The Man in the High Castle: I do believe my father wants what’s best, but this can’t be the way.   Books Included 
December 29, 2016 9:16 PM - Season 2 (Full Season) - Subscribe

We continue to move far from the plot of the book, keeping only the Ally loss, a trifurcated America, and some surnames, but the exploration of alternate timelines, racial complexities, and genetic impurity grows increasingly complex in a delightfully Dicksonian fashion. The current timeline crucially depends on a fundamental misreading of a documentary film (fake news?), which seems to karmically doom almost any critical reading of the series thus far (all reading is misreading), or even any comparison to Dick's book.
posted by Stanczyk (34 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I was never a big fan of the book (though I read it 30 years ago, perhaps I should read it again), but I really like the show, mostly for its expanding and lavish world building. Nazi America is particularly shocking and realistic: there are obvious historical parallels with WW2, when many nationalists in occupied countries didn't think twice before joining Nazi forces. The most remarkable - and definitely unsettling - aspect of the show is that its main heroes are not the rather bland Juliana, Joe and Frank (or the way too stoic Tagomi), but SS Obergruppenführer John Smith and Chief Kido of the Kempetai, ruthless men who have people tortured and killed and who have participated in genocide and mass murder (Smith was involved in the Cincinnati death camps; Kido kills Frank's sister and her children in the Kempetai gas chamber). Even more than in Season 1, Season 2 makes the viewer empathize with Smith, his Nazi-American family and their Nazi women friends. The Nazi hippies in Joe's story are interesting too. One downside is that it makes the "alternative timelines" plot almost secondary. In any case, I'm waiting for Season 3, hoping that it will include more wacky adventures of BFF Bob and Ed, now that they are no longer tied to the main story.
posted by elgilito at 3:59 PM on December 30, 2016 [4 favorites]

Leave it to Ridley Scott to produce a vision of Nazi architecture with more splendor than Goebbels and Riefenstahl. And I think the Nazi hippie thing is supported by history. There's a new book out on the oversized role of drugs in the Reich called Blitzed, though it's not really hallucinogens but meth that that book focuses on. The hallucinogens may have more to do with invoking Dick than advancing the storyline.

I love the replacement of the novel Grasshopper from the book with film, and I really love using films of the American test bombs in the Bikini Atoll in an attempt (perhaps too late) to persuade the Nazis that it was actually the Japanese testing the bombs. I think PKD would approve.
posted by Stanczyk at 4:48 PM on December 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

My complaint with this season was... Y'know, even though it's a streaming show and I can get caught up in other ways, you can still give me a 5 minute prologue "last season on The Man In the High Castle" or _something_. I spent the better part of the first episode trying to remember what the hell had happened at the end of the last season.
posted by Kyol at 7:40 PM on December 30, 2016 [5 favorites]

(Which hadn't been a huge complaint about prior multi-season streaming shows because the second season of Daredevil didn't hugely depend on what had happened not 5 minutes before at the end of the first season.)
posted by Kyol at 7:40 PM on December 30, 2016

Here's a four-minute Season One Recap.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 5:06 AM on January 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm an SF addict, but I don't know if this is something I should push into, I got 3 pages into the book and a minute into the pilot, it's just tough either of two directions, the Nazis are watered down which would be just wrong, or as mind numbingly horrible evil which can be too hard to watch. Hmmm.
posted by sammyo at 7:52 AM on January 1, 2017

If you haven't caught this show, you'll sort of suffer through season one. (I'd recommend just tuning out every time the bounty hunter shows up in season one.) The second season digs it's heels in and starts telling a very compelling and rich story. I can't say anything more about it other than I agree with elgilito's wonderful review above.
posted by Catblack at 9:01 AM on January 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Season one was a great setting with characters I didn't like. Season two was better but suffered the same problems.

Joe and his New York family felt hollow. Joe and the Magic Pixie Dream Nazi was dumb. Joe as spoiled nazi prince was annoying.

