“Every door out… is a door in.” In season 4, episode 2, Dr Mengele and his portal experiments return. The program has advanced significantly in the last year, with regular teams of Nazi spies making the trip to the Alt-World for both espionage and sabotage. Thanks to Hawthorne Abendsen and the Reich’s enhanced interrogation methods, Mengele has also made a map of the multiverse. John Smith understands the potential waiting for them in each world- if the Nazis can send someone to a new world, that world can send someone to the High Castle world as well. Everyplace is a potential threat.
Including schools and homes in the American Reich, since children have been taught to spy on and turn in their loved ones. Some, like Amy, are very enthusiastic about enforcing the rules. Jennifer isn’t happy about being back in the Reich, so John has to play referee between his two daughters to keep them both alive.
In the JPS, Kido oversees the security for a major Americana auction organized by Childan. Wyatt, Lem, Bell and Elijah team up for catering and sabotage of their own. Childan meets the crown princess and his dreams of being seen as a man of culture come true. Toru’s PTSD interferes with his ability to get to his job interview.
This episode begins this season’s deep dive into human nature and why we are who are, on both an individual and cultural scale. We meet Equiano Hampton, founder of the BCR, and begin to get to know John Smith’s Alt-World counterpart. As Hawthorne Abendsen told us in season 2, Juliana is the one person who is consistent throughout the multiverse, guided by her own inner moral compass rather than her environment.
We begin with a flashback to a secret meeting in Oakland, CA in 1961, one year before the beginning of the series and 3 years prior to the High Castle present day. Elijah and Bell arrive at the hall before the meeting starts, while the crowd is chatting and eating. Bell is drawn to the cool jazz piano music playing on the record player, next to a case of banned books.
She picks up a copy of The Souls of Black Folk by WEB Du Bois. Elijah explains that they smuggle books and music in from the Neutral Zone- Karl Marx, Marcus Garvey, Ida B Wells, Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk. They have the biggest collection of banned materials in the JPS. If the Kempeitai find them, they burn them, but the rebels just keep reprinting. Bell decides that she wants to read them all. She’s not afraid of the Kempeitai’s punishment.
Equiano Hampton arrives and the meeting of the Oakland Chapter of the Black Communist Rebellion begins. He tells the group that the first shipment of arms from their Chinese allies has arrived. He explains that their fight will require sacrifices, but they’re all used to sacrificing, then speaks about the concentration camps and systematic extermination the black people of the Reich have faced. One by one, members speak up, listing their family and friends who were lost in the camps. Bell lost her parents when she was a child.
Cities all over the country are named as camp locations. Finally, Elijah mentions a black man named William Pullman who was shot by the Kempeitai in San Francisco just the week before, bringing the group’s long history of suffering up to the present time and place. Equiano picks up this thread and asks them to serve their community as soldiers to stop the killing that’s been going on since they were brought here as slaves. Bell and Elijah are among the first to volunteer.
This is the most overt reference the show has made to what happened to the black people of the American Reich. We were told in season 2 that the native people of Africa were exterminated so that true Aryans could be brought in to farm as part of Martin Heusmann’s grand schemes. The extermination of the Jewish, queer and disabled people of the American Reich has been discussed, but the show has been vague about the black population until now. The members of the BCR are mostly refugees from the Reich.
No clue what happened to the large Western hispanic population, other than Pablo.
Cesar Chavez and his movement are somewhere with the missing women, I guess.
After Eidelweiss, we’re back in the show’s present day and in the Reich. John Smith watches a team of
aliens Nazi spies return through the portal after a tour of duty in the Alt-World. Mengele gushes that their teams “are draining the Alt-World of all technological and cultural intelligence.” He has teams placed in Alt-America, Europe and Asia. However, they haven’t been able to stop the advance of the Alt-World’s nuclear capabilities.
