The Man in the High Castle: The New World
January 17, 2015 2:36 PM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

Amazon Pilot (2015): An adaptation of the Philip K. Dick novel, this one-hour show drops the viewer into an alternate world where Germany and Japan have won WWII and partitioned the U.S. A man named Joe joins the resistance in Nazi-controlled New York and sets off in a truck for the neutral zone, a DMZ in the Rockies between the two sides, which seem to be in a state of fragile detente. In Japanese-held San Francisco, a woman chances onto a reel of film that sends her also toward Canon City, Colorado.
posted by computech_apolloniajames (32 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
I wish there had been more Nazi and Japanese logos to remind me of what I was watching. Every 30 sec just wasn't enough. I'm really, really over Nazis as the ultimate bogeymen. It's boring and creatively bankrupt. And the ending was telegraphed from the moment Joe got all "passionate" and took the job.

If here and now is the best of all possible timelines, there is no hope for humanity.

D-
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 4:34 PM on January 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


I loved it. I've been waiting for this for about forty years and while it's not quite the MitHC that I would have made, it's pretty good. I'm not really sure about changing The Grasshopper Lies Heavy from a novel into a movie but other than that, I like everything about it.
posted by octothorpe at 4:46 PM on January 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm with octothorpe, as a PKD purist I think this was near to the best you could hope for from a TV adaptation (for its serious tone and high production values, if nothing else). I think changing The Grasshopper Lies Heavy to a film actually makes sense for an adaptation, since it's a lot easier to represent than just having the characters sit around talking about what they've been reading about. They introduced it pretty early compared to the book, but I guess that's a TV pilot for you. I'm still not sure how they are planning to work around the book's I-Ching focussed climax, which I thought was brilliant in a literary context but might wind up being extremely dopey on the screen, but overall I'm pretty hopeful that they can get a good show out of this and I hope it gets picked up.
posted by whir at 4:58 PM on January 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


I want to see Amazon pick this one up. Most of PKD's stories seem unfilmable to me, so it's a pleasant surprise that the universe feels right, even if the characters are totally different.
posted by eyeballkid at 5:58 PM on January 17, 2015 [4 favorites]




This is getting good review all over; it's a sure bet Amazon will pick it up. My biggest frustration with it was that I couldn't binge watch a full season.
posted by Catblack at 8:04 PM on January 17, 2015 [3 favorites]


Really glad to come here and see positive vibes -- I was worried that True Fans™ would be slamming it. But they did work really hard at creating a universe that was just slightly off, and in what may be a first, combining retro location/prop/vehicle casting with sf/imported elements, like the tiny European cars. CGI is clearly helping them create, certainly, an otherworldly San Francisco.

I loved the easter egg for fans of Northern Exposure, too. (I guess the mural is gone or faded now.)

Like others above, I'm OK with the changes introduced like making The Grasshopper Lies Heavy a newsreel/film -- although I'm a little perplexed at how an alternate history got filmed. I suppose one of my key worries is the good guys/bad guys being racialized. Why does the Greater Nazi Reich have native American cops, but the Pacific States, which almost seems to be in less of a hierarchical situation in the Co-Prosperity Sphere, uses Japanese? Still, they do show a lot of adoption of Asian ways by American characters, and SPOILER one big baddie is obviously a very "native" (or native looking, anyway) American.

And as noted at io9, I think, it's pulling off creepy, weird and unstated disruptions such as the hospital burning undesirables.

One disappointment which is not necessarily just for this example is that the pilot really could/should have been two hours.

In short, probably a lot more action-heavy than the book or the pure fan would want it, but I think it's quite promising, something like the way Battlestar Galactica was reimagined.
posted by dhartung at 11:17 PM on January 17, 2015 [6 favorites]


So, was I the only one thinking they were probably drinking bottles of Fanta in the last scene?

Never read Man in the High Castle, which is strange because I liked Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and have read Fatherland and In the Presence of Mine Enemies.

This was better than I expected it to be. I did feel the hospital scene was a little bit heavy-handed. I thought the Nazi atrocities during the War would just have been regarded more as rumor or Allied propaganda. In fact, I thought at first the "Grasshopper Lies Heavy" was actually going to be evidence of the Holocaust (or a Japanese atrocity, like the Rape of Nanking).

