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TV Series Review

It's 1962 and all is well in America. At least as far as the Nazis are concerned.

Most of the United States is safely in the Fuhrer's collection of sycophant states—a New World outpost of fascism called the Greater Nazi Reich. After Germany dropped the bomb on Washington, D.C., and won World War II, Germany and Japan divvied the former United States between them—the Third Reich claiming the Great Plains and everything east, the Empire of the Rising Sun pocketing the Pacific time zone. A sliver of land—the Rocky Mountain region, essentially—is classified as a neutral buffer zone between these two "friendly" empires. And with Hitler's time as Fuhrer coming to a close, there's a sense inside the Nazi regime that it's time for another war—one that will push the Japanese out of North America altogether and allow the Reich to claim the States for the State.

But not everyone is content to goosestep their days away. There are those who imagine a much different America—those who believe that somewhere, somehow, such an America actually exists.

Juliana believes she's seen a glimpse of that America—one locked away on an old newsreel cryptically titled "The Grasshopper Lies Heavy" (which is a callback to Ecclesiastes 12). There, she sees images of a world where the Axis powers of World War II lost the struggle. The swastika falls from the Reichstag. The Japanese officially surrender aboard the USS Missouri. The United States is free.

Juliana's boyfriend, Frank, believes the newsreel is anti-Nazi propoganda—a fiction made up by the mysterious "Man in the High Castle"—and urges her to turn the reel over to the authorities. They don't need that sort of trouble, he says, especially since he is part Jewish.

But Juliana's not willing to capitulate so quickly. She wants to know more about this film, more about the Man in the High Castle. So she heads to Canon City, Colo.—a tiny outpost in the neutral zone—in an effort to learn. She's not alone, either: Joe Blake, another newcomer to Canon City, befriends the girl and seems helpful enough.

But in a police state where executions are as common as breakfast and Nazi spies are everywhere, it's dangerous to trust anyone—even, and perhaps especially, an average Joe.

Amazon's The Man in the High Castle is based on the novel of the same name by the late Phillip K. Dick, Hollywood's favorite science fiction writer. (Blade Runner, Total Recall and Minority Report are among the 11 movies based on his work.) High Castle is arguably Dick's most ambitious tale, earning him the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1963. But while it may be a literary triumph, it also transports readers into a grim land filled with manmade terrors.

The same can now be said for the television adaptation. Perhaps more so. Like Dick did, the show's creators want to make viewers experience, to some small degree, the horror of living under a brutal, fascist regime. We see people beaten and tortured, sometimes to death. Citizens are casually shot in the street. In one of the pilot's most chilling scenes, Joe and a police officer watch as ash flutters down like snowflakes. The policeman explains that it's coming from the hospital. "Tuesdays they burn cripples, terminally ill, the drags on the state," he says.

Few of us—hopefully none of us—would want to live in the real world painted by The Man in the High Castle. And it's a pretty uncomfortable place to virtually visit as well.


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Episode Reviews

The Man in the High Castle - Nov. 20, 2015 "The New World"



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Alexa Davalos as Juliana Crain; Rupert Evans as Frank Frink; Luke Kleintank as Joe Blake; DJ Qualls as Ed McCarthy; Joel de la Fuente as Inspector Kido; Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Nobusuke Tagomi; Rufus Sewell as Obergruppenführer John Smith; Arnold Chun as Kotomichi; Carsten Norgaard as Rudolph Wegener






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Paul Asay

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