The other world is largely unaware of the multiverse, beyond the authors of a few papers on quantum mechanics who are being taken care of, so the High Castle world’s superior position remains intact. Mengele leads the Reichsmarschall down the hall, past Hawthorne Abendsen’s cell, to show him one more thing. John asks if Abendsen has been cooperating. Mengele explains that Abendsen has analyzed the films in order to create a map of the multiverse.
They reach their destination, a small room with mirrors for walls and a series of connected balls suspended in the center. The central ball represents the High Castle world. Another ball represents the Alt-World that the portal connects to, a world where the Reich lost the war. Mengele feels that it’s very important that they understand the conditions that led to this failure, so they can avoid it. But he has plans to reach many more worlds, harvest their intelligence, then conquer them. John notes that every world they connect to is a potential threat and orders Mengele to increase security.
John meets with Agent Campbell, who’s been surveilling his family in the Alt-World. Campbell tries to sugarcoat the fact that Alt-John is a traveling salesman, but finally has to just tell him. The Reichsmarschall of America is amused that his counterpart was named salesman of the year. He’s saddened that, while Helen and Thomas’ alt versions are alive and well, Jennifer and Amy don’t exist in that reality.
As John flips through the photos in Agent Campbell’s file, he notices that Juliana is captured in one of them.
In the Alt-World, Juliana catches a matinee showing of the 1961 film Judgement at Nuremberg, which “centers on a military tribunal convened in Nuremberg, Germany, in which four German judges and prosecutors stand accused of crimes against humanity for their involvement in atrocities committed under the Nazi regime.”
Judge: “If all of the leaders of the Third Reich had been sadistic monsters and maniacs, then these events would have no more moral significance than an earthquake. But this trial has shown that under a national crisis, ordinary, even able and extraordinary men can delude themselves into the commission of crimes so vast and heinous that they beggar the imagination. Let it now be noted, that here in our decision, this is what we stand for: Justice, truth and the value of a single human being.”
That evening, Juliana and Russ go out dancing at a local bar. Russ is surprised that she went to the film, since he didn’t think she was the war film type. She says it’s not a war film, it’s about good and evil and human nature. They both agree that they prefer horses to human nature.
But right now, it’s time to dance. Helen and John arrive just then and offer to buy a pitcher of beer. Helen is excited that her friend has found a nice guy to date. Juliana isn’t looking for anything serious. Helen tries to convince her that it’s nice to have an ally you can trust, the way she does with John. Juliana is skeptical, so Helen tells her about their pact. Alt-John and Helen agreed when they got married to always be honest and truthful with each other. Even though he’s gone a lot, they never lie to each other. She knows John is hers and wouldn’t cheat on her.
Helen pulls Russ off to dance, leaving John and Juliana to dance to Patsy Cline’s I Fall to Pieces. Even after a year, Juliana is clearly still nervous around Alt-John. Though she knows he’s technically not the man who shot her, she knows what he’s capable of.
He senses her mood and assumes she doesn’t like the music, then tells her about being a transplanted New Yorker in the South. Juliana asks him to tell her more. He says his father was a banker on Wall Street until the 1929 stock market crash and the Depression. Growing up, John wanted to be a banker, too, but after the war he went in a different direction. He’s happy with how his life turned out.
John asks Juliana about herself. When she met him, she said that she didn’t remember her past. Now she admits that she knows who shot her and where he is. John urges her to share the information with someone who can help her. He promises that he’ll help her bring her abuser to justice.
His offer is one step too far into cognitive dissonance and irony for Juliana. She walks out and as she goes asks Russ to drive her home, leaving Helen and John perplexed.
Alt-Helen and John are a lovely couple.
On the drive home, Russ asks what happened, but Juliana just says she’s not good at socializing. Russ asks where she’s from and if she has a family. She tells him she’s from San Francisco and her parents were killed in a car accident when she was a teenager. Bailey’s Crossing is the place that’s felt most like a home since then. She feels like she’s there for a reason.
An announcer comes on the radio with a special report. “Nobel Prize winner Leo Zakarian, lead scientist of the American nuclear program, has died unexpectedly. Dr Zakarian, only 50 years old, succumbed to a heart attack.” Juliana realizes that the Reich is sending spies to sabotage the Alt-World who killed Zakarian and caused the failed rocket launches. Russ has no idea what she’s talking about.
