You Mean You Haven’t Watched… The Man in the High Castle?
HI EVERYONE, Joe here. Sorry that there hasn’t been any TV content here since Game of Thrones but in my defence, Summer Television is a wasteland. There are some exceptions to this rule (Look out for articles coming up over the next few weeks about what you may have missed). Anyway, in proving this fact, here’s Andrew Monk talking about a show that’s been out for a while.
Have you ever wondered: What if America, Britain and the Soviet Union lost the Second World War? What if Hitler was successful in conquering all of Europe? Look no further than the Amazon ‘TV’ show The Man in the High Castle, based on the 1962 novel by Philip K. Dick. For those not familiar with Dick’s work, many of his written novels have already been adapted into iconic films, with Blade Runner, Total Recall, and Minority Report being some of the most notable. It is therefore quite surprising that it took this long to develop this show given how old the source material is. What is not surprising, however, given the reputation of other the other adaptions, is how brilliant near every aspect of this show is.
The main challenge The Man in the High Castle has to face is, in its alternate history, presenting the world. Most of it is different, but some of it is the same. The essentials to understanding this alternate 1962 is that control of the world is split between two global super powers, the Germans and the Japanese. America, where the majority of the series is set, is divided into three. The Japanese own the West of America, the Germans own the East, and between the two occupied areas there is a neutral zone serving as a buffer. And by making this ‘Cold War’, it creates something familiar with which to introduce the people living in it, who are almost all linked together through these mysterious films being delivered to the elusive, mysterious, and yet to be seen, Man in the High Castle. These films show the history we know, with the allies winning the Second World War.
The characters in The Man in the High Castle are the strongest aspect of this show. You have Julianna Crane, who runs across the country after her sister is murdered by the Japanese, and Joe Blake, who is conflicted by working undercover for the Nazis whilst trying to infiltrate the American resistance. Other Main character include Frank Frink, Julianna’s boyfriend, who has a Jewish family, John Smith, Joe’s SS uniformed boss and Nobusuke Tagomi, the Japanese Trade Minister in America.
What is great how the show uses these characters is that episode by episode you learn a little bit more about them which shines a new light on them. Whilst in the pilot they may be fairly generic and often stereotyped, thanks to events and what you learn about these people, by the end of the series you may be finding yourself rooting for their success no matter how despicable or agonisingly noble their actions have been. The story is written so well that the drama it creates in character development is not forced for the sake of moving the plot (unlike a certain Deus Ex-Machina in the recent season of Game of Thrones), and everything just sits together neatly. Ultimately, if you can be told a story where you hope to god that Hitler doesn’t die, you really are watching something quite special.
This fascinating two sided approach seems to be the main message the show wants to get across, and that people are not wholly good nor wholly evil people. The show runners get this across fairly bluntly in the shows credits, showing a film of the Nazis taking over the world, with a sweet and gentle lullaby and implied pro-Nazi lyrics playing in the background. That being said the rest of the soundtrack throughout the series is not that memorable compared to other TV shows out there and fairly lacklustre. If this could be improved and taken to the next level with more memorable themes, it would more firmly cement it as a top line TV drama.
This series seems to be one of Amazon’s lead TV shows, aiming to be perhaps on par with Netflix’s House of Cards in terms of quality. The Man in the High Castle certainly had no problems with pacing unlike House of Cards, and with little book content to dictate where the next few seasons go, it has no problems of being tied down to certain story beats unlike HBO’s Game of Thrones. This makes it one of the more promising drama shows out there right now, and with shows like the above ending in a season or two, it is well worth getting up to date on this show NOW. What’s more, an intriguing science fiction twist presented at the end of the first season was one the most agonising cliff-hangers I’ve seen in a long while.
All ten episodes of Season 2 will be out on December 16th.