John Smith is a better character once I started looking at him as a Frank Underwood type. He went from high ranking American soldier going to the Pentagon to top ranking nazi in only 15 years or so. The bit with his son tries to make him sympathetic but he still only cares about things if it affects him or his family directly. If season 3 focuses even more on his conniving and ambition I'd be on board.
posted by Gary at 7:25 PM on January 1, 2017

I was never a big fan of the book (though I read it 30 years ago, perhaps I should read it again), but I really like the show, mostly for its expanding and lavish world building.

Count me as someone else who prefers the show over the book. If Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Rufus Sewell, and Joel de la Fuente don't get recognized at the Emmies this year, they'll have been robbed. Just some stellar acting in this show. Just finished season 2 and I'm depressed there are no more episodes to watch. It's nice that the final episode can work as either a season or series finale. (Christ, the Nazis were so batshit insane, it absolutely stuns me they got as far as they did. Hate is a powerful engine, I guess.)
posted by longdaysjourney at 9:08 PM on January 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

The bad guys were especially great (again) in the acting department. : ) My biggest problem with Season 1 was that it felt like for at least several episodes, the writers were forced to write something that kept Juliana and Frank in their city, despite at least 3 times ? Frank goes "THAT'S IT BUDDY I'M LEAVING" and then doesn't leave.

Do I need to mention "Season 2 spoilers" here, since this thread is the whole season?

In which case **SPOILERS **

Some of the sci-fi plots points they seem to have left out (or perhaps will explain later) -

a) The Man himself seems to have a collection of films that I thought all indicated potential alternativey timelines - not just one. He says something to this effect in the last episode, and also indicates many possibilities. However, it seems that all the stuff that plays out in Season 2 are specifically things that occur (or will likely occur in the beginning of Season 3) just as Juliana witnessed them in the film that she herself saw. Maybe not, though, I need to rewatch to make sure.

b) The alternate universe travellers. Kotomichi and Tagomi - are they both talking about the same alternate universe? And then, if they are in one of them - what happens to their theoretically alternate selves while they are there? I thought for sure we were going to see that 'evil Tagomi' had switched places with himself while he was away from his desk, but that did not appear to be the case.

c) we still don't know how the Man obtains the films, though I guess it's obvious now that it's probably from dimension traveler(s).
posted by bitterkitten at 8:50 AM on January 2, 2017

you can still give me a 5 minute prologue "last season on The Man In the High Castle" or _something_.

I thought the same thing, and I hit 'left' on my remote control while having the first episode of season 2 selected, and it did indeed lead to a 'last season' overview.
posted by destructive cactus at 10:56 AM on January 4, 2017

I'm up to Episode 7, Land o' Smiles, in which Ed finally justifies his salary and neatly fulfills his arrangement with the Kempeitai. I've been reading the AV recaps and no one has brought up Frank's solution to his son's medical issue. [SPOILERS if you haven't reached this episode]. Arranging for him to be kidnapped... It works from the NY end as an explanation for his disappearance, but there's been no mention of the telling the son about his condition. It's pretty crucial if they want him to cooperate. It also involves a lot of publicity and the police in another country. Wouldn't it be easier to have him "drown while sailing" or some other accident that won't entail an actual police investigation?
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:11 PM on January 4, 2017

Also want to add, the opening credits of this show are phenomenal. With the current trend of extremely brief credits, I really appreciate the creativity that went into this as well as the one for The Night Manager.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:20 PM on January 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

I was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable Ed and Childan we're as business partners. I think they werey second favorite part of the San Francisco storyline.

A little spoilary:

it seems that all the stuff that plays out in Season 2 are specifically things that occur (or will likely occur in the beginning of Season 3) just as Juliana witnessed them in the film that she herself saw.

