The second season of Amazon Prime's critically-acclaimed The Man In The High Castle matches the lofty heights of the first run by taking the story into fascinating new avenues and raising even more questions.
Over on the West Coast, we meet a Resistance leader who grew up in Manzanar, the Japanese Internment Camp. While in our timeline Japanese Internment camps are defended in letter to The New York Times, in hers, she is seen as a traitor to Japan for growing up in America, and traitor to the former United States because of her Japanese heritage. She has higher status than the white citizens, and can pass as full-Japanese if she chooses to dress a certain way and use a precise accent, but she knows that the Japanese who occupy the Pacific States hate her as much as they hate the rest of the former Americans.
If you're looking for an alt-history series to help escape from our current reality, look no further than The Man in the High Castle. The Amazon original series returns for its second season this Friday, just in time to binge all ten episodes over the weekend. And it certainly is a binge-worthy show. In fact, I highly recommend revisiting the first season of the series -- inspired by Philip K. Dick's Hugo Award-winning novel of the same name -- because there is a lot going on here. Season 2 adds another wrinkle to an already complex interweaving of multiple narratives, so it might be a tough task for new viewers to jump in without context. But if you take the plunge, you'll be rewarded with a viewing experience unlike anything else on TV at the moment.
The first season of The Man in the High Castle started off with an enticing hook that forms the foundation of the show itself. The story is set in 1962 in an alternate history in which the Axis powers won World War II and divided up the United States into three zones: the Japanese Pacific States, occupying all territories west of the Rocky Mountains; the Greater Nazi Reich, comprised of the eastern two-thirds of the former U.S.; and a neutral zone that exists as a buffer region between the two. That setup alone provides a rich source of narrative material and an instant hook that helps to separate The Man in the High Castle from the myriad of other Peak TV shows right now. But it's the strength of the characters and the highly competent and engaging actors' performances that keep audiences coming back.
The second season (as of the first five episodes available for review) follows the continuing and increasingly perilous interactions of Juliana Crain (Alexa Davalos), Frank Frink (Rupert Evans), Joe Blake (Luke Kleintank), John Smith (Rufus Sewell) and Nobusuke Tagomi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) as they each pursue their own personal quest for truth and justice. It's nearly impossible to pick a favorite here. Each of the characters have their own personal demons that complicate the achievement of their individual goals: Juliana's search for answers regarding the controversial film "The Grasshopper Lies Heavy" leads her to an ill-fated meeting with the title character and leaves her in more danger than ever; Frank's quest for justice begins to take a turn towards vengeance as he schemes to free Ed (DJ Qualls) from certain death; Joe's narrow escape in Season 1 puts him on a rather revealing journey of self-discovery; John is faced with an impossible decision as he's caught between family and Führer; and Tagomi moves beyond his earlier schemes to embrace and explore his newfound ability to travel between alternate realities.
Somehow The Man in the High Castle made tangential and mostly annoying first season characters Childan and Ed into the subtle everyman heroes of Season 2. While Frank was off being an ornery Resistance operative, Childan and Ed found themselves embroiled in some bad Yakuza business and weaseled their way out when a merciful Yoshida discovers their involvement and lets them go free. But before the big Kempeitai bombing, Frank convinces them to leave San Francisco for their own safety, with Childan last seen peering out of a coach bus window going over the Golden Gate Bridge as smoke billows from the Kempeitai HQ in the distance. 781b155fdc