This review contains spoilers for The Man in the High Castle.
The Man in the High Castle Season 3 Episode 4
This episode of The Man in the High Castle proves that you can’t always predict where the show is headed or what new ingredients it will introduce even when the end results seem perfectly logical. Joe and Juliana continue their dance of love and deception while more details come out about the film that has become the focus of the season. Even the story in the neutral zone gets a bit of welcome expansion as we learn more about Frank and follow the misadventures of Childan and Ed. It all flows together very nicely and gives us hope for intriguing twists to come as we near the second half of the season.
Although we’re not certain what the sunrise paintings are meant to accomplish other than inspiring the masses with a symbol, the fact that Frank is the one painting the image is a satisfying bit of redemption for his terrorist acts last season. The hidden Jewish community is a powerful reminder of what must have been an even more devastating Holocaust in this alternate history, and their close call with the bounty hunter brings this particular storyline to an interesting crossroads. How will Frank, a key player in the first two seasons of The Man in the High Castle, rejoin the narrative?
Meanwhile, the bond between Juliana and Joe appears to be growing tenuous even as they rekindle their romance, perhaps for manipulative reasons. Even as they clear the air and catch up on what has happened since they parted ways in the season 1 finale, Juliana lies about being in the resistance just as Joe lies about caring about the films. Whereas Juliana is clearly fishing for clues about the Lackawanna project she’s glimpsed in her visions, she also is mostly forthcoming with Joe about having memories of another life. It’s a weirdly hypnotic game of cat and mouse.
The false nature of their affection also highlights the depth of Joe’s indoctrination. He grabs her in the midst of an oil embargo protest (an act unthinkable before the admiral insisted the Kempeitai take a lighter touch with their reprisals) and referred to the monk’s self-immolation as a “desperate act” of a pointless resistance, oblivious to Juliana broader attention to the human condition. He may not understand Wexler’s equations in the “Die Nebenwelt,” but he must know that this “Next World” is the other existence Juliana is referring to. It all forces us to wonder what he will do with the intel that Juliana is wrapped up with his target, Tagomi, somehow.
And obviously, it was Joe following Tagomi during his visits to the lady painter. Although the budding romance for Tagomi has been a welcome subplot, an argument could be made for moving things along in that regard. At first, there were suspicions that the Okinawan lady might be a resistance operative entrapping the trade minister, but here we find out she supposedly didn’t even know Tagomi was a man of some importance in the JPS. In any case, their quiet enjoyment of each other’s company provides a nice contrast to the troubling final circumstance in which Tagomi finds himself, being held at gunpoint by a faintly reluctant Joe Blake.
The shocking twists seem to come in pairs in this season of The Man in the High Castle, but it was quite unexpected for the other surprising misfortune to befall Robert Childan and Ed McCarthy upon their departure from Denver. Earlier reviews related suspicions about Ed’s admittedly anachronistic flirtation with Jack, but now it seems the encounter was designed to frame his reluctance to leave this life of impoverished freedom against Childan’s desire to return to the civilized life in the restrictive Pacific States. The bandits who relieve the pair of their antique acquisitions may have been self-serving, but the robbery seems to reinforce Ed’s view of pursuing a more meaningful life.
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It’s an interesting choice to also include a same-sex dalliance between Nicole and Thelma, and it’s becoming more difficult to maintain suspicion of ulterior motives. Certainly as a propagandist, Nicole can use Thelma to spread the gospel of “Year Zero,” and the reporter does appear to genuinely admire the filmmaker’s vision for making the dismantling of American monuments “more kinetic,” but it’s difficult to predict where this relationship will lead. In that sense, it’s partly enticing but mostly puzzling.
The unpredictability of Smith’s story arc is another matter. Smith’s awakening to the idea of parallel worlds is pure enticement as he replays the film containing another version of Thomas, still alive. The Oberst-gruppenführer is clearly haunted by visions of his complicit past with the Nazis, who appear to have engaged in ethnic cleansing in the Jewish quarters of Cincinnati if Smith’s dreams are to be believed. It’s unclear what John will make of Raeder’s death now that he knows it was not at rebel hands, but the catalyst is in place for Smith to make further discoveries that will preclude his need to keep Helen from receiving therapy from Dr. Ryan.
With Tagomi’s fate in the balance and Childan and Ed stuck on the road outside of Denver, this episode of The Man in the High Castle, like several before it, is designed to encourage a continuing binge. Even enticements like Kido searching for Frank with the Yakuza or Juliana flirting with Wyatt (now known as Liam) tease deeper storylines to come. The season has been a series of reveals with varying levels of impact, keeping things fresh, exciting, and unpredictable. As long as all of the dangling threads get tied up, we’re all in.