Sluggish Reaction: The Man in the High Castle seasons 1 and 2

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I gave Amazon Prime Video a whirl recently and one of the big draws for me (alongside them getting Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger) was this series. I love Philip K. Dick novels and they are seemingly an unending source of inspiration for  film and television producers as this latest addition shows. This is one of the novels I’ve never got round to reading but it’s Post-WW2 setting had always intrigued me as it stood out from most of Dick’s work which is set in the future. So the chance to see it on screen was very exciting.

The Plot

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I’ll try to avoid spoilers as much as possible going into this. The show is set in 60s in the U.S. a few years after Nazi Germany and Japan won the war by dropping a nuclear bomb on Washington D.C. America has been divided into the Greater Nazi Reich and the Japanese Pacific States with a lawless wasteland dubbed the Neutral Zone in between.

The Plot centres around the Resistance against both Japan and Germany, with tensions in both countries raised due to an ageing and increasingly unstable Fuhrer. But the show has a Sci-Fi twist with the inclusion of the titular character who collects films which show an alternate reality where the Allies won the war.

I respect that the show doesn’t make this a focal point except where it needs to be, the plot is centered on the characters and their struggle and the films are a mystery to most of the characters and the audience.

The Characters

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The show features a range of characters who are all compelling. Unassuming Juliana is drawn into the world of the Resistance by her sister’s death and cannot let go, though it costs her nearly everything even Frank who wants to stay out of it but is compelled to fight back as the consequences of her actions affect him. One of the most intriguing characters is John Smith, devoted family man and the very dangerous leader of the SS in the United States. All the characters have a real humanity and are trying to make their way in the world they find themselves in and you can’t help sympathizing with all of them.

A-Bombs and F-bombs

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The second season in particular builds tension as supposed allies Japan and Germany both contemplate the possibility of nuclear war to secure their foothold and characters on both sides conflict with their loyalty to their leaders when faced with the possibility of mutually assured destruction.

I would mention that the series does have a fair amount of salty language in, which I wasn’t keen on. The obvious argument would be that it builds realism and fits with the darker tone of the show but I personally felt that the series stood well enough on it’s own to not need that. There is also some nudity, which is sparingly used, but again I didn’t feel was at all necessary to the plot.

Verdict

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The show has a great cast and is finely crafted. The first season felt a bit slow in getting going (particularly with the epically long title sequence!!) but it put the building blocks in place and the second season felt stronger because of it.

I know season 3 is out now, but unfortunately for me there wasn’t enough on Prime Video for me to continue subscribing so maybe I’ll pick this up again in the future as well as get around to reading the novel!!

 

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