Tuesday, January 03, 2017

TV Tuesday: The Man in the High Castle

This holiday hiatus time is always challenging for TV fans, like my husband and I, as most of our favorite fall/winter TV shows have been on a break. This year, after all the mid-season finales (when did that become a thing?), we turned to streaming. We are enjoying the 5th and final season of one of our long-time favorites, The Wire, which is available for free on Amazon Prime (all five seasons) and is excellent. We have also been watching the newly released second season of The Man in the High Castle, an Amazon Original series that is an intriguing alternate history, based on the novel by Philip K. Dick.

The basic concept of this very original story is that the Allies lost WWII. The U.S. never dropped the atomic bomb on Japan (or anywhere else), and the Nazis won the war. In this alternate history, set in the early 1960's, the Nazis control the eastern U.S., and Japan controls the western Pacific states. In this scenario, Japan and Germany split the U.S. into these two power territories, with a narrow strip left in the middle and known as the Neutral Territories. As the show begins in season 1, we see glimpses of both of these empires.

In Nazi-ruled New York City, Joe Blake, played by Luke Kleintank, leaves with a cargo truck for neutral Colorado. He seems to be a resistance fighter, and once he is on his way, both he and the viewer find that his hidden cargo is a film canister. Meanwhile, in Japan-controlled San Francisco, a young woman named Juliana Crane, played by Alexa Duvalos, sees her sister killed in the street in front of her. Her sister leaves behind a bus ticket to Colorado and a film canister. Confused, shocked, and grieving, Juliana gets on the bus with her sister's ticket to find out what she was involved in. She discovers that the film shows a different version of the end of the war, with the Allies winning and the Nazis defeated. She and Joe meet in Colorado, both of them afraid to trust anyone.

That's just the beginning of the first episode - to describe much more of the plot would ruin the fun, since this show is filled with roller coaster twists and turns. Each episode shows more of what life is like both in the Nazi east and in the Japanese west, as both Joe and Juliana try to figure out what's going on and what these strange films mean. There are plenty of other interesting characters, including Juliana's boyfriend Frank, played by Rupert Evans, the Japanese Trade Minister of the Pacific United States, played by Nobusuke Tagomi, and the Nazi commander Obergruppenf├╝hrer John Smith, played by Rufus Sewell, who actually seems like a decent, normal guy as he enjoys his wife and children at home.

This concept of an alternate history is intriguing and compelling, and the films of a different outcome (the one we are familiar with) hint at multiple realities. Besides the engrossing plot that constantly keeps you guessing, the acting and writing are superb, and the sets of a Japanese-controlled California and a Nazi-run New York are fascinating. We are hooked on this show that combines science fiction, history, and suspense and can't wait to see what happens in this second season. Incidentally, my husband read the book the show is adapted from but didn't really like it much. He likes the TV version better, as it fleshes out the concept better.

The Man in the High Castle is an Amazon original series so is shown exclusively on Amazon Prime.

Have you seen The Man in the High Castle yet? Have you read the book?



    



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