This review contains spoilers for The Man in the High Castle.
The Man in the High Castle Season 3 Episode 2
The second episode of The Man in the High Castle season 3 really hit the ground running, introducing new conflicts but also hitting us with some major shockers. With conspiracies and political intrigue sprouting and beginning to blossom promisingly, the pacing of the story feels very comfortable but strong, especially since the show takes time to broaden the scope of its parallel worlds idea that has been in the background for so long. As one of the best episodes of the first half of the season, it’s good to see the groundwork laid so solidly for the story to come.
On the one hand, it was refreshing to see how quickly Juliana grasps the concept of her multiple selves this early in the season. On the other hand, it’s weird that Kido and Smith, both sympathetic characters despite their questionable actions, must fight and scrap for this same information, even though Tagomi has the opportunity to explain things to the Kempeitai inspector. Oddly, Kido doesn’t press the point of Trudy, a woman he killed, being alive again, but as we see in the inspector’s interaction with his new sergeant, he’s used to playing the long game anyway.
With Smith informing Kido that Juliana is in San Francisco and the subsequent arrest and quick release of the Crain sisters, it’s no surprise that Tagomi is now on Kido’s investigation board along with members of the resistance, but what must the inspector think of the new admiral calling the shots, who seems to be in agreement with Tagomi’s more peaceful approach? It’s hard to get a read on Kido sometimes, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. With his laser focus on capturing Hagan, the audience is as puzzled by the sunrise posters as he is, which is an interesting place to be, especially since it involves Mark Sampson, the Jewish smuggler from last season.
The introduction of new storylines without explanation, in fact, can actually add to the intrigue, and such is the case here. Although Tagomi meeting an attractive Okinawan from Hawaii on the beach only hints at a future romance, it also elicits a twinge of suspicion. Likewise, it’s great to see antiquities dealer Robert Childan and Ed again, making acquisitions in the neutral zone with their characteristic lighter tone, but when an attractive stranger named Jack buys Ed a drink, viewers might be more hopefully pessimistic for Ed rather than cautiously optimistic as they are with Tagomi. Hopefully, these characters can find love in all the darkness as the season progresses!
As those couples come together, another is falling apart as John guides his troubled wife Helen to her psychoanalyst amidst talk of seances and ouija boards; could Helen actually sense Thomas is still alive somewhere because of the parallel worlds? An intriguing possibility! Meanwhile, seeing Smith attempt to navigate the suspicious nature of Raeder’s disappearance, the news of the botched raid in Denver, and the intel about Juliana hearkens back wonderfully to his poker-faced persona in season one. Although Hoover and Rockwell are correct that Smith’s family is his Achilles heel, his manipulation of the reporter Thelma and her gay husband shows that he’s no amateur at the game.
Joe Blake’s new cover position as a trade attaché is full of promise as well, and we continue to wonder whether his new role as an assassin of defectors and other political enemies is being performed under duress or with willful abandon due to his brainwashing. Does he agree with his fellow diplomats that San Francisco is a “genetic cesspool” or is he biding his time until he can find his own new angle. For now, it seems he is in full secret agent mode, even blithely avoiding the listening devices within the embassy.
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The big shockers were what really made this episode, though. The first, of course, was Trudy gaining a grasp of how to use her traveling skills to get back home. The emotional attachment the sisters have was a nice way to explain her difficulties, but having Tagomi coach her into letting go made the loose threads from last season come together quite well. The other surprise came when Helen visited Dr. Adler’s wife, who knows what John did to her husband to protect his son. The accidental killing resulting from their struggle will no doubt make a bad situation even worse, but the intrigue was well played, especially with Helen’s fragile state tied into it.
The Man in the High Castle has set up its new season with a perfect blend of new conflicts and a return to familiar characterizations. Each of the storylines has its own strengths, and although some could use further development (especially the new power structure within the Pacific States), the stage is set for some truly engaging twists and turns, both with the political drama and the parallel worlds mystery. The surprises that appeared in this episode as well as the small hints of impending romance really make this a standout episode of the season so far.