I do agree with Ik ben afgesneden that there were a a few too many Nazi Swastika's and Rising Sun's, especially in what is a good 10-15 years after the War. I know this is a nitpick, but alternate history being a sub-genre I'm very familiar with, It would have been a little bit more believable for Times Square to be advertising Siemens or Volkswagen rather than having a huge Nazi flag (unless maybe it's Hitler's birthday or something).

And was "Greater Nazi Reich" the name from the book? If not, something like "NordAmerika" or something would have gotten the point across just as well. Also, the American collaborators should have gotten an American patriotic symbol like the Star or Eagle and "en-Nazify" it, instead of just borrowing the Swastika. Again, I'm not sure if the book had it that way and they were just trying to be a little more true to the book.

But, definitely hope Amazon picks this up and makes more episodes.
posted by FJT at 12:47 AM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Arg, I am conflicted. This looks amazing, but the same company just gave Woody Allen a deal.
posted by Mogur at 12:53 AM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why does the Greater Nazi Reich have native American cops, but the Pacific States, which almost seems to be in less of a hierarchical situation in the Co-Prosperity Sphere, uses Japanese?

Yeah, I was wondering about this too. One way they could kind of make it make sense is to say that all the Californians are helping occupy and police Japan's other Pacific holdings, while the Koreans, Taiwanese, etc. are helping police/occupy the Pacific states.
posted by FJT at 9:13 AM on January 18, 2015


It's potentially a fascinating world to explore, and I'm intrigued how they can explain the existence of alternate history newsreel. It's harder to account for in-universe than the Grasshopper in the novel which doesn't quite match up to "real" history.

But... the pilot really didn't engage me with any of the characters, and there wasn't any snap or crackle to the dialogue or plot. It felt a bit generic TV if that makes sense. So, I hope it gets picked up, but they also get in some serious writing talent to make it work.

And was "Greater Nazi Reich" the name from the book?

I think in the book it's still called the USA, but just being run as a Nazi puppet state. Been donkey's years since I read it though.
posted by sobarel at 11:48 AM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, just checked the book online -- it's the Pacific States, the Rocky Mountain States, and the United States. (Which also makes a bit more sense strategically, rather than a neutral zone somewhere between the Plains and the Mississippi.) But there's plenty of reason to infer that the victorious Reich would have imposed an imperial name on its holdings, with the expanded Eastern European lands to be part of a "Greater Germanic Reich". And certainly the Nazis were not short of symbolic gestures of occupation. (There may also be some influence from the allegedly forged map that FDR once cited as evidence of Nazi designs on South America.)

the American collaborators should have gotten an American patriotic symbol like the Star or Eagle and "en-Nazify" it, instead of just borrowing the Swastika

Well, they en-Nazified the flag by replacing the stars with the swastika. Works for me as a visual motif with shock value. (The quibble I have is white-on-blue.) I also liked the SS uniforms with an American flag/Swastika armband. I'm sure we could go minute by minute and critique the art direction, though; it's possible they had Reasons.

It felt a bit generic

Yeah, that was definitely a problem, but one that might have been resolved with my two-hour pilot idea (more time for character development, atmosphere, etc.) There was a LOT to introduce.
posted by dhartung at 12:27 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm really, really over Nazis as the ultimate bogeymen. It's boring and creatively bankrupt.

TMitHC is from 1962. So I think it can be forgiven for using this trope.
posted by Justinian at 1:48 PM on January 18, 2015 [10 favorites]


I'm just worried they're going to have some sort of timey wimey explanation for the newsreel.
posted by BungaDunga at 3:34 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm sure we could go minute by minute and critique the art direction, though; it's possible they had Reasons.

Yes, you're right. As I said, I'm an alternate history/history fan and I get influenced by books and my own head canon. To have a show like this available to watch is a feat. I think having this show successful is definitely a good thing, and if it paves the way for other alternate history shows, even better.
posted by FJT at 7:27 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm really, really over Nazis as the ultimate bogeymen. It's boring and creatively bankrupt.

