The Man in the High Castle, Season Two (2016)
Reviewer: Charity Bishop
Have you ever thought something was darn near perfect? You want to tell everyone about it, but also to horde it as your own personal treasure trove of delight. That's how I feel about this season of The Man in the High Castle. It's pretty darn near perfect. I was continually torn between wanting to sit down and do nothing but watch all the episodes and the agonizing knowledge that once I reached the end, there'd be no more for a year. I paced myself. Sort of.
After permitting Joe Blake (Luke Kleintank) to escape with the film, the Resistance wants Juliana Crane (Alexa Davalos) dead. But before they execute her as a traitor, they take her to a mysterious barn in the middle of nowhere to meet the Man in the High Castle. He interrogates her and shows her a film... leaving her a trail to follow that will cause her to defect into the Third Reich. This causes her to fall into the hands of Nazi officer John Smith (Rufus Sewell)... who has secret designs of his own that involve Juliana, and is also desperately trying to decide what to do about his "defective" son. Juliana hopes to find Joe in New York... but he's gone to Berlin to meet someone of vital importance, and after learning the truth about his upbringing, Joe is uncertain what to do with his life.
Meanwhile, Trade Minister Tagomi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) is experimenting with traveling between worlds. Since seeing a world without Nazi and Japanese occupation, he's curious as to whether his wife and son survived -- and goes in search of them. Juliana's boyfriend Frank (Rupert Evans) sets out to rescue his friend Ed (DJ Qualls) from incarceration, bartering away their lives in the process -- and becomes involved in the Resistance himself. Over the course of ten episodes, loyalties shift, motives change, and a massive conspiracy unravels as Adolf Hitler dies warm in his bed... changing the world forever.
The sheer amount of detail and historical knowledge that goes into this alternate history universe continues to be incredible; the show consults with WWII historians to ensure meticulous accuracy into the minds and cultures of these two societies, and then expands on it to create a frighteningly distant, surreal world devoted to the "Master Race." The characters engage your emotions (some with empathy and loyalty, others with disgust) and continual twists and turns keep you on the edge of your seat. It's hard to stop watching -- and the final episode is such a brilliant accumulation of plot lines it leaves you hanging on the edge of your seat for more.
What I like most about it is its humanization of even the Nazis -- Smith and his family are nuanced, multi-dimensional and empathetic, despite representing a mindset that is utterly devoid of personal compassion. Some characters are selfish, others unselfish, but the heroine is truly a good person -- and in modern television, that's hard to find.
One episode features background nudity (topless women); two sex scenes (no nudity; people kiss and remove one another's clothes, one lasts longer than the other before it fades out). Mention of mistresses. A man pays a hooker to say nice things to him in Japanese.
Lots of f-words. Several abuses of Jesus' name and uses of GD. Scattered profanities.
People are shot in the head (bloody); various scenes of executions; bombs go off, leaving carnage.
Characters take LSD and hallucinate; other characters get "high" on marijuana cigarettes.