Friday, January 6, 2017

The Man in the High Castle - Season 2

 Spoiler-free.

This show's ability to make me care and cheer for the most unexpected characters continues to amaze.

(read my review of Season 1 here)

Based on the Philip K. Dick story, The Man in the High Castle features an alternate reality where the Axis Powers won WWII. The entire world is now controlled by Nazis and the Japanese Empire, with neutral zones separating their territories. Season two has a more concise plot, when The Man in the High Castle meets with our heroine Juliana () setting her on a journey that he hopes will lead this reality to the best possible outcome that he has seen take place in the mysterious films.

The story seems to take many rabbit trails from that beginning until it finally comes around to the end ten episodes later, but by then all those trails are tied together wonderfully. I did feel like Joe () was wasting time, though. He had an important part to play, but was put in place too soon, and then since he's a main character we still had to spend time with him, as he puttered around aimlessly. His father () was an excellent new character.

This season felt more purposeful than the first, and it was nice that I already knew the characters.

Then there's Frank () now with a major death wish who slowly gets involved in the Resistance while hanging out with his lovable and well-meaning friend Ed () and the hilariously stuck-up antiques dealer (). When Frank is on screen he feels like the main character, but with this season I cared more about what he was doing than what he was feeling.

Chief Inspector Kido () was almost the exact opposite. I found myself so involved in understanding what he was thinking and feeling that I often forgot to pay attention to what he was actually doing. His changes of countenance based on whether his company was above or beneath him was fascinating to witness; relating to every person so differently, from a fatherly/brotherly relationship with his Sergeant () to actual creepy villainy to the people he interrogates. I didn't get much new out of Trade Minister Tagomi () this time, but that is only because the first season established him so well; his part of the story was ever-important and intriguing.

Pretty much the best.

My favorite continues to be Obergruppenfuhrer John Smith (), and I loved what this season did with him and his wife () and family. From beginning to end it was nothing but incredible. I can hardly believe that I could sympathize so strongly with someone who is a Nazi, but that's the magic of this show. Even though there are actual Nazis involved, characters aren't defined by their affiliations -- outwardly or inwardly. Smith wears the uniform, but we know him and know it doesn't fit him. However his teenage son () is completely steeped in the Nazi culture, and yet we still care for him too.

Juliana is the piece that connects all these people, and it was so neat to see how she brings everything together. I particularly enjoyed watching her when she's living in the American Reich, visiting with the Smiths and learning about the Nazi ways. It was all such an epic combination of friendly and proper and utopian, and deeply, deeply disturbing.

Also pretty much the best.

The show is visually beautiful, the filming style reflecting and enhancing the smooth, sharply detailed tone. I love that even the evil was presented visually with no bias -- the magnificence of the Greater Nazi Reich shown in all its glory -- the awe of it effectively making it even more harrowing. Rich with complex characters, and a twisting, mind-boggling sci-fi plot, The Man in the High Castle continues to defy convention for unusually exceptional results.

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