I think you're right that there are many timelines. But I think The Man was releasing specific videos for Juliana to see as a way of manipulating a specific outcome. So we see the one she wants to avoid and then the one that shows the timeline she managed to implement, where San Francisco doesn't get blown away.

Also, was it just me, or was the Nazi war room modeled after Dr. Strangelove? Or was that a common set design for that sort of thing?
posted by ghost phoneme at 7:49 AM on January 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

I finished it last night and I'm still mulling it over... [SPOILERS] One thing that stood out in the final episode at the end was [Stephen Root's character] mawkishly lauding Juliana as the moral pivot of the timeline. She killed her sister's father to get the tape but in the end, the boy turned himself in anyway. So somehow, killing [Tate Donovan] avoided nuking SF/starting another war? I thought Mr Tagomi bringing back the bomb testing film from another timeline and claiming that the Japanese had nuclear weapons was the critical change point.

Not to mention, she only saw one film, right? Frank was executed in it, by Joe in a Nazi uniform. That didn't happen. But the close up of Dixon in a Nazi uniform being turned over after his death did?

At any rate, dare I hope we've seen the last of Frank Frink? I'd much rather follow Ed and Childan into the neutral zone. Joe, still badly underwritten, doesn't deserve to survive his father's fall from power either.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 10:01 PM on January 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Re: TWinbrook8


It was the timing + Mr. Tagomi's movie that saved SF. The resistance's plans for the tape about Thomas would have prevented John from going to Germany to reveal Mr. Tagomi's tape and the conspiracy by Heusmann et al.

And I think she saw more than one film, although my memory may be hazy as I binge watched season 2 and I haven't rewatched season 1. She saw the film Joe got away with, and then the Man showed her another to set up her actions in the show.
posted by ghost phoneme at 6:33 AM on January 8, 2017

I just finished this - ghost phoneme is right. San Francisco is destroyed in the film Joe got away with, but the Man shows Juliana the one in which George Dixon is found dead and tells her that this is the only film in which SF survives. The fact that SF doesn't get nuked indicates that we are now on the timeline of the Man's movie.

I wonder if that's why Lem delivers the box of films to Tagomi at the end - maybe they are the ones that came from the Dixon dead/SF not nuked timeline, and the rest aren't relevant anymore? The Man may have burned them in the barn on the theory that if war could not be avoided then nothing could help anyway.
posted by fawaffle at 11:01 AM on January 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Thanks, you two. I understand now. I'd also forgotten that Juliana was an expert at some kind of martial arts since that was her introductory scene in the first episode last season and not mentioned since then.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 2:51 PM on January 8, 2017

I did the same thing, TWinbrook8.

Spoilery question:

Heusmann was going to send Joe back to NYC, but wouldn't that have been more dangerous for Joe in light of the plans for war with the Japanese? Does that mean Hitler dying happened sooner than the conspirators expected? Or was he just more concerned about playing the part than his son's safety?
posted by ghost phoneme at 3:53 PM on January 8, 2017

Loved this season, after just liking season 1 and feeling meh about the book. The show is strangely inconsistent about how direct it wants to be, so much is left open for us to interpret or figure out, but then when they want certain points to be made they just spell it out. Like Tagomi coming back and his aide being like "yeah, I'm from an alternate universe too, here's how it works", or Castle-Man explaining the films. The "lead" characters I guess are supposed to be Juliana, Frank and Joe, but they're definitely not the stars. Juliana is good, in a kind of bland super hero way. I like Joe's story, but mostly only insofar as it allows the writers to show more of the world Joe lives in. Frank, whatever. But the supporting stories are really engrossing.

I'm a little scared at where they go in season 3, because with the revelation that multiple people (maybe many, many people) seem to be able to switch between universes, the narrative could get crazy pretty quickly (evil twins from another dimension would be both ridiculous and inevitable). This would have made a really awesome series finale, and if I hadn't known that season 3 had been greenlit already I would have assumed that's what it was.