As noted, it's hard to make this charge against a book from 1962. But even more so here is that they aren't just generic "bogeymen". The book, and the pilot suggests the show could follow suit, is investigating a reality that is literally upside-down from the outcome American readers experienced at publication. The Cold War was at its most dangerous height, with the Bay of Pigs, the Berlin Airlift, the construction of the Berlin Wall, and the Cuban Missile Crisis, not to mention Vietnam. The A-bomb and H-bomb had put the US at the undisputed top of the world; Germans and Japanese had only recently been replaced in the American mindset with Russians and Chinese. Of the major leaders from the war, only Churchill remained alive. I think it's really interesting (and more challenging from a production standpoint) to stick with the 1962 time period and the full ramifications of that.

Another rebuttal I would offer is that reading the book reveals that its themes -- of reality and perception, approaches common to most of Dick's work -- are really more important than the plot per se. To say more might reveal too much. How close the show hews to the book's intent here will really be part of its test as an adaptation -- whether it's really based on a close reading of Dick, or just using it, as you fear, as backdrop for a retreat of action tropes.
posted by dhartung at 12:29 AM on January 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


Dhartung: that mural is a tourist draw and is still there.
posted by mecran01 at 3:24 AM on January 19, 2015


I'm just worried they're going to have some sort of timey wimey explanation for the newsreel.

Yea for some reason that part really spooked me with some kind of supernatural(not the tv show) sort of vibe. Like they're taking the alternate timeline thing very literally, and are going to somehow have that film have come from an actual alternate universe rather than just being somehow special effects/etc propaganda. The "but how are they in times square!" part made me roll my eyes.

I don't fear action tropes, i fear shitty scifi channel show zomg ~plot twist~ garbage.

For what it's worth, i thought this was a decent pilot too. Mad Men had a shittier, more wooden pilot honestly. But i'm really afraid of some dumb explanation for where that newsreel came from. They kinda painted themselves in to a not-great corner with that one.
posted by emptythought at 4:07 AM on January 19, 2015 [4 favorites]


Been way too long since I read the novel, but I kinda liked this.

The art direction worked for me in a "yes monorail in NYC as the failed vision of the future from the 50s" way. The Japanese in San Francisco failed on fonts as usual. The change of characters sat OK since it has been ages since I read the book. The endless swastikas started to make sense after a while, but the spinning twisted cross in the pay phone dial was kind of chuckle or just too far enough.

Looking forward to the rest if we see it. The weak/scant dialogue etc seemed to be the price of the world building they were doing in a pilot.
posted by Gotanda at 5:03 AM on January 19, 2015


It is so unfair to dangle this out here as a pilot! Clearly, the entire site should be available right now!

I guess that's my way of saying: in general, I really liked it.

However, I'm a little worried that the show isn't really capturing something from the book. What really struck me, when I read it, was the feeling of being oppressed, occupied. In the show, you can see the Japanese influences and all the swastikas, but that isn't enough. This should be a world where the protagonists are having their culture actively stomped out of existence. There is a hopelessness to that, a horror, like a muted scream. On the show, all the characters we've encountered so far just have so much spirit, so much fight left in them... it doesn't feel quite right.

I'm also worried about the racism. There doesn't seem to be enough of it. That's another thing that just hits you over the head in the book. Where's the slavery, in the show? So far, the show has given us more anti-Japanese racism from the oppressed Californians than anything else.

Although... one thing I found worthwhile about the book is that it really helps you feel, on a visceral level, the grossness of racism, of oppression. It is a general message, applicable to any society built from racism, not just them evil nazis. I do worry that, if the show did try to bring in the racism, to the extent that it's in the book, it wouldn't be able to handle it right. It could very easily get a feeling like, "in this bizarro world, racism exists! Thank god the real world isn't like that!" And that wouldn't be a good thing.
posted by meese at 5:28 AM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yea for some reason that part really spooked me with some kind of supernatural(not the tv show) sort of vibe. Like they're taking the alternate timeline thing very literally, and are going to somehow have that film have come from an actual alternate universe rather than just being somehow special effects/etc propaganda.

Spoilerish for the book:

Well the book had some of that too. There's the sequence were Mr. Tagomi is hypnotised by one of Frank's pins and slips into the alternative San Francisco that's not ruled by the Japanese. Also the ending of the novel seems to say that the I Ching is communicating from the alternative universe described in Grasshopper.
posted by octothorpe at 7:08 AM on January 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yea for some reason that part really spooked me with some kind of supernatural(not the tv show) sort of vibe. Like they're taking the alternate timeline thing very literally, and are going to somehow have that film have come from an actual alternate universe rather than just being somehow special effects/etc propaganda.

