TV Review: The Man in the High Castle (2015)

Posted: January 2, 2016 in Drama, TV

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Episode 1:  The New World

It is 1962, the Nazis have won World War 2, America is divided, the West Coast belongs to the Japanese the East Cost to the Nazis, there is a lawless buffer zone in the Midwest. There is an American resistance which the Nazis and Japanese are ruthlessly trying to end.  Juliana Crain (Alexa Davalos) is a judo instructor living in San Francisco with her boyfriend Frank Frink, (Rupert Evans) Frank’s grandfather was Jewish and he lives in fear. Juliana sees her sister brutally killed, after she gives Juliana a package.  Juliana leaves San Francisco for Cannon city in the lawless Midwest, where she meets Joe Blake, (Luke Kleintank) who’s transporting goods for the resistance.

This episode is everything that I thought the book would be and more.  There is a resistance, the Nazis and Japanese are both ruthless, and the story and characters are very engaging.  There is also a twist at the end of this episode, which makes the viewer want to watch the next episode. The direction is very good bathing everything in a sepia color, and the acting is very good, especially by Alexa Davalos and Luke Kleintank.

Episode 2:  Sunrise

Frank is tortured for information about Julia.  Julia learns more about the cargo she’s carrying. Obergruppenfuhrer John Smith  (Rufus Sewell) gets caught in the crossfire of a resistance stronghold in New York City.   Joe Blake finally views the cargo he’s carrying.

The storylines continue to be exciting and build up dramatic tension, because it’s not clear whose side anyone is on.  The Frank Frink storyline is a bit contrived, but I’m hoping that was only for this episode. The cinematography is spellbinding.  There’s a great shot of the Rocky Mountains for example.  The pacing of each episode is crisp and keeps the action coming.

Episode 3:  The Illustrated Woman

Juliana finds a hit list penned by the Marshal (Burn Gorman) a vicious bounty hunter, who is hunting both Juliana and her boss, at the diner where she works.  Frank is becoming less and less reluctant to joining the resistance.  The crowned Prince of Japan (Daisuke Tsuji) sees a Nazi threat to the Japanese empire.

There are so many interesting aspects to this show, and the writers added another in a bounty hunter named Marshal, and now he’s after Juliana.  Frank is nudging his way closer to the resistance, it’s interesting to see his evolution.  There is a great performance by Burn Gorman as Marshal, the bounty hunter, who was also great in Pacific Rim.

Episode 4: Revelations

Juliana is still being chased by the Marshal. Frank plots his revenge against the Japanese, and Joe and Juliana meet Lem Washington (Rick Worthy) in hopes to meet The Man in The High Castle.

This episode is great.  Frank Frink is much different than he is in the book, and Joe is a very multidimensional character on the show, and by far the most interesting character on the show.  Just when the viewer thinks it’s going one way there is a twist ending and a cliffhanger.  Each episode builds on the last one, and is better than the last one.

Episode 5:  The New Normal

The Crown Prince is shot, and in critical condition.  Juliana is questioned by the Japanese after coming home to San Francisco. Joe is questioned by the Nazis, upon his return to New York. Baynes (Carsten Norgaard) and Tagomi (Cary Hirokyi Tagawa) try to pass secrets to the Japanese Science Minister.

The story is so good because there are so many plotlines going on.  Who shot the prince?  Nobody knows which side the main characters are on, they are playing both sides against the other, and that’s what makes the show so interesting. I did notice a weak link in the acting, Rupert Evans  overdid his performance a bit in this episode, I hope he tones it down from now on.

Episode 6:

Joe meets someone  for a VA (Victory in America) Day celebration, a friend of the party’s host also joins the festivities.  Juliana gets a job at the Japanese Trade Ministry. Inspector Kido (Joel De La Fuente) wants to know who Robert Childan (Brenan Brown)  sold antique bullets to, in the wake of the shooting of the Crown Prince.

This is the first time that an episode felt like filler.  The writers didn’t do much with the Juliana character, I don’t like the Childan character in the book or the show, what is the purpose of his character?  The only character that is interesting in this episode Joe, because he is so unpredictable.

Episode 7: Truth

Juliana looks for her sister.  Juliana and her stepfather both work at the Trade Ministry.  Joe has a secret life in Brooklyn. Robert Childan visits the Kasouras.

This is another interesting episode.  The writers gave Joe another facet to his life, making him by far the most interesting person on the show. On the other hand, the Childen character is the least interesting for me, but they continue to give him a storyline.  Hope it goes somewhere unlike the book.

Episode 8:  The End of The World

John Smith finds out something about his son.  Juliana and Frank plan to escape to the neutral zone, but they are both under suspicion by the Kempetai the Japanese secret military police.  Childan sells the Kasouras fake antiques and makes a lot of money.

This is a great episode.  The suspense involves three major characters, and it’s written in such a way that the viewer wants to see the next episode to see how it plays out.  I love that  John Smith is feeling some angst, he is always so cock sure of himself.  They even made Childan a useful character in the plot.  Great writing.

Episode 9: Kindness

Juliana and Joe are both captured by the Kempetai.  John Smith learns who tried to assassinate him in New York City. Trade Minister Tagomi learns something shocking from General Hata. (Keone Young) Heydrich (Ray Proscia) has plans for Baynes.

This was a great episode, blockbuster surprises,  intrigue, suspense, until the last 3 minutes of the episode, then the story goes off the rails, what did I just see in these last three minutes, it brings up the same troubling questions as the book, what exactly is going on?  I’m less excited about the final episode now.

Episode 10:  A Way Out

Juliana faces her most difficult choice.  Baynes returns to Germany.  The Kempetai find the real assassin of the Crown Prince.

There are a number of cliffhangers.  There will most definitely be a season 2. There are still unresolved issues.   Overall, the series was written well and acted well, but ends with one of the most frustrating aspects of the book. Alexa Davalos and Luke Kleintank are very good, for the most part, and Kleintank still leaves the audience guessing as to his true intentions.

The episodes are mostly well paced, interesting, with some good cinematography.  The show mostly differs from the book, and that’s a good thing in my opinion, as the book gave me a headache. Most viewers will enjoy the series.

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