Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Man in the High Castle Season 3 Features Slow Burns and Big Twists

Season 3 of Amazon's Man in the High Castle came out last September or so and I watched it last fall.  As a recap, the series takes place in the early 60s in an America where the Axis won WWII and split the USA between the Nazis and Japanese, with the Rockies as the dividing line basically.  In the first season a woman named Juliana Crane is given a film that shows our universe where the Allies won.  This is distributed by the "Man in the High Castle" and shortly after Juliana gets the film, her sister is killed by the Japanese.  Meanwhile a German double agent named Joe Blake joins up with her to find the source of these films.  In New York, Obergruppenfuhrer John Smith is trying to track down the Man in the High Castle.  In Japan the just as evil detective Kido is trying to find Juliana.

In season 2 Juliana found out that the Man in the High Castle was a guy named Hawthorne Abdensen (Stephen Root) who's being given these films by "travelers" from other dimensions.  Such a traveler is the Japanese trade minister, who goes to our universe where Juliana is married to his son, who hates him for being too old school.  Meanwhile, Adolf Hitler finally dies and Joe Blake is recruited by his father to help him take power.  But Smith is on the other side and helps stop Joe and his father and installs Heimrich Himmler into power.  But back in New York, his son surrenders to authorities because he has some genetic disorder (like MS or something) that means in the Nazi world he has to be put down.  At the end of the season, Juliana is visited by her sister while her former boyfriend blows up the Japanese police headquarters in San Francisco and is dead--so we think.

The first episode of season 3 helps to recap the prior season and it just kind of tells you where everyone is.  Juliana and her sister stay with the Man in the High Castle on a ranch in Colorado.  Joe Blake is in a Nazi prison, being "reeducated."  The only way he can get out is to kill his own father, which he does.  John Smith has a new job (with some other long German word for it) and a new Manhattan apartment, but his wife is not taking the death of their son well.  There's tension between the Germans and Japanese with the Nazis cutting off oil supplies to the Japanese.  The trade minister has to find some way to get the flow going again to avert war.

After killing his father, Joe Blake is assigned by Himmler to kill Nazi defectors in Japan who were part of a project to build a device to traverse the multiverse.  Juliana has some dreams about this multiverse and starts seeing memories of her lives in other dimensions.  In one she's taken to a mine by the Nazis, including Joe Blake, who shoots her.  When Nazi agents raid the ranch in Colorado, Juliana and her sister go into Japanese territory, where they're captured by Kido until the trade minister springs them and takes them to his house.  Juliana's sister soon goes back to the dimension she came from, one where Juliana was dead instead of her.

Joe kills a former Nazi scientist and retrieves the plans for the device, which has some German name.  Then he meets Juliana again and she finds the plans among his stuff and realizes what it's for from her visions.  And then comes one of the first big twists:  Juliana locks herself in a bathroom and when Joe bursts in after her, she slits his throat with a straight razor.  To which I shouted, Damn!  That was totally unexpected.  Down goes Joe!

Meanwhile, John Smith is facing a crisis.  His boss, the Reichsmarshal, is worried Smith will take his spot so he has J Edgar Hoover (who works for the Nazis) digging up dirt on Smith's attempts to get his son taken to South America so he wouldn't have to be killed.  The Reichsmarshal brings Smith in to see Himmler, planning to expose him but then another twist:  Smith has gotten to Hoover (presumably with pictures of Hoover's cross-dressing) and turned the tables on the Reichsmarshal.  And so Smith does get the guy's job.  In a Godfather-like twist, the former Reichsmarshal goes to Cuba where an assassin hired by Smith kills him.

Now that she has the plans for the machine, Juliana goes to Colorado again with a former resistance fighter named Wyatt Price to get some fake IDs to get into Nazi territory.  There she meets her boyfriend Frank's assistant Ed who's shacking up with some guy and she finds out that Frank is alive!  He's living in the mountains with some Jews hiding from the Nazis.  He's even had a bar mitzvah.  Part of his face was burned in the bombing the previous season so he looks kind of like Two-Face.  They spend a night or two before Juliana and Wyatt head east to the Poconos in Pennsylvania.

