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.
After the sophistication of the last episode, the seventh installment feels bizarrely ham-fisted—almost like a series of scenes that were cut from a better, polished episode. From the dramatic music laid over Frank and Jule’s stilted discussion of Arnold’s work at the Nippon, to the B-story centering around an awkward dinner, every move feels a little off.
Not that there aren’t the seeds of a more satisfying episode here. Joe and Juliana set out on a path to reunite, which is exciting. But the stakes of the two working together don’t change much, despite the Overthegardenwallenfurher now knowing Joe definitely wants to make out with her. Joe’s position is as precarious as it ever was as he battles his own, kinder impulses—and it’s not as if he’s ever not been under the Nazis’ collective thumb. Introducing Buddy and Joe’s live-in girlfriend should help on two fronts: Buddy provides a new leverage point against Joe, and Joe’s dynamic with his beau might clue us in to how deeply he has fallen in love with Juliana. But since we’ve never met the two before, it’s impossible to know what has changed—if anything. And Juliana’s discovery of Arnold’s involvement with the Japanese government is too handily dismissed after presenting itself as a cliffhanger in the last episode.
I’ve championed the slow-burn of this show, but giving 40 percent of an episode to the antique dealer’s sitcom-level awkward dinner, only to set up Frank coming into money down the line, feels extreme. Again, it’s not bad: It’s an interesting and nuanced portrayal of a weak man and a young couple just doing their best. But how much nuance does one show need?
Juliana and the Trade Ambassador provide the meatier moments of the episode. He emerges as a moral backbone for the series, not comfortable with the deaths of innocents. After providing her with the location of Trudy’s body, it’s Juliana’s turn to mourn. The field dotted with pits of corpses serves as a visual reminder of what stands to be lost under this fascist regime. It’s a moving scene… until the camera rack-focuses on Joe stalking behind her like a sexy land shark.
Overall, even a weak episode of the series is a strong episode of television, and beneath the stranger choices remains an engaging portrayal of an America oppressed.
Grade: C+ but A- for the Jewish guy telling Frank to just, like, be cool, man.
Questions: Is the Trade Ambassador involved with the Resistance, or does he really only feel guilty for Trudy’s death? What’s going to need $80,000, down the road? Is Joe evil now, after being yelled at for being white?
Fears: This episode is a backdoor pilot for a sitcom about the antiques dealer and the young Japanese couple.
Last thing: “Historicity” is very funny. Honestly, please make the sitcom, I’d like to watch it.