One thing that The Man In the High Castle does so well is apply pressure to its characters. All of them get squeezed to the breaking point and what they do under the crushing weight reveals so much about who they are. This episode, “Truth,” is akin to using a vice grip on a water bottle. They just keep twisting to the point where the plastic is bulging unnaturally and you wonder when the whole damn thing is going to explode
The last episode left Joe Blake (Luke Kleintank) in a precarious spot. Obergruppenführer John Smith (Rufus Sewell) walked in on Joe after he snuck into his study to read some documents that were under lock and key. After what’d happened to Smith’s best friend Robert Wegener just hours before, it wouldn’t have been surprising if he got shot on the spot. True to form for Smith though, he knew all along that Joe was lying about what happened in Canon City and the invitation to spend VA day at his home was all a carefully laid trap to catch him in the act.
With his back against the wall, Joe is forced to tell the truth about Juliana and his feelings for her. It’s ironic that their relationship is the only thing keeping him alive because Smith knows it can be used to find the elusive second film made by The Man in the High Castle. In a sort of backhanded show of mercy, Smith chalks up Joe’s failure as a product of falling to his baser instincts and choosing a woman over state security. Whether it’s sincere or not is a moot point really as the ultimatum comes down — play the role of double agent or die.
Things get even more complicated for Joe when we discover he’s got a girlfriend and a young child. This revelation is a shock as it seemed like he had eyes only for Juliana, but this really complicates his story. His motives for helping Juliana come into doubt again and there is also tension with his girlfriend who is getting suspicious of a man that is obviously keeping secrets from her. To top things off, Smith also knows about his family and not so subtly reminds him that there are consequences for failing again.
The pressure on Juliana Crane (Alexa Davalos) in this episode is more personal than plot related. She’s always felt guilty about what happened to her sister Trudy Walker, but having to keep that secret from her adoptive parents takes its toll on her. Juliana starts to see ghosts as her mother clings mightily to the belief that Trudy is alive somewhere out there. Then there is her adoptive father whom she discovered has been working for the Japanese for the past sixteen years. He of course took the job to keep his family safe and also clings to the belief that Trudy is alive.
The guilt-fest heaped upon Juliana resolves itself in the most cruel and poignant fashion as it’s Trade Minister Tagomi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) that helps her put to bed any notions that Trudy is alive. Tagomi becomes one of the truly good guys in the show after some of his backstory is revealed. Losing his wife and son during the war soured him on the prospect of another and it’s his spiritual faith that compels him to protect Juliana when Inspector Kido (Joel de la Fuente) tells him to get rid of her. Tagomi goes out of his way to find out where Trudy is buried, but the truth comes with a grim price as the grave site ends up being an appalling scene.
Frank Frink (Rupert Evans) and Juliana repair the rift in their relationship as they both finally come clean with each other, but Frank still has to deal with the Kempeitai. They creep ever closer to finding him as he his forced to flee the machine shop he works at when they conduct a surprise inspection. It leads to an alliance with Robert Childan (Brennan Brown), the antiques dealer that sold him the bullets to his gun. Childan proves to be a fun character that feels slighted by the high-end Japanese clients that look down on him and asks Frank to help him forge knock offs of in-demand cultural artifacts. It’s easy to root for a guy that found his own way to fight back even if it’s for purely selfish reasons. Robert and Frank have forged a mutually beneficial relationship as the split profits from their forgery scheme feel like a way out as it becomes abundantly clear Frank will have to flee the Pacific States at some point.
This episode felt like a couple of twists on the vice grip as every character deals with the varying degrees of pressure heaped upon them. It comes in different shapes and forms, but the effect on all is pretty much the same. All of them are forced to change, and the impact on each character is different: Joe is forced to follow the rules, Juliana finds some closure at great cost and Frank is forced to try and find a way out of a difficult situation. The pressure will surely mount in the ensuing episodes and it’s fair to wonder if some of them may buckle under it.