Season one of Amazon’s The Man In The High Castle was a very mixed bag. On the plus side, it demonstrated ambitious world-building and laudable performances. But then there were confounding decisions made by inconsistently written characters, and resulting subplots seemed to exist just to gobble up time.

The success of season two will hinge upon emphasizing those strengths, while bringing the plot and characters into sharper focus. None of that can be proven in a trailer, but what we do have is promising. As a projector sparks to life and Marilyn Monroe naughtily croons Happy Birthday to “Mein Führer,” we’re immediately reminded of the high, very peculiar stakes that were set in season one. It’s relieving that our protagonists come to the table with the knowledge that they are living in a reality that has been tampered with. Now we get to see what they can actually do about it.

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Manufactured as the board may be, the chess pieces of this reality appear to be moving, with Japanese forces defiantly claiming their “moment.” So perhaps we’ll see some larger geopolitical tensions erupt between the Reich and the Empire, as suggested by menacing shots of bomber fleets and explosions. But The Man In The High Castle is really the smaller story about its resistance fighters. Joe Blake is back in hands of his SS handlers, but seems to be finally swayed away from his life in service of the Nazi party. Meanwhile Juliana appears to have defected to the Reich’s territories (presumably to escape the Japanese, and possibly reunite with Joe), and poor old Frank is still under the boot heel of Imperial investigators.

New addition Tate Donovan only appears for a brief moment, sharing a park bench with Juliana, but it has been rumored that he is the titular Man In The High Castle, despite the season one finale suggesting that it might have been Hitler. That’s good news, because at some point the show will need to start unpacking the rules that govern its premise. Whether the films are a keyhole view into an alternate timeline, or have a more elaborate relationship to reality, may begin to be answered when The Man In The High Castle returns to Amazon on December 16.

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