This review contains spoilers for The Man in the High Castle.
The Man in the High Castle Season 3 Episode 3
The Man in the High Castle has always been a subtly complex show teeming with suspicion and intrigue, but season 3 has truly woven a beautiful narrative tapestry with even more depth and detail in a very short amount of time. The unfolding mystery about the latest film, Smith’s incredulity about the existence of parallel worlds, and Juliana and Joe circling around each other with tentative desire are a joy to watch. The season so far almost forces viewers to lean in expectantly and with growing fascination.
A carryover from last season that still needs a little work is Kido and his somewhat unfocused loneliness. Although the idea of American women serving as geisha-like companions feels suitably ironic, the chemistry and believability for the inspector and his chosen confidante was lacking in season two and does not significantly improve here. Kido’s disconnectedness from his family isn’t nearly as compelling as his reluctant cooperation with “The Wolf” of the Yakuza, and he’s always at his best when in the field, in this case calmly identifying Joe Blake’s assassination of the German defector as merely a provocation.
Tagomi seems equally as skilled at reading a delicate political situation, and even though he knows Joe Blake’s presence in the GNR diplomatic detail is dangerous, he also realizes that the Nazi operative’s presence in the film makes him an important figure to watch. The fact that Tagomi complains to Joe about the embargo and oil shortages but then asks him to deliver a message to Smith rather than the ambassador shows he knows with whom he’s dealing. All of this careful maneuvering makes the audience cautious when witnessing his increasingly intimate interactions with the Okinawan painter.
The question becomes whether Joe showing up at Juliana’s place is a true measure of his affection and happiness at seeing her alive or rather a distraction from some game that he’s playing. Juliana admitted to Tagomi that she wasn’t sure if he was still the man she knew, and her question, “How much re-education did you have to swallow?” proves she doesn’t really trust him. But in her dreams, she hears the film version of Joe say, “It’s okay, trust me,” before shooting her in the head and then turning the gun on himself. Should she then? That discomfort in the audience’s minds really makes for a layered viewing of their scenes together.
Having Oberst-gruppenführer Smith in on the alternate realities immediately leads us to believe he might go after another world’s Thomas, but the immediate realization that the Ahnenerbe have been experimenting on travelers to produce a mechanical means of crossing over into a different version of history is chilling in its implications. It seems like the flashing lights in the coal mine of the film might be such a reality bridge, but who knows? The fun comes from speculating about what the Nazis might do with such a technology and what it will mean for the larger story. It’s a seed well planted!
Smith, of course, has other things to worry about with the coverup of Mrs. Adler’s murder. When he tells Helen that they can’t make mistakes in keeping their stories straight and the she mustn’t see her therapist anymore, it’s easy to think John himself might succeed in deceiving authorities, but there’s no way Helen will be able to carry it off. It now becomes a strangely delightful matter of waiting for a mistake to be made and watching Hoover pounce on it. We might not wish for it, but we anticipate it all the same.
And would Helen really ask Dr. Mengele what happened to Thomas at the premiere of Nicole Dormer’s film, “An American Hero”? Perhaps not, but the fact that the documentary portrays Smith as a father to a nation in the same episode that Nicole introduces the new propaganda project, “Year Zero,” in which all of American history will be erased for the new era, means Smith is on the rise whether he — or Hoover and Rockwell — likes it or not. It’s a tough spot to be in, especially once John spots his son in one of the films from Hitler’s personal archives. Can he afford the hope of a reunion at this crucial juncture with all his political enemies waiting to get at him through his wife and her misdeeds?
It’s all very exciting to speculate on, and just as the previous episode dropped the shock of the accidental murder and Trudy’s traveling on us, this episode brings us Thomas in the film and Hagan telling Kido, “Frank Frink is alive!” This double twist phenomenon is becoming something of a signature move, and it’s expertly executed once more. Plus there’s Childan’s discussion of acquiring Judaica leading to a stranger accosting Mark Sampson in search of a hidden settlement of Jews: another eye-opening development.
Is it too much to have both the Thelma and Nicole flirtation and the attempt at affection between Ed and Jack? Somehow, no. Along with Tagomi’s developing relationship with the lady painter, the growing bonds seem purposeful and in some cases leading to consequence. And that’s where this episode of The Man in the High Castle succeeds: it continues to flesh out the stakes for what’s clearly about to happen such that it doesn’t matter if some elements are predictable. We await the fallout with grim fascination.