The Man in the High Castle: Hitler Has Only Got One Ball
November 17, 2019 9:42 AM - Season 4 (Full Season) - Subscribe

The final season of The Man in the High Castle will be rocked by war and revolution.

The Resistance becomes a full-blown rebellion, driven by Juliana Crain's (Alexa Davalos) visions of a better world. A new Black insurgent movement emerges to fight the forces of Nazism and imperialism. As empires teeter, Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido (Joel De La Fuente) will find himself torn between his duty to his country and the bonds of family. Meanwhile, Reichsmarschall John Smith (Rufus Sewell) will be drawn towards the portal the Nazis have built to another universe, and the tantalizing possibility of stepping through a gateway to the path not taken.

Vulture started writing recaps though they are not finished with them yet.
posted by KTamas (8 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, this was a very mixed bag.

This show clearly needed a fifth season and they tried their best to finish it off with just the one they had, but a lot got lost with that.

Tagomi's death felt extremely abrupt; he died so the plot could advance much quicker and they could jump to "okay what if the Japanese just... leave?" and like, a lot had to come together for that and it all feels a bit too... artificial. Like, yes they were getting weaker and weaker but it's still a big jump!

They also discarded a bunch of things they built up in season 3. What about the rising sun murals? What about the movies? Yes they make brief appearances but then other stuff take their place.

Juliana's multiverse-jumping and meditating stuff were cool but I wanted much more of that and I bet that given more time they could have fleshed it out more and explore it more.

John Smith has a decentish arc, but it all felt off somehow. I did like that we got more of Helen and the kids were great.

Childan... poor Childan. He doesn't even get a real ending just sitting sadly at the port. At least he got some sort of arc too, but not too much.

Kido was one of the highlights of the season thought the abrupt appearance of his son as his conscience felt a bit cheap and then him almost-dying repeatedly in the last two episodes was just ridiculous. We get it he's a survivor but this felt almost like a caricature.

The last few minutes with the multiverse converging... what the fuck does those last few minutes mean?

In any case. Despite its severe shortcomings I still enjoyed it overall, I just really wish it would have gotten another season.

Also let me just say, as someone who's not American, how much I truly appreciate that the show just kept doing its own thing and didn't start drawing overtly obvious parallels with the current state of affairs in US politics (after 2016), even though they could have gone down that road, I mean the show has literal nazis after all. It's nice that it remained a bit of proper escapism. I mean that 100% sincerely.
posted by KTamas at 12:48 PM on November 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

I thought for sure when Juliana Crain showed up in the alternate universe where Smith's son was still alive, and he's her student, she was going to end up teaching him to cross universes so he could go to the Naziverse and abhor his Nazidad. I didn't hate this season but I agree there was a lot of missed opportunities for a better ending.

The stuff with Helen was good, and having Smith shoot himself was fitting, but clearly they just hurriedly tied up loose ends at the last minute and the ending wasn't supposed to mean anything that I could decipher vis-a-vis the larger arc of the show. Also Smith's second in command was ready to ditch the Nazis and reunite America but once Smith is dead he... calls it off to allow the BCR to establish its own state on the western part of the continent? Why would he do that?
posted by axiom at 9:25 PM on November 17, 2019

axiom: I think it was yet another thing they didnt have time for. He tears of his nazi cross, so presumably the nazi empire of america is off now but they would have needed more time to flesh out the rest. (I mean. What will Berlin think? Time for World War 3 with nukes?)
posted by KTamas at 12:11 AM on November 18, 2019

at e04, I think there are some interesting adjustments, coming too late, probably. The introduction of the BCR is not necessarily terrible, and seems kinda like it might have been in dialog with rumors about Watchmen. Highlighting Juliana’s mysticism aligns better with PKD’s lifelong themes than the show generally has up to this season.

I feel like the show chickens out in examining how racism and white supremacist ideology is a part of America’s founding heritage. It’s understandable, because it’s so terrifying and disappointing. But this specific show could have done amazing work with that theme.
posted by mwhybark at 9:53 PM on November 21, 2019

I'd binged about 4 episodes, and was going to stop, but decided to finish it.

A huge problem for me was the plotlines/characters that didn't carry through to the end, and new ones suddenly being introduced in the last season. It diluted the emotional impact for me. And ended up feeling like there was more focus on the really bad guys than the good guys.

Obviously I could empathize with the black people in rebellion in the West. But with Tagomi gone, I was bored by the Japanese story. Not only was he a beautiful character, but his connection to Julia and insight into the other worlds was now completely lacking in the Japanese part of the story.

Heck, I even thought we'd run into Joe from Another World.

And am I totally misremembering Childan's previous seasons arc? Didn't he seem to be moving toward the resistance?

I also can't quite recall what happened to some of the other San Fran characters. Wouldnt it have been more powerful to have had a Frank and his friend in conflict with the black communist faction, rather than random white-boy newbies.

(Other characters who were either new or I didn't even remember: The crown princess, some of the Japanese military guys, Childan's wife, even Smith's assistant.)

Rufus Sewell was a commanding presence, and did have me wondering right to the end whether he was suddenly going to turn.

I did like Helen's arc, and the fact she was willing to sacrifice herself at the end to atone for her past.
Little Amy will probably grow up to be some type of secret right-wing resister.

And bless their hearts, but Jennifer and her boy friend's dancing was the most awkward wypipo thing ever.

