice opinions that are counter to the accepted ones once they get home. Helen doesn’t intend to back to the Reich or to let the girls go back. John begs her to remember that they’ve always been a team. They had an agreement to work together and he needs her and the girls at home.
Helen tells him she doesn’t know him.
If the separation hasn’t broken him, her refusal to come home when he’s begging her does. He packs up the girls and takes them back to the Reich with him, but Helen stays behind. The girls also beg her to come with them, but Helen stands her ground.
She knows that the only way to survive is to get out of the Reich, but she doesn’t have the power to stop the Reichsmarschall from taking her children back.
By the end of season 3, Kido and the Reich combined had managed to deprive Juliana of everyone who meant the most to her, a condition required for traveling without using the portal, according to Hawthorne. Her mother, Anne, and her stepfather, Arnold, are still alive as far as we know, but they weren’t close to Juliana and aren’t enough to keep Juliana in this universe when her life is in danger and important information could be tortured out of her.
Juliana’s deep connections were Frank, Joe, Tagomi and Trudy. Three of them are dead and she knows she can connect to Tagomi from another world. Juliana is also a mystic with special powers of her own, such as “remembering” the other lives depicted in the films, so it makes sense for her to have special powers related to traveling as well, such as visiting the astral plane through meditation to communicate with Tagomi and for visions of her own.
The flower bed Juliana falls into in the alt-world is reminiscent of the red and white circular flower arrangements with swastikas in the middle we’ve seen at Reich funerals. Julia falls into a bed of pink and white flowers, a softer color combination, which are planted randomly, instead of arranged to turn the colors into a formal design. So we’re still meant to be reminded that she’s now died to her former self and her former life, but also that she’s in a less rigid world that will treat her less harshly.
The Billie Holiday song that Miss Evangeline plays, Farewell to Storyville, is from the soundtrack of the 1946 movie New Orleans. Billie Holiday sang several songs onscreen in the film in our reality, but that seems unlikely in the Nazi Prime reality of the High Castle world. I’m going to guess that the Resistance Radio station is playing songs brought over from other worlds when films are brought over, to help further inspire people. Resistance through radio stations has a long tradition and is much easier to get to people on a long term, consistent basis than films, so it makes sense that the rebels would supplement the films with radio.
The Black Communist Rebellion are receiving supplies and support from the Chinese communists, who are also fighting the Japanese Empire. By supplying North American rebels in their fight, the Chinese keep the Japanese busy on two fronts and their armed forces spread too thin, an issue we’ve heard the Japanese Empire worry about since season 1.
Hexagram 64- Wei Ji: The River Has Not Been Crossed Yet
I-Ching readings are much more complex than the show has ever allowed time for. There are 64 hexagrams in the Book of Changes. The 63rd hexagram, Ji Ji, signifies settling down and success, but the ancients understood that nothing is permanent, so they added the 64th hexagram, which means failure, a time of necessary change, a new cycle beginning after the end of the old cycle.
There are 6 lines in the hexagram and each line also has a separate interpretation. This site goes through all of the lines and ways to to interpret the hexagram in detail, so I encourage you to visit it again with each new episode. For now, I want to to look at the first line, which I believe corresponds to the first episode. The interpretation of the lines speak metaphorically of a little fox attempting to cross a deep river.
Line 1 appears to refer to the dance Helen and John are doing with each other between what they know is right, leaving the Reich and finding someplace to hide, and what they’ve always done to protect the family, amassing as much power as possible within the Reich with the hope that it would protect them from the worst of the Nazis’ beliefs. The bill has come due on their expediency and they’ve already paid with Thomas’ life. Helen wants to change tactics before they pay a higher price than they already have, but it’s not clear that people as famous as them can hide anymore. John wants to continue down the same failed road, because he believes that the next promotion will be the one to save them.
In line 1, the fox respects the hidden peril represented by the river and its undercurrent, so she stays still. Helen remains in the Neutral Zone, sensing the danger to herself if she returns to the Reich.
