Joel de la Fuente
Screenshot: The Man In The High Castle (Amazon Prime Video)

The clock is running out on the season (and has completely run out for one character, but more on that later), and “Baku” provides what we more or less expect from a penultimate episode in the age of premium television. By the end, everything is in place for whatever finale fireworks are planned. Those will no doubt center around “Die Nebenwelt” (literally, “the next world”) and the Resistance plan to stop it. Before that can happen, a few more pieces have to be moved into place.

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Primarily, that means getting Juliana and Wyatt to their destination in the Poconos. A shot revealing that Wrigley Field is still standing brings us to Chicago, where Wyatt is reunited with some war buddies. Juliana recognizes one of them, Chuck, from her alternate memories; he’s a sharpshooter and he’s important. Juliana shows the film yet again, and it gets a much better reception than it did back at St. Theresa’s. A couple of other pals tag along for the final leg, but it turns out the No. 9 mine is even more heavily guarded than anticipated. There’s a possible route in through a closed-off mine shaft surging with magnetic energy—a soft spot between dimensions. 

The downward spiral of Helen Smith gets a little more interesting now that her sessions with Dr. Ryan have ended. She has some friends from the old days over for drinks and casually gossips about Goebbels and his deformed foot, which probably isn’t a great idea. Even worse, when the nurse shows up a day earlier than expected to test Jennifer’s blood, Helen panics and calls it off. Without taking the time to pack, she takes the kids on a road trip out to the country that I suspect will not end well for anyone.

The reason John Smith isn’t around for any of this is that he’s been sent by Himmler to meet up with Tagomi in the Neutral Zone (and take a look around for High Castle while he’s there). The difficulty with a show that takes place from coast to coast (and sometimes globally and even trans-dimensionally) is that our desire to see certain characters interact with each other is hampered by logistics. With Smith based in New York and Tagomi in San Francisco, they aren’t going to cross paths very often, so there’s something momentous about their face-to-face in the Abendsens’ abandoned farmhouse. The ostensible reason for the meeting is for Tagomi to make a gesture toward peace by delivering fifteen Nazi defectors back to the Reich, in return for which he hopes to have the oil embargo lifted. In reality, the trade minister wants Smith to know he’s the one who supplied the film Kido delivered to Smith, and he strongly hints that Smith can be reunited with a version of his son if only he helps prevent Die Nebenwalt from coming to pass. “The different truths of these worlds is of great value.”

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Kido’s undercover mission in the Neutral Zone pays off when he finds Ed and Frank admiring their handiwork—a giant billboard of the new poster art depicting Kido in silhouette. Frank gets a ride out to the desert, and we all know how those generally end. The location is Manzanar, site of a former Japanese-American internment camp where Kido spent his youth. “You have been speaking to me this whole time,” Kido tells Frank, and for a moment you can see the regrets that have piled up since that time on his face. It’s not that he’s going to let Frank go, but that he’s come to believe Frank deserves an honorable death. Indeed, this feels like a more fitting end for Frank given the evolution of his character than the explosion at the end of last season. It’s certainly far less ambiguous, as Kido dresses in full military garb before taking his sword and decapitating Frank with one swing. It’s another shockingly sudden end for an original cast member, and I’m guessing it’s not the last one.

Stray observations

  • Sampson takes care of business in Denver, buying beers for the bounty hunters and playing along with their bravado (they claim they “can smell Jews”) before gunning them down. A rare moment of triumph.
  • At another farmhouse in the Neutral Zone, Caroline Abendsen and her bodyguards are ambushed by Nazis. After a shootout, a wounded Caroline drags herself into the barn, where John Smith confronts her, asking where he can find the Man in the High Castle.
  • In case there were any doubts that Childan is still an incredible jackass, he sees the Year Zero program and its expulsion of American artifacts as a boon to his business.

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