This review contains spoilers for The Man in the High Castle.
The Man in the High Castle Season 3 Episode 8
While the build-up in the second half of The Man in the High Castle season 3 hasn’t been quite as punctuated by surprising twists as the first half, the sense that events are coming to a head permeates this episode. With Sabra preparing to defend their way of life, Himmler calling Japan’s bluff, and Juliana and Frank going off on their separate missions, we’re clearly in the calm before the storm waiting for us in the finale. Even Helen Smith and Nicole Dormer are scrambling to avoid discovery in their own ways, and the anticipation is palpable.
Although it’s a shame Juliana couldn’t get the Jewish community at St. Theresa’s to believe in the film and inspire them to action, there was purpose in the exercise. It allowed the physicist of the group to verify that the blueprint Juliana acquired from Joe was a build-ready quantum transfer device to allow the Germans to cross into other realities, and it introduced the idea of sabotaging the machine to create a nuclear-level explosion. Meanwhile, with Mark’s news that the bounty hunters in town are getting more aggressive, Lila’s determination to “deal with them,” promises an exciting confrontation by the end of the season.
In any case, what would Juliana have done with anyone who had signed on for the next part of her mission? Wyatt only acquired papers for Juliana, and even those were hard won. To their credit, Juliana and Frank both questioned the black marketeer’s motives in choosing to help at such a cost to his own safety, but the subtle manner in which Frank concludes that Wyatt carries a torch for Juliana was beautifully played. Her gesture of taking one of the sunrise posters with her was heartfelt, and Frank’s insistence that they not draw out their goodbye really got the tears flowing.
Although Frank’s decision to team up with Ed and go to Denver to “do something they’ll notice” gave us hope that they might contribute to Juliana’s overall mission to disseminate a call for change, it also made us wonder how Frank’s idea might differ from his previous terrorist activities. After Juliana’s narrow escape at the GNR border with Wyatt, the danger will surely increase, but there’s a moment of hesitation as we wonder why Juliana switched gears from disseminating “The Grasshopper Lies Heavy” to focusing back on the German machine dilemma. The discomfort passes, though, since this new recon and sabotage plot is much more compelling.
Interestingly, both Helen Smith and Nicole Dormer face a danger of discovery, although Nicole’s plotline continues to feel somewhat separated from the overall story. Plus she just finished telling Thelma in the previous episode how futile it was to fall in love in this society, yet she risks being found out by going to the secret club for gay women. Is there something else going on here? Nicole’s insistence that Billy the ad guy help her bail Thelma out would seem to indicate they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, but is this story arc just an illustration of dangerous times, or is there more to it? It will be interesting to see what consequences lie in store for Nicole, Thelma, or both.
Helen, meanwhile, is understandably off balance given that her daughter’s health test has been scheduled to determine whether she carries the same genetic disease as Thomas. Speaking so freely and critically about Nazi eugenics policies might not be too dangerous for her since Dr. Ryan seems to be terrified of Reichsmarschall Smith, but Smith will brook no leverage against the family at this point. If anything, Dr. Ryan risks running afoul of Smith himself by telling him about Helen’s indiscretions, including the kiss, even though he characterized it as more chaste than it was.
But Smith has bigger fish to fry now that Himmler wants to call the Japanese bluff of threatening military action if the embargo is not ended. The JPS would seem to have the bargaining chip they needed since Tagomi, a government official and Japanese national, was attacked in his own home, but the Germans also know they have more power overall. It was a shame to see Tagomi’s date with Tamiko, the Okinawan painter, interrupted in such a manner, but the whole scene with him practicing the kasumi kata and reminding Tamiko that, though graceful, the moves are for combat was a great bit of foreshadowing for his takedown of the Lebensborn assassin.
Even Childan appears to have made a crucial mistake in telling Inspector Kido about Jack in Denver in the previous episode. Although we’re glad to see him back in his antique shop, the moment feels anticlimactic both for him and for us when he is told that the reparations are a reward for his service to the state. Oddly, we also root for Kido when he stares down the bounty hunters in Denver, but should we worry for Jack and eventually for Ed and Frank? Kido’s investigative patience is often rewarded, but we can only hope if he catches up with his prey it will be at a time when they can both see the Nazis as the common enemy.
Whatever happens, though, The Man in the High Castle is clearly setting up a series of potential conflicts that will make for an explosive finale. Whether Juliana and Wyatt succeed in destroying the quantum device or Frank and Ed find a way to make a difference elsewhere, there is no doubt that the political confrontations and the personal consequences are just around the corner. Although Juliana’s shifting motivation and Nicole’s seeming carelessness were points of confusion, the overall story is moving in just the right direction.