The Man in the High Castle Season 2 Finale Explained
With season three on the way, let's revisit The Man in the High Castle season 2 finale.
This article contains spoilers for seasons 1 and 2 of The Man in the High Castle.
Anyone who has seen Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle knows that a big part of the enjoyment of the show is trying to predict what will happen to its cast of characters, both beloved and reviled. Fans also love to speculate about the true nature of the mysterious films the man in the high castle is collecting as well as the implications of the existence of the alternate worlds they depict.
This trend continues in season 2, with characters being placed in unexpected situations while adding details about the films that confound attempts to understand confidently what’s really going on. That’s not to say theories can’t be hatched, but breaking down what has been learned so far and predicting what will happen in season 3 is guesswork at best. However, an attempt must be made, focusing on the key players.
The biggest enigma of the series is Juliana Crain. Her emotional strength and moral center cause her to make humanistic rather than judgmental decisions, and she often ignores the massive consequences for herself. This quality is illustrated by Juliana’s decision to spare young Thomas Smith in season 2 as well as letting Joe Blake leave with the film in season 1, even if both flew in the face of what the resistance was trying to accomplish. Honestly, defecting to the American Reich was her only way out, despite the tenuous nature of her motivation: finding George Dixon.
Should viewers believe, as Juliana does, that Abendsen (a.k.a. the man in the high castle) gave her that detail specifically so that she would bring about Dixon’s death as depicted in the film? Although it’s true that if Dixon had survived and the New York resistance had brought down John Smith, a nuclear holocaust would have resulted, why would his death be in the same film as San Francisco being leveled? It seems as though Abendsen is able to cherry pick what’s important from the films, especially given Juliana’s appearance in many of them.
Her importance then is established in many of the alternate histories, including the one Tagomi visited (our own), although it’s not entirely clear why that should be or how Abendsen is able to decipher the films. What’s assured is that Juliana has made herself persona non grata with all of the powers that be, and The Man in the High Castle season 3 will most certainly find her living in the neutral zone with new adventures to pursue.
And speaking of Tagomi, although his storylines have always been very subdued, in some ways they are the most important. If the resistance or Hitler knew that spirituality would allow them to visit and actually witness the alternate histories depicted in the films, perhaps they would spend more time meditating and less time collecting. Just as I Ching was the instrument of truth in Philip K. Dick’s novel, Tagomi’s use of divination is his key to accessing our history.
It’s interesting that even though Tagomi’s visit to America during the Cuban missile crisis mostly causes him to focus on repairing the family his alternate self shunned, it ultimately leads him to conclude that, like the ban-the-bombers in his family, he needs to take action to prevent a disaster in his own world. Did he know that the film he brought back showing the Marshall Island hydrogen bomb test would be used to deceive the Germans into thinking the Japanese had the bomb?
This suggests the exciting possibility that a cold war will carry through into The Man in the High Castle season 3, bringing a new dynamic to the conflict, and even though the film wasn’t exactly the truth, General Onada was definitely moving Japan in that direction. But much more interesting is Tagomi’s increasingly controlled ability to cross between worlds. Will it become instrumental to the conflict moving forward? Tagomi’s trusted aide, Kotomichi, came from a destroyed Japan to a world where his country’s empire rules half the planet. Could others do the same?
But now worlds are starting to collide as season 2 ends with Lem showing up on Tagomi’s doorstep with the surviving films from the barn fire saying, “I’m a friend of Juliana Crain; can I have a word with you?” This cliffhanger seems to indicate that perhaps Abendsen does know about Tagomi’s abilities or that Tagomi appears in the films, signifying his importance in the same way it did Juliana’s. Either way, the possibilities are enticing.
A couple of the details at the end of the episode float enticingly in front of the audience like remnants from season 1 that remain unexplained. When John Smith, now a favored member of the Nazi elite, enters the vault of films, viewers feel the same bewilderment they felt when Hitler was watching a film at the end of season 1. Some even concluded that the Führer was the man in the high castle himself! Similarly, the appearance of Trudy sends the audience into fits of confusion. Is this an alternate version of Juliana’s sister, somehow crossed over from another reality?
Whatever the answers to these questions might be, The Man in the High Castle will continue to play on its audience’s discomfort. Making viewers sympathize with Nazis and root against the American resistance is part of the show’s genius, but it’s the relationships that make it possible. Although many peripheral questions linger (Is Frank alive? What will happen with Ed and Childan? What is Joe’s fate?), viewers care about these characters despite their foibles. For more information on the upcoming Man in the High Castle season 3, visit our news hub.