....and to add to octothorpe's comment, I would venture to say that both PKD as author and as a person would welcome the above in any way, shape or form as long as it got his ideas across. Scratch that: he would just plain welcome it for the hell of it.
posted by digitalprimate at 1:02 PM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's been a while since I've read the book, but I thought this did a good job capturing the feel of it. I really hope it gets picked up for a full season, even despite some first episode stiffness.
posted by codacorolla at 3:43 PM on January 22, 2015


This should be a world where the protagonists are having their culture actively stomped out of existence. There is a hopelessness to that, a horror, like a muted scream. On the show, all the characters we've encountered so far just have so much spirit, so much fight left in them... it doesn't feel quite right.

I'm not sure I agree. You've got Frank, the artist who doesn't create anymore because his work is "degenerate," who wants to roll over and pull a St. Peter on his kind of sister-in-law so as not to rock the boat. You've got his boss, who recognizes his talent but only wants to produce what the dominant culture is interested in (replica Americana). You've got Juliana, afraid to have children because they would be 1/8th Jewish. You've got an american soldier who came home after losing the war to put on a Nazi policeman's uniform. You've got Joe (who is apparently evil maybe?) being turned off of his sammich because it has cripple-ashes on it.

And these are just the folks who are doing "enough" to make them interesting enough to affect the plot. The vast majority of Americans who have apparently just quietly accepted the outcome of the war aren't really the plot relevant folks, but I think the show does a good job of showing that they are out there.

I'm just worried they're going to have some sort of timey wimey explanation for the newsreel.

I can't say how closely the show will hew to the book, but if you're not comfortable watching a show that contemplates the co-existence of parallel universes you may want to vote for a different Amazon Pilot this season.
posted by sparklemotion at 11:02 AM on February 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


Looks like this got picked up for a full season.
posted by whir at 12:50 PM on February 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


Amazon has released a preview of the second episode of this, with the full season to be available for streaming on November 20. (I haven't watched episode 2, but I plan to.)
posted by whir at 9:25 PM on October 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is up, by the way.
posted by codacorolla at 11:53 AM on November 19, 2015


Oh, nope, my mistake. I thought I saw all of the episodes ready in the queue, but it was just 1 and 2. Apologies.
posted by codacorolla at 2:04 PM on November 19, 2015


Just to note I asked the mods to convert this thread (since it was listed as a movie) into the first episode of the series. Second episode is up here.
posted by Happy Dave at 1:29 PM on November 23, 2015


I just read the book earlier this week since I have meant to do so for literally fifteen years or so. Honestly didn't like it that much, but can see how it would make for a potentially great TV show. I like the change from book to newsreal, the best moment of the pilot to me was Juliana watching, then rethreading and rewatching it over and over again. She gets this great look of simple happiness and hope that came across better for me than anything in the books.

However, that came just moments before the worst moment in the show, where Frank comes in, asks what she's doing. They have a good 30 seconds of exposition heavy discussion about the newsreal before Frank asks where she got it. "Oh, Trudy, my sister. Forgot to mention I just watched her got shot in the street by Nazis an hour or two ago."

Still, pilots are often pretty uneven, this looks like it might be pretty fun to watch.
posted by skewed at 7:30 PM on November 27, 2015


That scene reveals a lot about the kind of person Juliana is. Earlier she saw her sister, who was joyful earlier, killed by the Kempeitai. That's horrible and random and inexplicable. Some people might cry, but our Juliana channels her grief into watching and rewatching the film to discover what is in the film that is worthy of her sister's death. She comes up with an answer that satisfies her, and that's what she tells Frank. Having an answer, a reason, she can talk about is what lets her bear the loss. Introverted people sometimes externally under-express during times of inner chaos. That's why I like her.
posted by otherchaz at 2:26 PM on December 18, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am really loving this show. The worldbuilding is subtle and detailed.

1960s German Japanese cars are so wonderful. Seeing the US cars frozen in time in the 40s/50s, Cuban style, is a nice touch as well.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:14 AM on February 20, 2018


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