Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa
Photo: Liane Hentscher (Amazon Prime Video)

Films have been key to The Man In The High Castle since the first reel from another world was introduced at the very beginning, but they’ve never been as omnipresent as they are in “Sensô Kôi.” (I’d love to tell you what that means, but Google Translate has failed me.) Juliana is watching one set at Tagomi’s house, including footage of Nazi prisoners being executed in a mining tunnel. Another reel taken from a courier who has traveled from another world is turned over to Smith, who also receives boxes of films from Hitler’s own archives to assess for veracity. The premiere of Nicole Dormer’s propaganda film is a lavish occasion for the highest brass in the New Reich. But it’s two private viewings toward the end of the episode that may have the biggest impact on the season going forward.

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“Sensô Kôi” is an eventful hour all around, one of the most involving of the series to date. Characters who were far-flung at the start of the season are now coming into each other’s orbits, lending new focus to the proceedings. Take Joe, for instance, who has been a frustrating character for me from the beginning. His wishy-washiness, which previously felt like a failure of the writing, now looks to be his defining characteristic. He’s a classic “just following orders” Nazi, nonsensically telling Juliana that his job doesn’t define him, as if shooting traitors to the Reich in the head is just a clerical paper-shuffling position he can put aside when the clock strikes five. Sure, maybe he doesn’t really buy into the whole fascist, genocidal philosophy, but hey, it’s working for him. Before attending the reception with Tagomi (Joe’s next target for assassination, evidently), Juliana wonders if he’s still the man she remembers. I don’t know who she remembers, exactly, but this is the first time Joe has really made sense to me.

Still, Joe has a purpose, even if it’s not clear yet. Juliana is having more flashes of possible futures or glimpses of alternate realities as she watches the films. In one of them, taking place in that mining tunnel she believes is in the Poconos, a fully uniformed Nazi Joe pulls a gun and appears to fire directly at her (or at least at the camera’s p.o.v.). Also present in that tunnel is Dr. Josef Mengele (John Hans Tester), another figure plucked from history for this third season. Mengele’s cruel propensity for experimenting on humans remains intact here, but his interests also include exploring the multiverse, and he and his scientists are at work on technology that will allow passage between these worlds for non-travelers. All of this is news to John Smith, who seizes on the idea that Thomas may yet be alive in some version of reality. This is confirmed by the film confiscated from Mengele’s captured traveler, in which Thomas can be clearly seen in a crowd.

Another film in which Thomas is seen, Nicole Dormer’s propaganda effort, gets a much chillier reception from Smith. He’s the star of it, as Dormer lays it on thick in praise of Smith’s heroic efforts in Berlin and his role to play in the future of the Reich. Someone is grooming him for Reichsmarschall, which doesn’t sit well with the man who currently holds that position, George Lincoln Rockwell. He and Hoover and both convinced that Smith is responsible for the deaths of both Dr. Adler and his wife, and it’s clear that there is a power struggle brewing. There are a lot of new names and new complications to sort of here, but at least we’ve finally cleared some of the dead weight, like Frank Frink.

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Oh, wait. Frank, mourned by no one so far this season, is not so dead after all, assuming I interpreted the raspy words of the captured priest Hagen at this end of this episode correctly. (The screeners have no subtitles, so I had to rewind at least a half-dozen times before I could make out what he was saying.) This is meant as a big cliffhanger even though I could have happily made my way through the season without ever hearing the name Frank Frink again. Still, the new production regime has earned enough good will to this point that I’m willing to see where this is all going.

Stray observations

  • Nicole Dormer’s new friend Thelma is evidently the Hedda Hopper of the New Reich, and Dormer isn’t shy about using her charm to ensure a little help on her rise to stardom.
  • Ed has met a charmer himself, as he appears smitten with the cowboy in the Neutral Zone—not to mention the Neutral Zone in general, its freedoms previously unknown to him. Childan, however, is eager to make his way back to civilization where he can get a decent drink.
  • Also in the Neutral Zone, Sampson has attracted the attention of a bounty hunter, who commandeers him and his vehicle for a ride to a hideout for Jewish refugees.
  • The meet cute between Tagomi and his new artist friend is so overt (with her hat blowing directly at him), I’m starting to suspect a setup.

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