In Nazi territory, Himmler and company have declared it "Year Zero."  As part of this celebration they're destroying US landmarks like the Lincoln Memorial, the Liberty Bell, and even the Statue of Liberty.  There's a young German filmmaker directing the filming of all this and she hooks up with some reporter chick for a gratuitous lesbian plot that really doesn't add much.  Meanwhile, Smith's wife is still recovering from her son's death, which is made worse because her oldest daughter just had her period and is facing a blood test that could lead to her too having to be killed.  Smith has been spending time watching some of the Man in the High Castle's movies Hitler had that show other universes where Smith's son is still alive.  In one of them Smith and his son are chatting and then MLK comes on the screen, probably to give his "I Have a Dream" speech.

Smith gets a call from the trade minister, who wants to talk to him in secret.  They go to the Man in the High Castle's former ranch.  The trade minister turns over some of the documents Juliana left from Joe Blake and some other information so that Smith will get Himmler to turn on the oil spigots again.  While there, Smith finds a picture of the Man in the High Castle and his wife and has someone look up other ranches in the area.  They're able to then find the Man's wife and capture her, which leads to him being brought in as well.

About the same time, Kido goes undercover in Colorado and finds Frank.  He takes Frank to an old internment camp and chops his head off with a sword.  No coming back from the dead this time.

Smith and Himmler go to the Poconos to watch a testing of the machine down in a coal mine shaft.  Juliana, Wyatt, and a couple of resistance people are also there, sneaking in from a closed mine shaft.  They all watch as four volunteers are taken into the shaft and three of them are splattered.  The fourth, a young woman, just disappears and doesn't come back.

Juliana and company are discovered and she's captured while trying to escape.  Back in New York, there's a big celebration as the Statue of Liberty is blown off its moorings by Nazi jets.  In a scene that's eerily similar to Charlottesville, Nazi kids take to the streets with torches shouting "Blood and soil!"  Himmler is enjoying this until he's shot from a nearby building by a sniper with Wyatt as a spotter.

The assassination didn't come as a surprise really.  They had already said it was 1963 and shown the Buddhist monk immolating himself like what happened in South Vietnam in our universe.  So I wondered if Himmler might take a trip to Dallas, but it was just in New York.

John Smith goes home to find his wife has absconded with their two remaining kids.  He goes to a beach house where she was supposed to have gone, but she's not there either.

Smith visits the Man in the High Castle in his cell and he finally drops a big secret about the traveling:  the one who didn't die in the experiment most likely was dead in the universe she traveled to.  That's the only way someone can travel between dimensions--if they don't exist there anymore.  You can't have two of the same people in the same place.  But Juliana is the only one who can see between the dimensions.  So any hope for the Nazis to invade our world or others in force is pretty well dashed.

Then Smith goes to Juliana's cell where she's meditating like Yoda and shaking the walls.  He realizes she's about to travel and shoots her in the chest.  There's a bloody spot left on the wall before she disappears.  The season ends with Wyatt using connections with a smut movie producer to have one of the Man in the High Castle's films copied in mass to distribute all over the country.  To fuel hope or whatever.

And that's it!  Not even a hint of where Juliana went.  Kind of frustrating because I'd have to wait about a year to find out what's going to happen now.

My theory is that Juliana will go to the world her sister went to, the one where she doesn't exist.  That follows what Abdensen told Smith about traveling.  Meanwhile Himmler will probably die and John Smith will succeed him as the fuhrer, which will probably lead to him having his wife found and killed in an "accident."  And/or he'll find someone to kidnap his son from another world to bring back or maybe he'll find a way to go there himself.

Besides that the episodes often move at a glacial pace, the other major problem is there wasn't that much of interest happening on the Japanese side.  Ed, his boyfriend, and a business partner are going to spread some paintings Frank made around to stir up local angst, but there really isn't anything big going on there.  It seemed like there might be another World War between the two superpowers but like the Cuba Missile Crisis that fizzled.

It definitely will be interesting to see what happens on the Nazi front next year with their machine and potentially losing another fuhrer.  I'm not sure how many seasons they're planning to do but unlike Game of Thrones this surpassed the book a long time ago so it's all uncharted territory.

A couple of Fun Facts:  In the fourth Wingman book Thunder in the East the Soviets had a sort of "Year Zero" thing where they were taking not just American artifacts like the Constitution but also anything that might remind people of the good ol USA like baseball bats and footballs.

Juliana is kind of like Joanne in the Scarlet Knight series.  Joanne had a unique ability where she could see and talk to the other versions of herself in parallel universes.  She did eventually even travel to other universes.

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