As far as Heusmann sending Joe back to NYC, the Nazis were sure that the furthest the Japanese could get was Chicago, and I think Heusmann was 100% confident in the outcome, so sending him back to NYC seems reasonable, I think.

By the way, I thought Heusmann was great, they set him up well as a elder statesmen, gentile and sober--then, without contradicting any of that, you see how he is actually the worst case scenario.

I think we'll find out that the Man is either the uber-dimensional traveler, or he is somehow in control over other people who flip. Assuming the films are just regular newsreel footage from alternate universes, he must be able to attract/communicate visitors from other dimensions. Or he can just flip over and grab them himself, but that seems less interesting.
posted by skewed at 9:54 AM on January 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

By the way, I thought Heusmann was great, they set him up well as a elder statesmen, gentile and sober--then, without contradicting any of that, you see how he is actually the worst case scenario.

Thanks skewed, I missed the NYC being safe part. And I agree completely re: Heusmann. That's why sending Joe back struck me as odd when I misunderstood the situation.
posted by ghost phoneme at 6:57 AM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

The idea that if multiple alternative realities exist, while they all vary in their toll on individuals, taken in sum they are moral equivalents, I think was the point of both Dick's book and this series. And the book seemed to obfuscate which reality was the "true" reality too, so in that sense, they are sticking to the themes of the book. Yeah, I totally agree this isn't Dick's best work, very likely written under the influence of a lot of drugs making it a slog of a read. But the underlying ideas, and it's fleshed out representation of how with just one very important historic detail being different—who bombed who— you can create this ripple of differences in individual lives, but in the end, there are the same number of winners and losers, that's shared by both the book and the series thus far.

Also, Tagomi is a main character, perhaps THE main character of the central reality's storyline. The whole series thus far was dependent on one event that was out of completely out of character. Everything rides on Tagomi going against his rational judgment and hiring Juliana. It is through him more than the Man in the High Castle that we learn how the dimensional options work. He really seems the focus of this series, and your guide through it. If he didn't see something in Juliana, that she was possibly his grandchildren's mother, would the storyline after episode two even exist?
posted by Stanczyk at 7:03 PM on January 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

For those of you who have read the book: do you think that after season 2 the book and the series have diverged sufficiently that the book no longer contains spoilers for the series? I know, I know, YANMSW (you are not my scriptwriter) so if I get spoiled by unforeseen series plot developments I promise not to hold you responsible.
posted by fawaffle at 5:22 PM on January 14, 2017

Disclaimers: It's been a while, and I wasn't the biggest fan of the book, so I may be forgetting some detail, but I think you're safe. I think you'd be safe for most of season 2, actually.
posted by ghost phoneme at 5:27 PM on January 14, 2017

The book seems to have been written while Dick was more stoned than usual, so it has a beginning, but no middle or end. I think it "spoils" at most the first few episodes of season 1. The show is inspired by the book, but not slavishly based on it.
posted by monotreme at 6:04 PM on January 14, 2017

"Inspired" is the word. The basic concept is the same and some of the book characters are in the show, but two of the main characters (Smith and Kido) are show-only and the plot of the show had little to do with that of book. Indeed, PKD books are more idea/concept-oriented than plot/character-oriented and as a result most adaptations have suffered from the same fate, except Confessions of a crap artist (which is quite faithful) and perhaps A scanner darkly (I haven't seen the latter).
posted by elgilito at 7:04 AM on January 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

I read the book right before season 1 so that the show wouldn't spoil the book. In retrospect, the book was not really about things happening, just a bunch of thematically related musings. They've gone in a different direction, the adaptation part of the show is over.

I didn't love the book, but the things about it that I did like are largely absent from the show, because they didn't try to do those things, and TV can't really do them well anyway. So anyway, feel free to jump in with season 2 or 3 without worry for spoiling the book.
posted by skewed at 10:32 AM on January 15, 2017

Just finished the season.

