This weekend, A.V. Club contributor Shelby Fero is watching all of the first season of The Man In The High Castle on Amazon Prime. After she’s finished with an episode, she’ll post a quick response. Though she’s working straight through the season, she’ll be taking some breaks, too, posting two reviews on Friday, four reviews on Saturday, and four reviews on Sunday. Weigh in on this episode in the comments below or discuss the whole season on our binge-watching hub page.
“Sunrise” (season one, episode two)
It’s a hard job, being the second episode of a new TV show. Sure, the first has to get people interested, but the second has to keep our interest. Man In The High Castle pulls off a surprisingly deft balancing act here, slowing down the more active storylines while building interest in seemingly minor characters. It’s risky; the pilot garnered enough goodwill that a relatively tame episode doesn’t bore. But with more questions raised coupled with the slower pace, overall it’s a little lacking.
After getting a snow-flurry comprised of dead cripples and terminally-ill—courtesy of Nazis—in the last episode, it’s time to showcase some evil from the Japanese side. It’s a less ideological kind of cruelty at its core, though it’s happy to use Germany’s hatred to get what it needs. While Juliana’s boyfriend, Frank, didn’t strike me as a main character in the pilot, his “whole family dying for being Jewish” storyline is given enough time and space to not feel melodramatic or cheap.
The revolutionary spy stuff seems to have an overwhelming amount of secrecy and codes for an organization that readily told some random guy in off the street “I’m part of the revolution and you might be a spy,” and Joe’s reaction to watching The Man’s film seemed a little much, but I guess that’s sort of the point our series hinges on.
All in all, that’s kind of it for the second episode. Unfortunately, slowing down the Joe/Juliana plot—to balance Frank and Kido’s, as well as Joe’s father’s, development—leaves the episode feeling a little thin. It’s a difficult line to walk, but I’m cautiously putting my trust in our Man.
Questions: Why are these movies so compelling for people? Is only America under Axis rule, and being lied to, Truman Show style? Could someone have gone back in time and changed the outcome of the war to tip for the Axis powers, but these films are the “truth” and that’s why they’re so moving? Am I just so heartless to think these films couldn’t mean this much to an oppressed people without some fantastical explanation?
Fears: Are there going to be no black people?
Last thing: Frank’s scream after “Evil triumphs only when good men do nothing” is a religious experience. Also, Nazis are fine with Mark Twain but not The Bible.