The Man in the High Castle - Reviewed
Written by Shivansh Shandilya
The year is 1962.
The Axis powers have been in power for the last 16 years.
That is when the events following the successful assassination of President-elect Roosevelt in 1933 by the Italian immigrant, Joe Zangara, unfold. The US continues to be held by the dominions of the German-controlled Greater Nazi Reich (GNR) and the Japanese-controlled Japanese Pacific States (JPS), separated by the Neutral Zone in the middle. But tension is afoot.
Führer Hitler is aging and Parkinson’s seems to be exacerbating his situation. His peace treaty with the Japanese is now under threat from members of his own party who rush to take his place and employ the superior German technology to go on the offensive against San Francisco (the Japanese capital). The problems in the region escalate further when “the Man in the High Castle” seems to be collecting new tapes. Juliana Crain stumbles upon one, which shows something really strange. It shows all the Nazi symbols being taken down and destroyed, US soldiers coming back home to their emotional families, and the Allies winning the Second World War. This is the premise of Amazon Studios’ US dystopian, alternate history web television series — The Man in the High Castle.
If you are a history buff, or just someone who appreciates quality shows, this one is tailor-made for you. Based on Philip K. Dick’s 1962 novel of the same name, this sleeper hit grabs your attention from the get-go. What pulls you in is the attention to detail that this show gets right. What keeps you hooked, other than the obviously well-paced story, excellent cinematography, gripping screenplay, and tight plot, is the dilemma you find yourself in — as you root for someone you know was involved in the Holocaust or other gray characters with questionable, ulterior motives.
I watched in horror as the reality of the show settled down on me. I realized that when you are the victor, you can control the narrative of history. A German family in the middle of New York, for instance, who believes in the messed-up ideas of race superiority, ethnic cleansing, and chauvinistic ideas defining the role of women in the Aryan community (childbearing, in case you’re wondering), seem completely normal and like any other family you’ve come across. This could be, in part, because the show is set in a time when the dust has settled and we’re able to see what a post-war, stable, and prosperous community looks like, and partly because of our fixation with rooting for characters. Either way, it makes you question reality as you know it, and you find yourself wondering how much of what you think you know to be true about the world, is perhaps the result of a brilliant marketing strategy.
Personally, for me, this show was a history lesson; even if the history in question is based in a parallel universe. The intermingling of American, Japanese, and German ideas and events is masterfully executed as bounty hunters co-exist with the Kempeitai, Gestapo, Yakuza, and the SS. Important issues of race and orientation also take center stage at different times. The show’s creator Frank Spotnitz knocked it out of the park with this one. Special mentions must also be made for Alexa Davalos, Joel de la Fuente, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Rufus Sewell, and Jason O’Mara for their brilliant acting and believable portrayal of the characters. Cinematographers Hawkinson and Amat were clinically faultless. The opening theme “Edelweiss”, performed by Jeanette Olsson, and composed by Jackman and Lewis, is eerily beautiful and you find yourself conflicted when the song comes on, whether to skip it or just immerse yourself in its haunting effortlessness.
The Man in the High Castle is rated:
8.0/10 on IMDb
81% average audience score on Rotten Tomatoes
If you want to watch it, the show is available on Amazon Prime.