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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Man In The High Castle steps on the gas

Joel de la Fuente
Joel de la Fuente
Photo: Liane Hentscher (Amazon Prime Video)
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Juliana, we are told, is the key to everything. She’s the one person who appears in all the films, regardless of which world they came from. (She even turned up in Abendsen’s fake as a child, surely a harbinger of her future importance if ever there was one.) Indeed, it’s becoming clear that she possesses a mystical quality previously unknown to us; she may not be a traveler, but she’s having visions of the alternate worlds. If she can harness this ability, perhaps she can spot a pathway that led one of these realities out of the predicament currently ensnaring her own.

If there’s more to Juliana than meets the eye, that can only be a positive step for the show, but one thing is for sure: We’re a long way from Philip K. Dick by now. That was always going to happen if High Castle had a long run (it’s already been renewed for a fourth season), and at this point, it’s probably for the best. This series was never interested in being an exercise in mind-fuckery like Legion or Maniac, to name two recent shows that draw more from Dick than High Castle has since its earliest days. In writing the script for this episode, new showrunner Eric Overmyer gets to put his stamp on High Castle and start to define what kind of show it’s going to be moving forward.


From early indications, it’s a faster-paced show. When Juliana and Trudy are rounded up by the Kempetai and imprisoned by Kido (who is more than a little surprised to find that a woman he knows he killed is somehow still alive), I expected their time in lock-up to drag on for several episodes. That might well have been the case under the previous production regimes. Instead, Tagomi pulls some strings and has them released into his custody, much to Kido’s displeasure. Trudy’s attempts at traveling back to her own world have failed so far (because neither she nor Juliana has been able to let go of their respective sister-doppelgangers), but once Tagomi throws the I Ching and finds “most auspicious” indications of liberation and transition, Juliana finally grieves and alt-Trudy winks out of the prime reality.

“Imagine Manchuria” also sheds some light on the ambush that opened the premiere episode. It was a botched commando raid with a target known only as “Lotus Eater” at this time. Agent Matthews, working under J. Edgar Hoover, has been dispatched to the Neutral Zone to look into it, but John Smith orders his own team sent there as well. Hoover is no ally of Smith’s, suspecting his involvement in the mysterious death of Thomas’ doctor before he could reveal his diagnosis to the authorities. Dr. Adler’s widow, Alice, is spreading rumors that the Smith daughters could be afflicted with the same degenerative disease as their brother, so Helen drops in for a chat that ends with her smashing an astray into Mrs. Adler’s head, apparently killing her. In retrospect, it probably isn’t a great idea to gossip about people you already suspect of being murderous.

Mentions of a fuel shortage crop up in several of the storylines, apparently the result of an unofficial embargo by the Reich. This is how we are reintroduced to Ed and Childan, now enacting a buddy comedy that provides the few lighter moments in this hour. While being gouged at the pump in the New Mexico neutral zone, they try to make up the difference by buying undervalued artifacts. Ed doesn’t have the killer deal-making instincts Childan values, but he’s more of a people person, so it all evens out.

The big action sequence of the hour comes when Kido’s potential new sergeant Nakamura leads a raid on a resistance hideout where the priest Hagen is supposedly holed up. It’s another botch, with a shootout and explosions, and since Kido wants him taken alive, it’s probably a good thing Hagen’s body doesn’t turn up. That’s something to watch going forward, as is Kido’s decision not to share his knowledge of Juliana’s whereabouts with John Smith. There are some complex dynamics at work here, and we may see some surprising alliances of convenience before too long.


Stray observations

  • Helen has a feeling Thomas is still alive, and since this is television and we haven’t seen a body, she’s probably right. And even if he is dead, on a show with multiple realities, you can be sure there’s a Thomas somewhere who will more than likely show up eventually.
  • Tagomi meets an Okinawan woman from Hawaii painting on the beach. I’m gonna go out on a limb and speculate that they’ll meet again.
  • Now that the Smiths have relocated to a Manhattan high-rise, John Smith is sort of a man in a high castle, no?
  • Ed and Childan meet a cowboy named Jack. He seems friendly!

My debut novel Charlesgate Confidential is now available from Hard Case Crime.

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