Tag Archives: alternate history

The Man In The High Castle, Season 1

A few weeks ago, my wife and I watched the first couple of episodes of The Man In The High Castle, currently exclusive to Amazon Video. I wrote about that, at the time.

So we’ve just finished watching the whole series.

The show does not wrap up all the threads that it sets up, so there’s potential for a second season. Just did a search to see if I could find any information on a second season. IMDB trivia says that the showrunner got confirmation from Amazon that there would be a second season, before writing the finale, so he wouldn’t end on a cliffhanger if the show weren’t returning.

Some observations:

The season ends on the word “twist”. Literally.

Rufus Sewell’s character is introduced as a ruthless villain. Later on, we meet some people who are even worse. Prediction: his character will become less hard-line about certain things next season, which has the potential to make him more brutal in others. I don’t see him doing a complete about-face. If I’m wrong on that, he’ll stay as hard-line on the point I expect him to soften on, then that’ll make him intolerable in everything, then he’ll slowly crack.

Juliana. Her deferential mannerisms seem appropriate to the context which she’s grown up in. I’m not sure we see the same from any other significant character in the Pacific territory. She knows she doesn’t have the complete picture, and I think that this leads to indecisiveness and mind-changing, rather than setting a course and keeping to it.

After the first couple of episodes, I thought the show would be mostly Juliana and Joe in Canon City, was surprised it didn’t work out like that.

I really enjoyed the character of Trade Minister Tagomi. Looking the actor up on IMDB, it was interesting seeing that he was in Star Trek TNG (Mandarin Bailiff! Wooo!), Babylon 5, Alien Nation, and Stargate SG1. And a bunch of other things I’ve either seen or heard of. Getting towards the end of the series, I was still waiting for more explanation of his motivations. We get some, but I think Season 2 will shed a lot more light on this.

As this is my Sunday post, I’ll say that I looked at the Wikipedia page of Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, the guy who played the Trade Minister. There’s a paragraph towards the end of the Career section, which talks about his religious belief, which I found interesting.

The eponymous Man In The High Castle is mentioned a bunch at the beginning of the series, and Juliana and Joe seem to come close to meeting him in episode 4. The thought occurs, though, as I write this post, that we do happen to see a castle that’s geographically altitudinous, in which a male lives, who seems to be a bit of a film collector.

Rats, now I’m going to have to read the book, to see if it’s actually him, or if the title character is a…. mirror? counterpoint? reflection? Something along those lines.

A lot of what most of the characters do is reactionary, rather than being proactive. This leads to a bit of a settling-down somewhere in the second half, before things get a bit shook up again. I think even towards the end, when a bunch of characters get more active, there’s still a bunch of doing what they’re told, rather than forging their own path.

The creepy Edelweiss theme, kind of delicate over the dark brooding images of the credits, was given an interesting explanation by someone far smarter than I am (my wife): the song is associated with Germany (or, rather, Austria, though in our universe, the song was written for the film The Sound Of Music, rather than being traditional). But the arrangement here may be intended to suggest a Japanese musical style (America being divided between Germany and Japan in the show). The singer in real life is Swedish, that does not necessarily discount the idea.

In my previous post on The Man In The High Castle, I linked to an article that Wikipedia referenced, which was an examination of the Japanese-ness of the Japanese portion of America in the pilot. One of the things it pointed out was Hirohito Airport, where naming an airport after someone was not a Japanese thing to do. When Joe flies into an airport in the Pacific States later in the series, I noticed that it wasn’t named after anybody. Different airport? Retcon? I don’t know. And though, in the scenario, Japanese culture would become dominant in the areas they control, who’s to say there wouldn’t be any cultural bleed the other way? Perhaps using Americisms in some places, but with a Japanese edge, as a secondary, softer method of establishing cultural dominance.

Interesting show. I look forward to Season 2, and hope that the continuation feels organic. Obviously, with certain developments, it’s not going to be the same as Season 1, but it might be a bit of a balance to feel like the same show.

The Man In The High Castle

The Man In The High Castle is a new series developed by Amazon. Based on the 1962 Philip K. Dick story of the same name, and executive-produced by Ridley Scott, the show presents a 1962 in which the Axis powers won the Second World War, and the USA is divided between the Japanese and the Germans (the Germans getting the bigger half, and a Neutral Zone buffering the division).

Hitler’s ailing health suggests that soon he will be replaced, and his successor might not be happy to maintain the status quo: Germany might soon decide to take over the Japanese territory. In the meantime, subversive films, newsreels of the Allies winning the war, have been created by the so-called Man In The High Castle, we encounter (in the first couple of episodes) two copies of one of these films, sent to the Neutral Zone, from opposite coasts.

At two episodes into the show, we don’t really know who we can trust, yet. It will be interesting to watch all over again, after the season has finished, from a more informed (hopefully) perspective. I think there’s a lot of subtlety going on in some of the details. My wife pointed some things out during and after the second episode (I was pretty tired during that second episode, and I know I drifted a couple of times).

At the same time, Wikipedia pointed to an article from someone familiar with Japanese culture, explaining how there are quite a few details in that regard, in the first episode, are head-bangingly wrong. There was a gap between the production of the first episode and the rest of the series, I rather hope they improved things (but wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t).

High Castle’s paranoid atmosphere is different to that of Manhattan (still waiting for Season 2 to come to Hulu). A reaction that some of Manhattan’s characters had to the intense atmosphere in that show, was debauchery. Lot of it going around on TV these days, so far High Castle hasn’t been interested in that, which is a bit of a relief, to be honest.

The theme tune is a creepy version of Edelweiss, its ethereal sound contrasting with the more urban-vibe graphics.

I’ve enjoyed the cast so far, in particular it’s nice to see Rufus Sewell again.

Looking forward to the rest of the series showing up on Amazon in about a month.