I have yet to read most of Philip K. Dick’s stories, though I am familiar with a lot of them as is most of the world. From Blade Runner, Total Recall, and Minority Report, most people have known his works for quite some time. Now we come to Amazon Prime’s take on his 1962 classic, The Man in the High Castle. This ten episode series explores a terrifying but fascinating look at an alternate world brought on by a different outcome of World War II that just might be the company’s best work yet.
Legends Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Alien) and Frank Spotnitz (The X-Files) have teamed together to bring viewers this incredible series that takes place in a 1962 America that has been taken over by the Nazis and Japan following them winning World War II. The two factions have partitioned North America into the Greater Nazi Reich that controls the East, and the Japanese Pacific States that holds the West, with a neutral zone separating the two in the Rocky Mountains. The plot follows Juliana Crain (Alexa Davalos), a young woman who studies aikido in the Pacific States and lives with her boyfriend Frank Frink (Rupert Evans), an artist who is forced to make antiques in a factory instead of being able to pursue his art. One day, Juliana’s sister Trudy hands her a film reel and a location in the neutral zone to take it to before she runs away and is killed by the Japanese police.
Juliana learns that Trudy was part of a resistance that is fighting to take their country back from the Japanese and Nazis, and eventually watches the film to see an America and their allies win the war. Against Frank’s wishes, she decides to go deliver the film and get some answers from the contact that was supposed to meet Trudy. Meanwhile, a Nazi spy named Joe Blake (Luke Kleintank) manages to sneak his way into a resistance base and earn their trust to deliver another film reel to the same place Juliana is heading to. It isn’t long before the two meet, as they end up having one adventure after another trying to lay low and find out who is “The Man in the High Castle” making these films and how they’re suppose to change the world.
To make things even more interesting, a power struggle between Japan and the Nazis is going on as their fragile peace is on the brink of ruin. Nobusuke Tagomi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) the Trade Minister of the Pacific States is trying to figure out when the Nazis will strike and put a stop to it, as John Smith (Rufus Sewell) a high ranking Nazi officer is looking into how the resistance nearly killed him as his allies move in to take control over the Pacific States.
Needless to say with all of this going on, this a very heavy series to get into. It starts off a little slow, but once you reach the middle, the drama and action really begin to take off. What is bound to keep most watching is the same thing that lures people into shows such as Game of Thrones, which is the multiple, complex plot lines combined with violent action. For some like myself, what got me invested was the intriguing but horrific setting of these two factions taking over the United States and forcing their communistic way of life upon everyone. This leads to the killing of most of the sick and elderly, homosexuals, Jews, Blacks, and anyone else deemed useless or unfit that didn’t make it to the neutral zone. There’s also the outlawing of anything fun or expressive such as art and more that may make this series hard to watch for those sensitive to holocaust material.
Those who enjoy Philip K. Dick stories, history, or just entertaining shows will undoubtedly get into The Man in the High Castle. While the slow pace along with the fascinating but terrifying holocaust material will turn some away, those who brave past those things will find a well made, intriguing drama that is easily one of the best shows you’ll find out there.