Usually, I don’t binge shows, largely since I’m not a huge fan of streaming. (You kids, get off my lawn!) But not long after The Man In The High Castle premiered on Amazon.com, I found myself on the other side of the country caring for a cancer-stricken family member during the day and hungry for something to watch during the evenings; so over the course of a few nights, I bit my tongue and streamed the first season … and I fell in love with the world, the possibilities, and the concept much more than I did those particular characters. In short, too many of them were more than a bit wishy-washy, clearly not quite committed to any mission but instead left responding to the demands of others. Without a clear protagonist and hamstrung by what I felt were too many cooks in the kitchen, High Castle didn’t quite coalesce into something I thought I’d stick around for too long.
Thankfully, my wife saved me some embarrassment (bless her heart!) when she suggested on vacation that we check out how issues were resolved. I cued up Season Two … and are you watching this?
There are still moments wherein characters react more than they direct the action, but thankfully Alexa Davalos (as series lead Juliana Crane) ‘manned up,’ made a few decisions, and took charge (somewhat) of her fate. In her defense, the character spent far too much of those first hours trapped between a Reich and a hard place that I honestly figured she wasn’t long for this world; perhaps that’s what the writers sensed, and they crafted her a more interested arc for Season Two.
For those of you born and raised on an island, The Man In The High Castle is a loose adaptation of a novel of the same name by SciFi visionary Philip K. Dick. (It’s often the work most cited for putting Dick ‘on the map’ as one to watch in Science Fiction.) It’s an Alternate History tale – one wherein the Third Reich created the bomb and decimated parts of the United States to end World War II – but somewhere, somehow folks dwell on a very different outcome (i.e. our reality): American survivors are smitten with a book called ‘The Grasshopper Lies Heavy,’ a banned work of fiction that suggests Germany and Japan lost the war. Naturally – for the modern audiences – the Amazon production changes the book into a series of underground films, all of which are mysterious in origin.
Now – as you can probably tell – I’m not one of those reviewers who completely fell in love with the program’s first season. To be as blunt as possible, there were moments that were downright painfully misdirected, almost as if the writers were tasked to fill out more broadcast time with unnecessary scenes and unfulfilling characters (primary and secondary). I challenge those who thought those ten hours were ‘perfect’ to go back and watch them now – especially with the greater context added in the second season – and justify such praise; outside of a few exceptional opening hours, those middle installments dragged so heavy that the narrative had little momentum, and most of the developments were far more frustrating than they were appreciably enlightening.
Lastly, here’s the icing on the cake: Amazon.com recently announced plans for a Season Three, and that’s great news for those of us who’ve finally been drawn into this conflict and joined the Resistance. Season Two certainly ends with solid cliffhangers, and who knows where they’ll go with this next time?
If you’re not watching, then why not? There’s no better time to jump aboard than the present.