The Man in the High Castle was a show I wanted to watch when I first saw it advertised 2 years ago and I just didn’t have Amazon Prime at the time. I actually became interested a few years earlier to read the book after looking into Philip K. Dick as I enjoyed some of the films made from his books like Total Recall and Blade Runner. Ridley Scott must be a big fan as well since he directed Blade Runner and returns here to produce. The show was created by Frank Spotnitz, most known for his work on The X-Files.
The easiest way to describe the show is a sci-fi thriller about an alternate history. Similar to alternative facts, I guess…but anyways. The show is loosely based on the book and takes place in the early 60’s where the Axis powers actually won World War II. This essentially divided the United States into 3 areas. The east coast is part of the Greater Nazi Reich, while the west coast is now known as the Japanese Pacific States. The is also an area in the middle around the Rocky Mountains that serves as a buffer between the 2 called the Neutral Zone. The show follows characters from both sides who form a resistance movement. They are motivated to find a series of propaganda films that have been circulating by “The Man in the High Castle” that show a different history than they are living, more like what we know in reality.
I did not finally start watching the show until right before the 2nd season was released last month. It now has 20 episodes all available on Amazon Prime. The first season was very good, but kind of a slow burn, like a spy movie. The second season is even better. The character development is much better and the story moves at a quicker pace. The first season revolves more around the resistance characters and finding out the truth about the films and if there is an alternate reality than what they are living in. The second season brought more depth to the show as the essential cold war between the sides gets heightened when a famous historical figure dies and they are pushed to the brink of a war. The second season also adds more depth to the characters of the show as some have side stories and other motivations we find out about, or their characters just evolve from the first season.
I really don’t want to give much away as far as plot points, so instead I’ll focus on the performances. Alexa Davalos is great as the lead Juliana Crain who gets pulled into the resistance movement but seems to be headed for a more important role. Luke Kleintank is also great as Joe Blake who is a Nazi double agent and actually has an interesting arc in the 2nd season. They both do a great job on the show as their characters seem to have the most importance. The standout for me though is Rufus Sewell(A Knight’s Tale)…yes that guy. He plays Obergruppenfuhrer John Smith, an American Nazi trying to infiltrate the resistance while also dealing with his own family issues. He moves up the ranks as the show progresses and really puts in a great performance. A few other familiar faces show up like DJ Qualls from Road Trip. Season 2 brought Callum Keith Rennie and Michael Hogan from Battlestar Gallactica, and Stephen Root(Milton from Office Space) as the titular character.
Once I got past the first few episodes that felt a little slow, I was hooked. My only hope is that they have an endgame in sight. I would hate for the show to drag on, so I hope they wrap it up in only maybe 2 more seasons. If you enjoy history and sci-fi, check out The Man in the High Castle, 20 episodes will fly by once the story grabs you and you can’t wait to see what happens next.