Wanted to drop by to note that Savannah, GA is described as a city of 84k in an aside, in the show's Greater Reich timeline, in 1962. Our timeline places the population of Savannah 1960 at its all-time high of about 150k. Our timeline does have Savannah showing a population of about 80k in 1920. I suppose that can be taken to be representative of slower economic growth in the wake of DC's loss and the loss of the war itself.

Overall I liked this season better than the first.
posted by mwhybark at 12:16 PM on February 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

mwhybark: I think that the low population number is probably meant to represent the expulsion or extermination of the Black population, as well as other non-Aryan, unfit, or otherwise undesirable citizens and possibly partisans who were killed or driven out in the process of establishing Nazi control.
posted by nequalsone at 12:04 PM on June 16, 2017

Does anyone even read the comments down here? Hopefully someone looks at their recent activity.

I haven't read the book so I am not reading the rest of this thread to avoid spoilers, but I would like to know if it explains how John Smith became a big-shot Nazi when he doesn't seem like much of a True Believer. In the show it goes like this:

1. Not shown: Smith in American army (IIRC)
2. Watches DC get nuked
2a. Not shown: America surrenders
3. ???????????????????
4. Smith becomes Chief Nazi

I mean, is there a lot of precedent for that? A soldier from a defeated military becoming a higher-up in the occupier's military? Was he a spy or secret sympathizer, or is he playing a really really long game? I hope this is in the book, otherwise I'm probably going to skip it.

Side note: I hate when Hollywood uses attractive actors to play Nazis because the pantsfeels are Very Confusing. See also: Ralph Fiennes in Schindler's List.
posted by AFABulous at 8:03 PM on January 17, 2018

Recent activity to the rescue! Sorry, John is not a character in the book at all, that part of the show is pretty much original to the show. I figure we will be getting more of John’s backstory in season 3. Just a guess.
posted by skewed at 8:10 PM on January 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

Regarding Smith, I sorta wish they'd gone ahead and made the character's name Schmidt or something, because then there would be something of an historical through-line. I think understand their decision not to do so, though.

Before the war, American Nazis were a real, if not powerful, thing, often associated with American-German ethic pride. In 1939, the German-American Bund held a large rally in NYC which actively sought to recognize and recuperate American Founding Fathers and their white supremacy into that of the Nazis, notably by deploying huge images of George Washington over the rally at Madison Square Garden.

Beyond Americans of German ethnicity, the viewpoint had wide appeal, including to aviator Charles Lindbergh, as well as expressions of political power in the interwar era, such as Indiana's experience with statewide Ku Klux Klan dominance and long flirtation with eugenics laws - let alone the national celebration of genocide in the American understanding and interpretation of the conquest of the continent's Native American population.

My headcanon is that Smith comes from that portion of Americans who were already attracted to racist, fascist, and totalitarian ideas as an appropriate response to modernity. The show makes active use of insignia and design elements drawn both from Nazi Germany and the German-American Bund, including the use of Washington as an iconic figure in US Nazi offices. I have to say that I don't expect the show to bore the viewers for an hour demonstrating that Smith had plenty of cultural context to become the Chief Nazi, but it seems clear to me that the possibility was inherent in the prewar US.

Are there post-industrial historic examples of similar cases? I can't say. I suppose postwar Europe would provide the richest place to look, for both Nazis turned democratic capitalist leaders and Nazis turned communist leaders. We do know that the US expended significant resources and effort protecting and in some cases recruiting former Nazi functionaries and technical personnell, and one assumes that held true in the East as well. But in the US such persons were held at arm's length, generally, and the best known example, Werner Von Braun, was pretty clearly not a political or military leader in the US in the sense you are asking about.
posted by mwhybark at 8:54 PM on January 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

Vichy France was ruled by Marshall Philippe Pétain during WWII under not entirely dissimilar circumstances.
posted by pharm at 7:43 AM on February 24, 2018

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