Tuesday, March 20, 2018

TV Review: The Man in the High Castle Season 1 (2015)

The Man in the High Castle Season 1 (2015) developed by Frank Spotnitz from the novel by Philip K. Dick

The year is 1962. The place is America. The history is all wrong. The Axis Powers won World War II and have divided the defeated United States between them. Japan governs the country west of the Rocky Mountains. German governs the country east of the Rockies. A Neutral Zone lies between. All hope is not lost. Resistance movements exist in the Japanese Pacific States and the Greater Nazi Reich. Both sides have been sending contraband films into the Neutral Zone, delivering them to the enigmatic Man in the High Castle through a series of contacts. One such film comes from New York City just as the Nazis are busting in on a resistance cell. Joe Blake drives a truck out of the city with a film hidden underneath. Meanwhile, Trudy Crain in the west coast resistance plans to take a copy of the same film from San Francisco to Canon City in the Neutral Zone. She is caught and shot but not before she can pass the film to her sister, Juliana, who takes up her sister's mission through some unfortunate consequences. More unfortunate consequences follow for her family and her boyfriend and his family. All the while, the Nazis and the Kempeitai (the Japanese version of the Gestapo) plot to retrieve the films. They also plot against each other since both the Japanese emperor and Adolf Hitler are aging and seemingly on their way out. The power vacuum could spark a much larger conflict.

If all this isn't complicated enough, what the films depict is more strange--an alternate reality where the Allies have won the war. A strange, almost impossible hope is hinted at. Naturally the Nazis and the Japanese want to suppress that. But not all the Nazis and Japanese are on board with their oppressive regimes. Plenty of conflicts arise.

The story is very fascinating and well-realized in this TV series. Fallen America has a sheen of German and Japanese culture. Navigating this multicultural minefield is tricky for Juliana and Joe. They have very different motivations and struggle with how far they will go to achieve their ends. The writing is very good and the production values are stellar. The actors are very believable and the characters, even the evil ones, have plenty of nuance and three-dimensionality.

Highly recommended.

Parental warning: The show contains occasional graphic violence as well as depictions and discussions of Nazi eugenics and other atrocities. The nudity is very minimal with hardly any sex. The language is mildly R-rated--there's at least one f-bomb per episode, but not many overall.

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