“Detonation” is an appropriate title for what may be the most eventful episode of the series to date. Almost every thread of the second season reaches its climax, to the point where some of it feels rushed. Early on, the ever-conflicted Juliana lures Lucy’s husband Henry into a Resistance set-up, and it comes off as so abrupt, I had to check to make sure I’d played the right episode. There’s a brief flashback to set up the plan: Henry, the Deputy Minister of Information, will be blackmailed into going on TV and spilling the beans about Hitler’s death. If Juliana goes through with helping them pull it off, they’ll smuggle her to the Neutral Zone.
The plan works and Henry is killed immediately after making the announcement, but it’s not clear how much this benefits the Resistance since acting Chancellor Heusmann confirms the story himself shortly afterward, adding the inflammatory (and as far as we know, apocryphal) detail that the Führer did not die of natural causes: he was poisoned by agents of the Japanese government. (You could argue that the Resistance announcement advanced Heusmann’s timetable, but given this twist, probably not by much.) General Onada definitely isn’t buying it, but figuring San Francisco will be one of the Reich’s primary targets, he orders Kido to evacuate the nuclear scientists. Everyone else is to remain at their posts.
This development advances the West Coast Resistance timetable as well, with the plan now being to drive the explosives into a parking garage directly beneath Kempetai Headquarters in order to take out most of the high command. Knowing Kido will be there, Frank volunteers for the mission in order to avenge his sister and her family. Before that happens, though, Frank finds time to question Ed about why the Kempetai didn’t kill him and Childan when they were caught with the Yakuza. Ed confesses to becoming an informant to save his and everyone else’s lives, but swears he gave up nothing about the Resistance.
As if sensing that the portrait of Frank that’s been presented throughout this season has been a little one-sided, the creative team treats us to a rare flashback to happier days. It’s Ed’s first meeting with Juliana at a picnic lunch Frank has set up, and there’s a lightness to both Frank and Juliana we’ve almost never seen. That’s despite the fact that Juliana uses the occasion to tell Ed of her suicide attempt: she stepped in front of a bus because she felt alone in the world, but as a result she met Frank and no longer feels that way. Ed confirms that Frank is a loyal friend, and even though this scene is so obviously engineered to convince us Frank is a really great guy underneath it all, it still sort of works just because it’s such a refreshing change of pace.
After parting ways with Ed, Frank teams up with Sarah to deliver the explosives. Posing as General Onada’s “niece” (transparent code for mistress) and her driver, they are able to gain access to Kempeitai Headquarters. When we see Kido actually laughing and thanking his right-hand man Yoshida for his loyalty and friendship, it’s a pretty sure bet that at least one of them isn’t long for this world. Sure enough, the bomb goes off just as Kido has spotted Frank trying to leave the facility. The damage is devastating, but almost comically, Kido has survived without a scratch, his glasses barely askew. Yoshida has not been so lucky, but as for the rest, we’ll have to wait until the finale.
During the whole build-up to the detonation, my main thought was, “Don’t go back, Tagomi!” Alas, the resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis brings closure to his time in the alt-universe. I liked the subtle suggestion that major historical events echo across the timelines; Hitler’s death and the Cuban Missile Crisis aren’t the same thing, but they’re in sync as global shifts in power with major ramifications. In any case, Tagomi decides his work here is done once he’s obtained a film of the atomic bomb tests to bring back to his world. Once he’s back in his office, another big revelation drops: not only does his trusty assistant Kotomichi know where he’s been, he’s actually from the alt-universe and has the same ability to transcend dimensions. As someone scarred from the Nagasaki bombing, he has an entirely different perspective: this reality is “a happier world.” Maybe it has been for him up until now, but is there any way to stop the Nazis from retaliating by dropping the big one on San Francisco? One episode to go.
- “Trade minister, your absence has been a matter of great concern.” Has it, though? I’m not sure exactly how long Tagomi was gone, but there was never any indication that anyone noticed.
- Day or night, American Reich is always on the tube.
- Thomas visits Juliana at her apartment to ask about his spell at the funeral, since his parents aren’t being honest with him. Knowing they’re under surveillance, Juliana has to walk a tightrope here between compassion for the kid and concealing the severity of his condition (not that she knows the whole story anyway). I’m not sure we needed to see the entire scene play out again when Smith watches the tape, however.
- Joe has gone full Nazi, armband and everything, but it’s OK because he’s not really down for the cause, he just always wanted a father. Ugh.