Lem brings Wyatt to negotiate for guns with Bell, Oscar and Elijah. They are decidedly not open to the idea. Bell tells Wyatt that the mission of the BCR is self defense and self determination for black people. They work alone and they most especially don’t work with white people. She gives Lem the evil eye.
Wyatt tries to explain that he has an entire network fighting the same fight as the BCR, who are just waiting to be armed, but Bell tells him that her people have been fighting the rest of America for hundreds of years, through slavery, Jim Crow, and then the Reich. Where was he during that fight? He says he was in Ireland, fighting one thousand years of oppression and subjugation by the British and others, thanks for asking.
Lem vouches for Wyatt as the man who distributed the films. Elijah doesn’t care about Abendsen’s nonsense cult. Wyatt suggests that they’d rather be martyrs for a cause than win, since they’re turning down allies who want to fight with them. There’s no way they can take down an empire or two on their own.
After Lem and Wyatt leave, Oscar suggests they could trade guns for medicines, textbooks and other items they need. Elijah doesn’t want any part of it, since he believes in Equiano’s philosophy of self-reliance. But Bell has a plan for how they can all benefit from cooperation with Wyatt.
Robert Childan’s Americana artifacts business has been thriving since Jahr Null caused a purge of historical items from the Reich. The Japanese are still wild about collecting American history and Childan is growing wealthy and well connected as the middleman who finds their treasures. He’s hired a Japanese woman, Yukiko, as his full time assistant at the shop.
They are currently preparing to host a huge auction which will be attended by all of the important Japanese military officers, with security overseen by Kido. General Masuda, known as the Butcher of Manchuria for his Mengele-like atrocities in beating the Chinese, is being brought to the JPS to stop the BCR. Before he engages them, he’ll attend the auction.
There are four top Japanese military officers attending the auction: Masuda, Kido, and Defense Ministers Shimura and Nagasaki. Bell wants Wyatt’s people to help assassinate them while they’re all in one place, the mansion in the Presidio where the auction is being held. The BCR will handle the exterior, securing the perimeter, cutting radio communications, and killing the guards. She wants Wyatt’s team to kill the 4 targets inside the mansion. She doesn’t feel they should worry about hurting bystanders, because no one there will be innocent.
They’ll have 5 minutes to execute the plan and leave the vicinity before the Kempeitai arrive. Wyatt worries that the BCR will abandon them to take the fall, so he suggests Bell’s team takes out the targets. She says they aren’t allowed inside. They agree that Lem will wait with the weapons they’re being paid, since he can’t go inside anyway. That way Wyatt’s people will be paid no matter how the plan turns out.
Wyatt’s team will pretend to be caterers to gain access to the auction, so they take samples to Childan for him to sample. He’s easily won over and gives them the job after Wyatt’s friend Jeremy proves he speaks Japanese and can act as server.
Then Childan hustles them out of the shop because he has another visitor, the CROWN PRINCESS!! OMG!! Don’t faint!! This is literally Childan’s biggest dream in the world come true, and he can’t decide whether to simply hyperventilate or to go big and stop breathing altogether. Yukiko helps him with his tie and a reminder of the Japanese rules of etiquette.
The crown princess arrives with Admiral Inoguchi, who asks Childan to show her the painting by Frederic Remington which will be sold at the auction. They also ask about the guest list and learn their political allies will be there. The painting shows a cowboy riding a wild horse. Childan tries to give the painting to the princess as a gift, but she prefers to have her representative bid on it.
The crown princess is impressed with the energy of the piece and asks Childan what it means to him. He says that America was a wild and untamed place before the Japanese brought culture to them. She tells him that the Japanese believe that horses are intermediaries between the physical world and the world of the divine spirits.
Then the princess turns and looks him in the eye, saying, “You are a cultured man, Mr Childan.” He’s rendered speechless by this compliment and simply bows to her in gratitude.