The Main Characters’ Symbolic Roles
The Man in the High Castle is a story told on many levels, as you can tell from its title alone. One of these levels is a spiritual level in which the main characters each represent something like a Platonic ideal, and the forces they embody play out a modern myth. I’ve talked about this in previous seasons and it’s even more apparent this season, as the story is distilled down to its essence and brought to a conclusion.
The goal of the series has been to end the evil in the High Castle reality which has killed so many before their time and created an imbalance that’s affected the multiverse. Then balance can be restored to both the High Castle reality and to the multiverse as a whole. Some of the characters represent evil, but it’s an energy that flows through them and not necessarily who they really are. It’s the evil energy which needs to be removed.
There are many ways the High Castle characters can be represented mythologically. This time, I want to look at each of them according to their most prominent quality and how it’s served the story, since that’s important in season 4.
Hawthorne Abendsen, the Man in the High Castle, serves as an Oracle. From the first film that shows the Allies winning the war, which he creates, he includes prophetic touches. He’s able to discern the truth of the films that are brought to him and of the travelers who bring them, then use that knowledge to understand and predict the multiverse. He directs the people around him to help create the future he wants to see in this reality.
Hawthorne isn’t the only Man in the High Castle, or the only Oracle. Juliana, Tagomi, Hitler and Smith each also have extended contact with the films and understand their meanings well enough to use them to change the course of events. Kido is on the edge of understanding and acts as a courier with one film, but I don’t think he ever reaches oracle status.
Juliana represents the ideal of Justice. She always does what she thinks is right according to her sense of justice, her sense of what’s right and what’s wrong and what’s fair. This frequently makes her seem disloyal to the people around her, cold and opportunistic, but what she’s really doing is serving a higher purpose. We’re used to excusing the behavior of men who serve a higher purpose, but few recognize when a woman is doing the same thing.
Juliana’s spiritual counterpart was Tagomi, who represented Wisdom, which is necessary in order to recognize what’s fair and just. By the same token, wisdom without a sense of justice is hollow, even evil. Tagomi was her father figure, mentor and guide. She was his daughter, savior, protege and guide. As we see in this episode, their oversouls are linked so that they continue to communicate, even when she’s in another reality and he’s passed away in the High Castle reality. Tagomi is important, even if he’s no longer alive in the prime reality.
So is Frank Frink, who represents Life. Frank survived several brushes with death, despite being Jewish and having Kido hunting him. Other characters have also survived, but for different reasons, which I’ll talk about later. Frank survives because he’s the immortal, unkillable spirit of life. When Mark Sampson meets Frank he whispers “To life”, the translation of “L’Chaim”, in Frank’s ear. Frank survives the bombing of the Kempeitai building, then creates paintings that inspire the Resistance. In essence, he rises from the dead to spread his message.
When Kido kills Frank for real, he sets Franks message free as if he’s planting a seed, with Franks art spreading throughout North America, on its own and as the label for the contraband film. Frank gives the rebels their logo. Through his art, he travels everywhere, speaks to everyone and lives forever. His two popular paintings involve ending Fascism and starting a new cycle of hope with the rising (or setting) sun, but they don’t call for violence or death. Even Kido acknowledges their power.
Frank’s counterpart is Joe, who symbolizes Death. Death follows Joe everywhere, not just the physical death of the people he kills, but the soul-crushing way he ultimately betrays everyone, because he believes in nothing, so he’s easily swayed by each new person who comes along. Joe brings the death of dreams, plans and love with him wherever he goes. He leads people on, then gets them killed, sometimes on purpose, sometimes accidentally.
In the films, his every appearance involves murder and execution. When Joe comes under Himmler’s influence, he becomes a professional assassin who believes in the death he’s responsible for, making him irredeemable.
He’s Frank’s counterpart, Death vs Life. They stand on either side of Juliana’s scales of Justice. Neither man is in this season as a live character, but their history hangs over the season and is important to remember for how it still affects the other characters.
