Chelah Horsdal/Amazon

Life isn’t all bad in the Japanese-occupied Pacific States of America. After a hard day of swindling the wealthy and narrowly avoiding death at the hands of the Yakuza, it’s nice to know you can relax with a marijuana cigarette from the respected brand that gives this episode its name. It’s perfectly legal and awfully refreshing! It also provides a rare lighter moment for a show that has never been renowned for its sense of humor. Alas, Ed and Childan’s reefer break is one of the few points of interest in what ends up being the dullest episode of the season so far.

Absent from the hour entirely are Joe (which normally wouldn’t be a problem, except that his storyline finally showed a spark of life last time out) and Tagomi (whose adventures in the alt-reality have been the most intriguing recent development). Instead, the focus is mainly on the goings-on in San Francisco, with a few stopovers in New York. Frank is getting in deeper with the Resistance, getting to know the ex-reverend played by Michael Hogan and agreeing to participate in a plot hatched by Gary and Sarah to use the stolen explosives to make smaller bombs for targeted assassinations, including General Onada.

The plot calls for Frank and Sarah disguising themselves as food vendors at a warehouse location where Onada is expected to make an appearance. Their one-night stand hasn’t exactly blossomed into a love affair, which Sarah attributes to Frank thinking of her as “just another ’pon.” This leads into an interesting exchange in which they basically argue over who has been treated worse by whom: Frank under the current regime, due to his Jewish heritage, or Sarah, whose family was interned by Americans during the war. There’s no real resolution to this, as Frank blows up their spot once he notices the Japanese officials wearing radiation badges on the site. That implies they’re building an atomic bomb, which leads Frank to suggest a new strategy: “We bring the plague to Pharaoh.”

Another side effect of Frank’s deepening involvement with the Resistance is that it’s up to Ed and Childan to finish off the phony Abraham Lincoln assassination cufflinks and find a buyer in time to make their first payment to the Yakuza. The deal almost gets blown when Childan isn’t convincing enough to sway their customer, but Ed steps in and weaves a believably improbable tale of one cufflink going missing for decades before Lincoln’s son recovers it from a Ford’s Theater usher who then meets with a violent end. The odd-couple bonding between Ed and Childan gets a boost when Yakuza boss Okamura locks them in a closet to hide them from Kido, who has discovered Okamura is working with the Nazis. Kido kills him, effectively wiping Frank and Childan’s debt off the books, and if that doesn’t call for a celebratory Land O’Smiles smoke, what does?

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In New York, not much is happening. There’s a Nazi funeral for the late Dr. Adler, complete with Swastika floral arrangements and a secular service where “Heil, Hitler!” takes the place of “Amen.” John Smith gives a eulogy that reads as a veiled confession, speaking about the importance of family and how a man must be prepared to give everything for them. The widow Adler has her suspicions about her husband’s death, considering he was in good health and had been receiving death threats, so she still hasn’t had his body cremated. Thomas nearly draws unwanted attention at the funeral when he has an “absent seizure,” but Juliana is there to help him away from prying eyes. Her sympathy for Thomas is somewhat more justifiable than her growing closeness to his parents: he’s still just a kid who grew up in a culture that would have him put to death as a “useless eater” if the truth were revealed. If given the chance to live, it’s possible he would rebel against his Hitler Youth upbringing, though we’ve seen no real indication of that.

In all, “Land O’Smiles” feels like a placeholder episode. moving a few things around for the final stretch of the season while ignoring other developments entirely. If anything, Joe’s absence serves to highlight that Juliana has taken the lead as the show’s least interesting character. The episode ends on a cliffhanger of sorts, as Heinrich Himmler places a call to Smith letting him know that the Führer may not be long for this world. As we’ve learned by now, however, there are other worlds than this.

Stray observations

  • Most of you are probably already aware of this, but The Man In The High Castle has been renewed for a third season. Not only that, but a new showrunner has been named:Eric Overmyer, who developed Bosch for Amazon.
  • I know he wasn’t in this episode, but that only makes me wonder more: shouldn’t people be missing Tagomi by now? How long has he been in the alt-universe? I still wonder where the Tagomi from that timeline has gone, and if it’s possible he switched places with the one we know.
  • We learned a little bit more about Childan’s sexual proclivities than I would have thought necessary. but I did get a rare chuckle out of the Japanese dirty talk translating as “You are truly a man of great culture and rare taste.”

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