Basically, Childan can die now. Nothing will ever top that moment. It’s quite shocking that he didn’t faint on the spot.
Meanwhile, over in the American Reich, it’s Jahr Null and they can’t throw out enough of their culture fast enough. Nazi armbands are now a required fashion accessory, so Jennifer borrows one from her friend Henry as English class is beginning. Her class is reading Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, which is considered one of his greatest works. Unfortunately, it has a prominent Jewish character, Shylock, who speaks one of the play’s most famous speeches.
The teacher explains that Shylock’s demand for a pound of flesh is proof that Jews are as evil as the Nazis have made them out to be. However, Shylock also mentions that he bleeds like anyone else. One of the students points out to the teacher that Shylock’s ability to bleed suggests that he’s, gasp, human!
Then, having taken to heart the Reich’s instructions to its young people to police their elders, she tells the teacher that they shouldn’t be studying this play. The teacher is visibly shaken by the student’s challenge and quickly has the students put Shakespeare away. She promises to bring the suitability of Shakespeare up with the rest of the faculty.
Later, Henry helps Jennifer with their math homework at the penthouse. He thinks she’s been in Chicago for the last year. Jennifer explains being behind in math by saying she had to miss a lot of class, but then eventually she admits she was outside the Reich. Both she and Henry are against the new rules that encourage kids to turn in their family members for breaking rules. Henry says that most kids only pretend to go along with the Reich’s new overly restrictive rules.
Jennifer pulls out a recording of Slim Harpo singing I’m a King Bee that she brought back from the Neutral Zone and puts it on the record player. Henry finds the music exciting and unusual. He agrees to dance to it. 😉
Amy catches them dancing to forbidden music and rushes to take it off the record player. She can’t wait to be the one to turn them in. Henry gathers his stuff and tries to make a quick exit while Jennifer chases Amy to her room. John arrives home in the middle of the argument, as Amy is yelling that Jennifer is a race traitor who’ll pay for her crime.
John sends Jennifer to his office while he talks to Amy. Amy quickly informs him that Jennifer brought the record from the Neutral Zone and listens to Resistance Radio every night. She tells him that at school they taught her to turn in family members who engage in bad behavior. John tells her that informing him counts as turning Jennifer in, so she’s done her duty to the Reich. Amy isn’t sure that telling her father counts, but he assures her it does.
John takes credit for the music, feeding Amy the lie that it’s evidence in a Gestapo case which he brought home from work. He tells Amy that she needs to be careful about making accusations because she could be mistaken about the circumstances.
Then John goes to Jennifer and reads her the riot act. He insists that the music is dangerous and can’t be near their family. Jennifer questions his every word. He tries to convince her that the things she heard in the Neutral Zone were the lies. And he reminds her that in the Reich, rules come before family. He can’t protect her from them if she rebels.
Late that night, John sits in bed and looks through his file of photos of the healthy Thomas from the alt world. Jennifer slips out of bed and calls Helen at Hank’s house. As soon as Helen answers, Jennifer bursts into tears and begs Helen to let her take a bus back to the Neutral Zone. Helen tells her it’s too dangerous, but Jennifer continues to cry and beg her. She’s desperate to escape the Nazi world she hates. Helen cries, too, and asks Jennifer to be strong. John overhears the entire conversation.
Kido informs General Yamori that Mingus Jones, who was suspected of assassinating Tagomi, has died in custody. Kido is certain that Jones pulled the trigger, but he intends to continue the investigation to find Jones’ co-conspirators. Yamori is satisfied with having found Mingus Jones and orders Kido to drop the investigation. He wishes to appear strong in front of the VIPs who will soon be arriving in San Francisco and an open investigation sends the wrong message. Kido has no choice but to accept his orders.
Toru Kido attempts to don his medal in preparation for his job interview, but he’s overcome by memories of the battle. The fight was far from the heroic victory Inspector Kido thinks it was, since Toru remembers the cries of infants amidst gunfire. He puts the medal back in its case.