Helen symbolizes Parenthood and Sacrifice for others, the closest the Reich has to a symbol of life, since the entire Nazi culture is built on fetishizing death and only allowing the most pure and perfect to live. Helen fights for her children and family with everything she has, in a way that her husband isn’t capable of, since he’s also entangled with the Nazi power structure.
On the surface, Helen’s son Thomas appears to represent life, but what he actually symbolizes is the cult-like aspects of Reich propaganda and a follower’s susceptibility to the indoctrination and brainwashing techniques used by authority figures in every reality. Though Thomas is good, he becomes a tool of evil because he doesn’t question what he’s told.
His willingness to die because he was imperfect is fetishized by the Nazis into a sense of warped perfection, consisting of total, unquestioning obedience to the Führer’s orders. This unquestioning, perfect obedience is then used to teach other children, who remain ignorant of what they’re really doing, to believe that others who are imperfect should also be turned over to the state. This season, Thomas’ sisters, Amy and Jennifer, each have a strong reaction to his death and the way the Reich fetishizes it.
John Smith, the everyman who is corrupted by evil in his attempt to do right by his family, is one of the three main faces of evil we deal with this season. At the end of WW2, John has the appearance of a good man who wants to save his family. He tells himself that he is forced into his choices in order to to keep his family safe. But he gradually grows to enjoy the feeling of power he acquires in the Reich and finds he’s good at leading and administrating, even if the men he’s leading are Nazis and the orders he carries out are to exterminate entire groups of people. He gradually learns to live with himself by deciding that maybe the Nazis aren’t so bad and maybe some of their policies work.
The good he does in the name of his family is superceded by his enthusiasm for the power he’s gained in the Reich and the lengths he’ll go to in order to protect his family. This season, he’s forced to face how much evil he’s done that had nothing to do with protecting his family.
Kido is the evil that follows orders and does the wrong thing because he believes he’s doing the right thing. Kido’s sense of honor and duty is the positive side of his symbolic representation, but he takes it to the point of cruelty, using it as an excuse to abandon his wife and children and to authorize mass murder. He follows hierarchy, tradition and the code of law unquestioningly and allows no exceptions. He only breaks away from tradition to protect the empire or get revenge. Kido murdered Frank Frink’s sister and her children for no reason, had dozens of other innocent people murdered out of anger for the death of one man (Yoshida), then hunted down and ritually executed Frank Frink. He’s unable to see that his own excessive racism, cruelty and violence in the name of the law lead to more violence and rebellion.
Had Thomas lived, it’s possible he could have become like Kido someday. They are both men who try to do the right thing, but often get lost along the way. This season, Kido has to face the consequences of his decisions as he faces the ways he failed his son and his methods failed the empire.We revisit the beginning of Thomas’ journey into heroism and view it from a different angle.
Himmler is wanton evil for the sake of evil. He is pure evil that needs no motive beyond the fact that he can imagine it and so he can do it. Himmler has no interest in doing what’s right. Or rather, his particular brand of narcissism means that he’s sure that whatever he decides is the right thing and so it’s what must be done. He doesn’t question his own actions, he questions others’ loyalty to himself. There’s no way to redeem a man like Himmler.
Season 4 builds on the exploration of Himmler that began in season 3. Much of Himmler’s journey is complete, since by Nazi standards an old, sick man is just about ready for the ovens. But a man like Himmler doesn’t give up power voluntarily.
Liam, the only other strong anti-Fascist character left besides Juliana, symbolizes independent rebellion. Ed, who has disappeared into the ether, is goodness and determination. Childan is capitalism, but also subservience to the ruling class. The newly introduced BCR is communism, but also community pulling together to accomplish a larger goal.
By the end of season 3, Joe and Frank were both gone, so Juliana and Tagomi were left alone as balancing essences in this universe. Now that Tagomi is gone, Juliana is left alone to restore balance. As she makes her final stand against the evils of the Nazis, Juliana is in need of new allies.
Images courtesy of Amazon Prime Video.