The Man in the High Castle operates on one of the greatest what if? concepts in history: what if the Allies lost WWII? It’s somewhat of a miracle that this particular hypothetical alternate universe hasn’t already been made into fiction, considering the possibilities brought to mind by the premise alone. It was odder still that Philip K. Dick’s story only really came to light when it was optioned for a television show, considering how fantastic the book is. And the show’s pilot, which aired as a part of Amazon’s Pilot Season back in January, didn’t disappoint. We’re whisked across a mid-’60s America that might have been, an Orwellian totalitarian state consisting of an unsettling blend of the familiar and the strange. We’re in New York — but this isn’t New York. We’re in San Francisco — but something’s out of place here. And it’s not just that the buildings are plastered with propaganda (although they are); something darker has taken root and changed society, changed the people.
“Sunrise”, the second hour, throttled back a bit on all of that (everything’s still plastered in propaganda). Joe and Juliana, the NYC- and San Fran-dwelling protagonists of the pilot, have now met up in the Neutral Zone that makes up the middle third of the Once-United States. They’ve fled the Greater Nazi Reich and the Japanese Pacific States, respectively, for reasons that aren’t altogether dissimilar. Copies of the mysterious film known in hushed whispers as the work of the equally mysterious “Man in the High Castle” have been smuggled by each protagonist, which on the surface seems a well-wrought story structure. Here are the show’s two most interesting characters, bringing the show’s most interesting item to a central location, bringing the story inward from each coast.
Continue reading The Man in the High Castle 1.2 – “Sunrise”
I’m really surprised there are no movies called The Penultimate Hour. It’s a decent title in a James Patterson sort of way, or in a Van Damme sort of way. The closest thing might be Philip K. Dick’s novel The Penultimate Truth, or the 2007 documentary on the author called The Penultimate Truth About Philip K. Dick. Those are great titles. There are a few movies called The 11th Hour — and funnily enough, there is James Patterson book by that title — and I suppose that means the same thing. “Eleven” doesn’t carry the same force as “penultimate”, though, does it?
The only thing any of this has to do with The Red Road is that “The Hatching” is the penultimate episode of season two, the literal penultimate hour, and that’s generally the hour in which…well, what happens in the penultimate episode of a season? It used to be the case that season finales were tantamount to a bunch of awesome stuff, meaning the previous episode was usually spent getting everything set up for the fireworks. That’s changed recently. Game of Thrones made a casual tradition of having the ninth episode of each season (the penultimate of each in the case of Game‘s 10-episode seasons) be far more action-packed than the ensuing finales. Breaking Bad‘s “Ozymandias” delivered finale-level intensity with two episodes still to follow, and Better Call Saul‘s penultimate hour “Pimento” was likewise the season’s best.
Continue reading The Red Road 2.5 – “The Hatching”
This isn’t the first time that Amazon’s pilot season — which sees the simultaneous launch of a dozen or so opening episodes of a variety of new shows — has been mostly a waste of time. Most of these shows don’t deserve a second episode. Finding The Man in the High Castle, the diamond in this season’s rough, might not be an altogether uncommon occurrence either; Amazon’s Transparent just took home a fistful of Golden Globes, so the streaming service is slowly catching up to Netflix when it comes to quality series.
But make no mistake: The Man in the High Castle is anything but common. Like any great what if? story, only one thing has been changed here. This could easily be our world, the exact one we live in today, if not for this one change; though the America of The Man in the High Castle is utterly unrecognizable, that revisionist tectonic shift was borne entirely of the initial tremor, the single change. That change, admittedly, asks the grandfather of all what ifs: what if the Nazis had won the war?
Continue reading The Man in the High Castle 1.1