Kido oversees the preparations for Childan’s auction with his usual disdain. He’s assisted by Colonel Saito, who also feels that worrying about security for such an event is beneath his pay grade. Despite Childan’s objections, they place guards in each room of the mansion. Wyatt and his men bring in a giant barbeque and set up a catering tent outside. Bell and the BCR bring in the food, which Wyatt directs them to store in the room-sized walk-in cooler.
Kido looks suspiciously at Bell and Wyatt, but then he’s called away to deal with Toru’s issues. Before he leaves, he orders that Wyatt taste everything before it’s served, to ensure the caterers aren’t poisoning the food.
Toru missed his job interview. On his way home, Kido reschedules it and blames the secretary for getting the date wrong. He finds Toru sitting at the kitchen table and asks why Toru didn’t go to the interview. Toru says that he wasn’t well. Kido tells Toru that he’s not weak, because he won a medal, then reiterates that Toru will wear his medal to his interview. Toru silently nods as Kido gets up and turns away.
Kido turns back to Toru for a moment and tells him that then everything will be the way it’s supposed to be. Toru is still looking down, dejected. Kido ignores this and leaves the room.
Childan and Yukiko finish going over their last minute preparations for the auction, then Yukiko tells him it’s time to give up for the night, since they’ve done all they can for now. Childan sits in a window seat and describes the period after the war, at the beginning of the occupation, when San Francisco was still mired in chaos and there were mass executions. Childan hid in his room for weeks, eating mice and burning books for warmth. Yesterday, the crown princess spoke with him in his own shop. He can hardly believe how far he’s come.
Yukiko notes that the princess spoke with Childan as a man of elevated status. She offers to serve him tea, since he is a man of honor. He is moved by her offer and watches her every motion. She bows to him as she hands him the tea, and tells him that she’s happy to be a part of his important work. He tells her that he’s also honored to work with her. They both blush a little.
From the elegance of the Japanese tea ceremony and a couple who are courting through ritual and metaphor, we go to Bell and Elijah, an established couple who don’t need to bother with ceremony and don’t have the privacy to be coy. They’re expressing their love freely in bed, to the consternation of the next door neighbors who are trying to sleep.
After they finish, Bell dreams of winning their own homeland and being able to have their own place. Elijah, ever the practical buzzkill, thinks about what could go wrong during tomorrow’s op, but tonight Bell just wants to talk about her dreams of a blue house with gardens and kids around. Elijah shuts her talk of property down, because apparently communists can’t live in houses, and he rudely reminds her she can’t have children of her own. She tells him that doesn’t mean they can’t have kids in their lives. She tries again to encourage him to think positively, but he’s stuck on equating practicality and a Communist lifestyle with a joyless scenario.
The caterers are working overnight on prepping the barbeque . Wyatt goes to the walk-in cooler to help Jeremy unload their weapons from inside the dead, whole pigs which are meant to be roasted the next day.
John reads aloud to Amy from Alice in Wonderland. They’re on a section about the Chesire Cat. When they finish, Amy tells him that she missed him, then asks if there were black people in NY when he was a kid. She wants to know if he knew them and what they were like. He tells her that there were some, but he didn’t know them well.
She asks why there aren’t black people in NY anymore. John asks her what she learned about it in school, and she says that they all went back to their homeland to work for the Reich. John tells her that’s the answer. They’re happier in their homeland. Amy says that she saw black people in the Neutral Zone and was scared of them. John assures her that she’s safe now.
As long as she doesn’t inherit the muscular dystrophy gene from him, marries whoever she’s told to marry and is able to bear children, things will be just peachy keen for her.
John stands in Jennifer’s doorway and tells her it’s time to go to sleep. She was listening to his conversation with Amy and says that she knows none of what he said is true. He tells her they’ll talk about it another time, which is code for never.
In the middle of the night, in the Alt-World, Juliana notices someone watching her house. She runs outside, but he drives away before she can see who it is.
