Titling this episode “Revelations” may be overstating matters a bit, but after stalling out over the past couple of episodes, The Man In The High Castle regains some narrative momentum here. For a moment, there is even the tantalizing possibility that the title character will make his first appearance, but it comes as no big surprise when that turns out to be a tease. A few matters are clarified, however, and the episode builds to a cross-cutting suspense sequence that feels like a step in the right direction for this show.
We begin exactly where we left off, with the Marshal pursuing Juliana into an abandoned building. Joe temporarily puts the Marshal out of commission by clobbering him with a stick, and the albino shoeshine aids Joe and Juliana by misdirecting the Marshal when he recovers and giving them directions to Lemuel Washington’s house. Lem does not welcome them warmly, pulling a shotgun on them after shooing his kids back into the house, but they appear to gain his trust by telling him his name was on the list they found. Lem’s role in the Resistance is to pass the films that come into Canon City along to the Man in the High Castle (or at least so he claims). At first this made no sense: Why go to all this trouble to bring the films back to the man who made them in the first place? That question is answered later, though; the Man doesn’t make them after all.
Lem agrees to bring Juliana to meet the Man, but it’s a set-up: Lem believes Joe to be a Nazi plant (or, as he puts it, “a goose-stepping motherfucker”) because of the SS raid he escaped just in time back in the pilot. Had the ever-inscrutable Joe brought his gun to the meeting in order to kill the Man as ordered by John Smith, he’d be screwed, but instead he’s brought his own copy of the film. I’m running out of ways to describe my frustration with Joe’s characterization. The show is clearly content to continue playing out the mystery of his past and his parentage, but that shouldn’t be confused with making him a complex, conflicted character. We can intuit that his loyalties are torn between Juliana and his boss in the Reich, because that’s the way stories like this go, but we’re not seeing any kind of emotional struggle. Maybe being a cipher is what makes him good at lying, as Juliana points out (without knowing that he still hasn’t come clean with her), but that still leaves a big hole in the middle of the show.
Back in San Francisco, the long-awaited public appearance by the crown prince and princess is finally upon us. This proves to be a pivotal focal point for a couple of different storylines: Tagomi and Wegener plan to pull off their covert mission (which entails slipping an envelope into the pocket of the Japanese science minister), while Frank goes into Taxi Driver lone nut mode. After acquiring three bullets from a shop specializing in “American antiquities,” Frank appears intent on assassinating the crown prince as revenge for the execution of his sister and her kids. Ed tries to stop him, but Ed is a whiny, ineffectual character who ends up accidentally shooting Frank in the shoulder and getting locked in a closet.
The last ten minutes or so of “Revelations,” with its tense cross-cutting between the events playing out at the crown prince’s speech and Juliana’s escape from the Marshal, is the most compelling The Man In The High Castle has been since the pilot. Frank pulls his gun, but makes eye contact with a young Japanese boy and realizes he can’t go through with it. That isn’t so much of a surprise, but the fact that the crown prince is shot anyway—and Frank is spotted with the vintage pistol—adds another layer of mystery to the proceedings. The outcome of the Tagomi/Wegener ploy is left uncertain by episode’s end, but it’s probably about time to get some more clarity regarding what those two are trying to accomplish. With Juliana last seen on the bus heading back home, however, there is at least the sense that the show is moving toward some destination. If it means we won’t be stuck hanging around Canon City for the foreseeable future, that can only be a good thing.
- The Marshal finds the flaming wreckage of Juliana’s escape vehicle with a burning body in it (presumably the remains of the tortured woman from the mine). He abandons the search for now, but I doubt we’ve seen the last of him, even though he still feels like someone from a different show entirely.
- A nice little detail: Juliana’s mother getting caught up in the Sumo wrestling match. She talks a big game about wanting nothing to do with the Japanese culture, but after a decade and a half under occupation, it’s probably not so easy to resist something so prevalent.
- More mystery back at Reich headquarters: There’s no evidence of a security breach, but somehow Smith’s route was compromised and a Resistance prisoner managed to kill himself with a spoon he shouldn’t have had.
- “No Japanese spy could do what she did.”