The Man in the High Castle captures the eerie spirit of an alternate history mixing in a perfect blend of familiar and foreign that to throw off your sensibilities. That subtle dissonance stokes an enlightening sense of discord, which comes when faced with a world where the bad guys won. The series is classic “what if…” sort of science fiction where the Axis powers won World War 2, but their occupation of America is not so simple as an oppressive force imposing their values on an occupied nation The beauty of The Man in the High Castle is that it’s not so clean as turning America into Germany east or Japan west. The first episode sets up a universe where Germany dropped the atomic bomb on Washington and the United States was carved up with Germany taking the eastern part of the country and Japan taking the west. In the center is a neutral zone that serves as a dividing line between the two powers. The dynamic between the two axis nations is that of an uneasy coexistence where their alliance from the war starts to corrode as greed and self interest come into play. The most fascinating parts of the initial episode involve leaders from Japan and Germany and their clashing ideologies and political aims. The “archival footage” of an aging Hitler on American soil looks like it’d fit right into a History Channel documentary and that imagery serves as powerful statement of what’s exactly wrong with this world. It’s ironic then that a man we tend to think of as evil is the primary reason that there is peaceful co existence between the two axis powers in America. Hitler is such a dominant figure when when it comes to the idea of Nazi Germany that it’s easy to forget about the other leaders that may have their own self interests and the show reminds us of that. It uses his imminent death and the coming power vacuum as a flashpoint for tension between Japan and Germany. The plot of this episode brings two characters from alternate coasts of this new America. Juliana Crane (Alexa Davalos) lives in Japan-occupied San Francisco and Joe Blake (Luke Kleintank) comes from Germany-controlled New York and both reveal the what it’s like to live under the rule of each axis power. The show has a kinetic energy to it as this episode alternates between each lead and circumstances that brought them together. Blake is the first character that we see and our first real glimpse of this world is when he steps onto the familiar streets of Time Square and a swastika looms over such an iconic place. It’s a powerful image because of just how much our way of life has changed and how much it hasn’t. The United States hasn’t become Germany lite, but it’s made up of citizens who have dealt with occupation in different ways. There’s a telling scene where Blake passes by a group of gestapo walking the type of dark and dingy New York streets that are recognizable to those familiar with any movie version of the city. He eyes a “brown shirts” that are talking and laughing at each other warily, knowing they have the power to haul him away. Through Blake we discover that there is a resistance struggling against their occupiers and they are fighting to bring back a free world from before the war. Blake’s story appears blunt, almost too straightforward at first as he makes his case to a resistance leader that he’s worthy of joining. Despite his tension-filled departure from the city, I found him to be more trope then man and not all that interesting. All of that changes with a scene at the end as his character takes a dark turn. Crane lives under similar circumstances in San Francisco, but she’s accepted the occupation more so than Blake. She appears to live a normal life, with parents that are embittered about “Japs” taking over, but live in relative comfort. She resists in more subtle ways like learning Aikido, which is a martial art that follows a philosophy opposite of aggressive Japanese occupiers. Those small choices set the stage for circumstances that thrust her into the resistance and on the path to run into Blake. It is through her that we discover a film canister and footage so dangerous that possessing it could mean death. The footage puts into sharp focus the power of ideas and belief through the reactions of those looking for it. Everyone that held the film before it comes into her possession are systematically killed or jailed. As she leaves San Francisco with something dangerous in hand, there’s a sense of triumph that she’s decided to resist and tension that the chase is on. The opening episode sets an appropriate stage for the rest of this show with two characters on the run and a burgeoning political conflict between two superpowers. It will be interesting to see what life and politics is like in the neutral zone, which is where Blake and Crane ended up at the end. The other ominous and intriguing part is the main antagonist Obergruppenführer John Smith (Rufus Sewell), whose presence and influence is revealed at the end. He’s got all the trappings of a chilling and compelling villain exuding the appropriate amount of cold cleverness and charisma to be the appropriate foil to those trying to resist. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.