Childan’s dreams came true twice in this episode: once when the crown princess graced his shop with her presence, then recognized him as a man of refinement and culture. And a second time when Yukiko performed the tea ceremony for him as she agreed with the crown princess.
We’ve seen Childan with a sex worker twice. Both times, his main interest was in creating the illusion that she was a proper, refined Japanese lady. Then, once her look was complete, he wanted to be told he was cultured and to be served tea in the tea ceremony. He was interrupted both times, so I’ve never been sure if he’s straight, gay, asexual, demisexual, has a fetish or what the real story of his sexuality was. The way he looked at Yukiko in this episode makes a strong case for him being a straight demisexual man whose type is a refined Japanese woman. But I still wouldn’t be shocked if Yukiko finds him wearing the Geisha costume himself occasionally.
It’s likely that in the Alt-World, John traveled so much and his income was so unpredictable in the early days after the war that he and Helen didn’t feel they had the stability for more children. Without pressure from the Reich to have multiple children, eventually both Helen and John decided they were happy with just Thomas. But I still weep that Jennifer and Amy didn’t get a chance to grow up in the happy place.
Leo Zakarian appears to be a fictional nuclear scientist. In our universe, the most likely comparable real life Leo Zakarian lived from 1922-2005 and fought in WW2, but wasn’t famous.
Elijah is a down to earth man of action, while Bell is the more thoughtful strategizer of the pair, so they balance each other out. We haven’t seen much of Oscar, but he seems to have a handle on logistics. Equiano Hampton is a charismatic, but fictional, leader who’s based on several real life leaders from the Black Power movement. Malcolm X is one example.The Black Communist Rebellion is closest to the Black Panther Party, but the struggle for black equality and justice has a long history that the show is drawing from.
Marcus Garvey, one of the authors Bell is excited to study in the flashback, was a colorful black nationalist and separatist who believed in racial purity. He was sympathetic to the Irish cause. If Bell read his work, Wyatt’s mention of his nationality might have helped win her over.
Ida B Wells (1862-1931) was a suffragist, civil rights leader, investigative journalist, educator and all around amazing person that everyone should know about. Born into slavery and freed when Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclamation, she fought against school segregation; helped found the NAACP; organized black women to help them fight for their rights; researched, wrote about and fought against the lynchings of black men; ran for the Illinois State Senate; and raised 2 step children and 4 children of her own, among many other accomplishments. I hope Bell got to read her works before the Kempeitai found them.
Juliana Falls to Pieces
I suspect that it’s no accident that John and Juliana dance to Patsy Cline in the Alt-World. Patsy was a very successful, influential country-rockabilly-pop crossover singer-songwriter who tragically died in a plane crash at the height of her career in 1963, when she was 30 years old. She was best friends with singer-songwriter Loretta Lynn. The two were as close as sisters, with Patsy acting as a music business mentor for Loretta.
Juliana has lost a lot of people over the course of the series, and the lyrics to I Fall to Pieces emphasize not only the way she misses Tagomi, Trudy, Joe and Frank, they point toward the way Alt-John will always be the twin of High Castle John Smith to her, a Nazi waiting to be triggered into being.
Even at the beginning of the series, when she was recovering from a suicide attempt, Juliana had a bit of tragedy clinging to her. Now she’s become a full on tragic loner, the last of her cohort left alive to finish the important work they started together. Though she has new people to help her, they can’t replace the connection she had with Frank, Ed, Tagomi, Trudy, her parents, Joe, Hawthorne and Caroline, or even High Castle Thomas, Helen and John Smith. Even if she returns to the High Castle world, her connections to most of those people are lost or irrevocably altered.
Here in the Alt-World, the people she meets haven’t suffered through the defeat of the Allies and the occupation of most of the world by the Reich and the Japanese Empire. That kind of experience changes people, forces them to make choices that people in the Alt-World can’t imagine themselves making. It’s a world so dark that the Alt-World inhabitants can’t imagine how it could have been allowed to come into existence.
Juliana carries a burden of knowledge that the Alt-World inhabitants aren’t ready for and wouldn’t believe, because they don’t want it to be true. She’s terribly alone there, because she’s even darker inside than someone who’s seen the atrocities of war crimes or mass murder, having seen that and more on a global scale, and she can’t share her experiences with anyone.
This is the reason why most travelers eventually go back to their home worlds. In the end, they want to be with a population that has shared experiences and history. They decide to make new connections at home, after realizing that the doppelgangers in other realities aren’t actually their lost loved ones.
I Fall to Pieces beautifully captures the tension that can never be fulfilled in a traveler’s sense of longing and loss.
High Castle has always had a good soundtrack, but in season 4 the music is at the level of the cinematography. The production design and the soundtrack are each characters in the show and have so much to say if you pay attention.
Kido and Toru, an Ocean Apart
Kido’s generation, the World War 2 veterans, dealt with mental health issues by ignoring them and carrying on as if nothing was wrong. In order to do this, they, including Kido, had to ignore a lot, including many of their other emotions and often their own children and families. When repression becomes a way of life, it can eventually swallow everything else and turn into addiction or abuse. Kido’s workaholism was his form of addiction. I haven’t paid close attention to how much he drinks, but he could be a functional alcoholic as well, like so many men of the time, and so many people of every time.
Kido wasn’t there for Toru, to teach him how to be a strong man who ignored his emotions, so Toru actually feels things. He feels his father’s abandonment; he feels his need for his father’s approval despite that abandonment; he feels the trauma of the horror he endured in battle; and he feels shame for his PTSD. He feels deep depression for all of the expectations he can’t live up to for his father and his society.
Kido feels no shame for all of the things he didn’t do for his son, like be a father, because he’s been able to cloak himself in the armor of duty to his country as an excuse. He’s used that excuse for the entire time we’ve known him, while letting his wife raise their children alone. Now the ramifications of that cowardice and selfishness are coming back to haunt him.
More than one character has pointed out that Kido could have spent more time with his family, but Kido has told himself that he is the superior soldier because he’s given everything to crown and country. He’s given more than was asked for or necessary, and in the process affected the outcome of his children’s childhood. Surely the Empire would prefer their soldiers to also be strong parents who raise strong children.
Kido is at a crossroads. He has always revered Japanese culture, while breaking the rules when he saw fit, but making excuses to himself about his small lapses. He expects complete obedience from those around him. Now he is faced with a son who is unable to meet his high standards. He must face the ramifications of his abandonment of his children and of the crown’s futile effort to maintain the Empire, all in the person of Toru, who has been broken by the combination of those mistakes.
The show touched on this subject of difficult fathers-son relationships when High Castle Tagomi met his alternate self’s estranged son in the season 2 Alt-World. The dead Alt-Tagomi had been so mired in tradition that he was unable to allow himself or the rest of his family to grow and change with the times and to fit into a new culture in America.
High Castle Tagomi venerated tradition but was also open to change because he’d lost so much in his personal life already, but his culture remained stable. Only being open to personal growth wherever he found it could help him make necessary new connections in his life, such as with Juliana and Kotomichi.
Alt-Tagomi had moved to a new country, America, after Japan lost the war. He kept his immediate family, but lost many of the societal structures that had supported his way of life and thought. While his wife and son embraced American culture, Alt-Tagomi was stuck in the past. When Alt-Tagomi remained stuck in the past, he clashed with his wife and son, eventually ruining his relationship with them. Unable to see a way forward for himself in a different society and near future that were none the less in his own world, Alt-Tagomi killed himself.
High Castle Tagomi couldn’t stay in the Alt-World, but he was able to give his Alt-wife and son some closure by helping them understand their Tagomi better and giving them his blessing. In return, he was able to have the comfort of seeing that his loved ones were still alive and thriving in an alternate setting and he gained access to the atomic bomb test film which saved San Francisco in his world.
Kido and his son are from the same reality, but have lived on different sides of the ocean for 10 years or so. There is much that separates them that needs to be worked out.
Images courtesy of Amazon Prime Video.