Jason O’Mara, Alexa Davalos
Screenshot: The Man In The High Cast;e (Amazon Prime Video)

Inevitably, if a series lasts long enough, the narrative problem of servicing all the characters arises. The actors are under contract, they’re getting paid, so the creative team either has to kill them off or keep them busy somehow. Some of those choices will end up being considerably less compelling than others. This brings us to Helen Smith and her therapy sessions, which have grown in frequency to Sopranos-like proportions while providing little of interest along the way.

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As we know, her analyst Dr. Ryan has been instructed to confine their sessions to the subject of Thomas and Helen’s grief over his demise. Technically, she does stick to the topic when she tells the doctor her true feelings about the Reich’s eugenics policy: that it was a waste of a promising life to do away with Thomas, and that it’s a hypocritical rule anyway, since Goebbels has a deformity yet continues to thrive in the Reich. She also breaches doctor-patient decorum by calling Dr. Ryan by his first name, not to mention acting on her feelings of “transference” by planting a kiss on him.

Once Dr. Ryan informs Smith about all this, Smith puts an end to the sessions. My guess is that the good doctor isn’t getting off that easily, but even so this is a long way to go for very little return. I just can’t get that invested in the problems of the Smith marriage or Helen’s psychological issues. It all feels obligatory, rather than crucial character motivation.

Now that he’s back in San Francisco and his shop has been returned to him as a thanks from Kido, Childan is another character whose bearing on the larger arc of the season is tenuous. It’s possible that he’ll grow a spine and rush to Ed’s rescue, I suppose, but the phone call to Jack in Denver that ends abruptly is just about as much heroism as I expect out of him. In any case, Kido has already made his way to Denver, where he has a brush with the bounty hunters and questions Jack, who claims he last saw Childan and Ed heading south. Since Ed and Frank are actually on their way to Denver with Sampson, that’s a cover story that won’t hold long.

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It’s at the edge of the Neutral Zone and beyond where “Kasumi (Through The Mists)”—named for Tagomi’s latest kata move—really comes to life. In San Francisco, Tagomi is enjoying a quiet drink with his new sweetheart when Himmler’s best boy breaks in to complete the assassination plot that had supposedly been called off. Tagomi pops him in the windpipe with his kata stick, killing him, and the body is subsequently dumped right on the street in front of the Nazi embassy. This infuriates Himmler, as does the Japanese demand to end the embargo immediately or face military action. Tensions are ratcheting back up between the Axis powers.

At the eastern border, Wyatt and Juliana arrive at a Reich checkpoint. She’s got phony papers Wyatt procured from a Nazi collaborator he killed shortly afterward, at which point it occurred to me there was probably something wrong with the papers that would turn out to be a problem down the road. I don’t know why this didn’t occur to Wyatt, but sure enough, the signature on Juliana’s passport is a big giveaway, resulting in a shootout that leaves Wyatt and Juliana free to cross the checkpoint. Two episodes left, and it sure looks like we’re converging on the ol’ number nine mine in Lackawanna. Who will be there and what will become of them?

Stray observations

  • The episode opens with one of the show’s most striking and horrifying images yet: the Liberty Bell being melted down and poured into a large Swastika mold. This one left me feeling queasy for quite a while.
  • The residents of St. Theresa’s aren’t at all impressed with the film revealing the existence of parallel dimensions, except for a physicist who finally provides a little techno-speak: the Nazi machine is a “quantum transfer device.” Well, it’s something anyway.
  • The first meeting of Wyatt and Frank goes about as well as expected. Frank can’t even watch Juliana leaves, but she takes one of his new posters as a souvenir. Sweet.
  • Nicole and Thelma have a high old time at the lesbian bar, at least until its raided. Nicole is allowed to leave, but Thelma is taken into custody. Billy Turner (the alt-Don Draper) says he’ll take care of it, but I’m not so sure.

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