This review contains spoilers for The Man in the High Castle.
The Man in the High Castle Season 3 Episode 5
Nicely done, The Man in the High Castle; this is how you do the midpoint of a season for maximum excitement! This episode shows what happens when impulsive decisions are made during what amounts to a three-dimensional chess game of political maneuvering. John Smith has always been several moves ahead while unknowingly staying within Himmler’s carefully constructed plan, and Juliana Crain just made a bold move with her queen that will either decimate the board or leave her completely vulnerable to attack. If that doesn’t get viewers’ hearts racing, what will?
Clearly all of the affection and manipulation between Juliana and Joe was building to something much more violent than we could have anticipated. It’s surprising because early in the episode, Juliana appears to be trying to convince Tagomi that Joe in the film killed her in order to save her, and that still may be true if that Joe is different version of the one we know (and how could it not be now that this one is dead?). And when she later demands honesty about why Himmler let Joe live, she softens upon hearing the answer. So should we blame Joe for forcing Juliana into a corner?
Tagomi is perhaps correct that there is a Joe she can trust when he reminds Juliana, “That’s Joe in the film, not in this world.” The Joe of the show’s reality thinks that the Reich conquering every world is a dream worthy of pursuit, and he genuinely thinks he and Juliana can have a perfect life together under Nazi rule. In a sense, he was the first one to blink by putting a gun to her head and demanding to be taken to Tagomi and High Castle. Juliana had to kill him, right? And now that she has the Nebenwelt documents which refer to a “Poconos Quantum Anomalie,” the discoveries should come hard and fast in the second half of the season.
And of course the whole power dynamic has shifted for the Oberst-gruppenführer (and now acting Reichsmarschall), an impressive development for an episode that began with Smith threatening his wife’s therapist to stick to the topic of Thomas. There are plenty of real-life Hoover secrets that we know from our own version of history that John could have used to get the director to ignore the bloody button found at the scene of Alice Adler’s death, and it’s clear that Himmler knew all of John’s indiscretions regarding Thomas anyway. Now Smith just needs to make sure Helen keeps it together.
In retrospect, we should have known that Himmler was fully knowledgeable. He was the one who had Joe eliminate Raeder, a pre-emptive move apparently, and Rockwell knew the Reischsführer was grooming Smith for his job. Himmler is almost scarily good at keeping track of new developments with the Lebensborn and staying abreast of Joe’s acquisition of Wexler’s plans and a possible location on Abendsen. Even replacing the Statue of Liberty with a New Colossus for Year Zero and assassinating Rockwell in Cuba have Himmler’s stamp of approval.
The Man in the High Castle has kept to its formula of sprinkling in a couple of ongoing storylines amongst its big shockers, and the most puzzling one continues to be the illicit affair between Thelma and Nicole. Was it merely a contrivance to provide Smith with leverage against Hoover? And what of Childan and Ed? The bit with the John Wayne belt buckle was certainly amusing, and it may just save their financial ass, but is Ed going to find his happy ending with hunky Jack in Denver? Future episodes will hopefully provide clarity.
Meanwhile, Frank’s inner turmoil provided a nice contained storyline in this episode that may lead to heroic things for the ex-terrorist. The bar mitzvah for which Mark is helping Frank prepare will be a great way to frame whatever redemption arc is being readied for him. Frank may not think he can truly atone for what he did, and although it’s admirable that he wants to protect the Sabra community from the Yakuza that are after him on behalf of Kido, Mark makes a good point when he says that having your future in doubt “is what it means to be a Jew.” The vote in favor of letting Frank stay, therefore, was an inspirational way to introduce what will no doubt be his new resolve.
The Man in the High Castle has really been on its game this season, but this episode stands out as one of its best. The show continues to surprise us with unexpected turns for both Juliana and John, and the political intrigue is much more believable and calculated than the chaotic conspiracy of season two. We can’t help but wonder when the parallel worlds will come into the picture and what role Frank and perhaps a different Joe will play in the second half, but the setup has been nearly perfect. Full speed ahead!