That Hitler's balls song must've been the funniest moment in the entire four seasons.
posted by NorthernLite at 1:21 PM on November 22, 2019

Note: Without looking at recaps, I think Frank and his friend both died at some point(?). I just meant, from a story point of view, it would be more satisfying to see faceoffs between longtime characters in the Western half of the epic, in the same way you had the traditional protag /antag confrontation in the East (Juliana and Smith).
posted by NorthernLite at 1:29 PM on November 22, 2019

I liked but didn't love this season. My first, biggest complaint was the abrupt write-out they did with Tagomi. He'd been the moral heart of the show and he was deeply missed. I also felt like the pacing was off in the first three episodes, but they managed it pretty well after that.

On points raised above:

This show clearly needed a fifth season

I don't think they really had five seasons worth of ideas and I think they might have lost too much momentum if they'd been writing with a fifth season in mind. It comes down to storytelling economy. They could have spent more time on the internal struggles of Japanese leadership, but filling in even more details than they already had wouldn't have advanced the plot much. I think structurally the more useful thing with an increased number of episodes would have been to weave the origins of the BCR into the first four years of the series instead of having it pop into season 4 like Athena, fully formed springing from the head of Zeus. It seems like there would have been more opportunity for them to use Lem as the uneasy bridge between the two resistance movements, possibly hinting at a deeper history of why he wasn't more involved on the BCR side of things. I'm glad the writers belatedly did more with the impacts of the two occupying forces' racism, but somehow it seemed even more belated because of how cursory the history of the movement was.

I think Frank and his friend both died at some point(?)

Late in season 3 Kido took Frank out to the desert and beheaded him after saying something to the effect that he was correcting the earlier mistake of leaving him alive. They left Ed alive at the end of season 3, though. I agree that they might have done more with the graffiti than they did, if only because they failed to tie up Ed's plot line at all. At least Tagomi got an ending, as abrupt as it was. Did Ed pick up where Frank left off? Or did he just find love and move back to the Neutral Zone where he could be safe? Or both?

"okay what if the Japanese just... leave?"

That the Japanese were struggling to maintain their extended empire had been a constant since the first season. While I thought the first inciting event (the assassination of Tagomi) was abrupt, that arc was not a surprise. For character reasons I would have liked more Tagomi than we got, but I guess budget and/or actor availability limited what they could do there. The only real plot surprise, though, was that it would have taken the resistance and/or the BCR that long to realize they could knock out the supply line and speed the Japanese exit along themselves. Nobody thought of that before Bell Mallory came along?

What about the movies?

They didn't leave that dangling at all. Abendsen (primary editor and distributor) is imprisoned, so distribution of new films would naturally be curtailed. The existing films were still being copied and shared, though, and the pornographer (and sometime duplicator) in NY was directly involved in the get-to-Helen plot of season 4. Plus we saw that the Reich was creating new films as part of a disinformation campaign, attempting to dilute the effect of the real films that were out there.

[Childan] doesn't even get a real ending just sitting sadly at the port.

He trades the keys to his shop to the Yakuza for passage on their boat and makes his hasty exit after Kido shows up, gun blazing. I presume he got on the same boat Kido's son boarded at the end, although I don't recall seeing him (but also he wasn't the focus of that scene, so not seeing him is not unexpected).

And bless their hearts, but Jennifer and her boy friend's dancing was the most awkward wypipo thing ever.

She did such good work overall that I assume the dancing was very specifically supposed to be that. Her last scene with Helen was so good.

And now that I'm on Helen, I really liked her arc and thought her relationship with Jennifer was the moral core of this season (where Tagomi alone had more or less been the moral core before). I thought it was interesting that they gave her a redemption but left John to have his own belated crisis and find himself irredeemable. After he used the portal to visit Alt-Thomas I told my wife (who wasn't watching the show), "Rufus Sewell just made a huge mistake." It's sad for whatever noble parts of him were left that he couldn't get to his ending on his own, and Helen had to show him (but good for her). Even so, his ending was honestly a better payoff to the series-long tease of his fractured loyalty than if they'd had him suddenly wave an American flag and say "just kidding, guys! Sorry about all the deaths but we finally won!" That's more or less what his buddy Bill seemed to be doing at the end, removing his colors and calling off the air strike, but the implications of it were unresolved.

I mostly liked the general lack of tidy resolution at the end. We know that Bill would be shot for treason for even suggesting a coup because that's exactly what John said to him (without exactly saying no to the idea), and yet he basically staged a coup. We know the BCR doesn't have the infrastructure in place to run the Pacific States, and we don't know of any leadership in the Neutral Zone capable of forming a national government either. The ending was optimistic, but it didn't tie a bow on anything, which seems more aligned with the reality (or realities) of the show.

The main problem with the ending is that we don't know how the portal just opened itself after Smith died. Was it him specifically? Was it the failure of the Reich in general? Was it something else? Were the realities all converging, regardless of what happened to the Reich? On the one hand I like the ambiguity, but on the other, what the hell? That part seems like a cop-out. You got deus in my machina!
posted by fedward at 10:45 AM on January 3, 2020

Oh also, the moment when the BCR locked Kido in the room he'd used to gas Frank's sister and kids was extremely chilling. I thought it was really strong direction not to go with an on-the-nose flashback there, but I do wonder how many people realized what it was without a flashback to guide them.
posted by fedward at 10:50 AM on January 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

« Older Movie: Doctor Sleep...   |  Movie: Gemini Man... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments