The Man in the High Castle (Amazon Series)
Reviewed by Galen Strickland
The only negative I can think of at this time is there should have been fewer episodes, in fact it might have worked best as a self-contained mini-series rather than being open-ended. It's based on a very short book after all. However, I have to say I loved how this season ended, and I'm anxious to see more. It has been renewed, and while Amazon doesn't release many details, they have said this has been the most successful original they have produced. At this time, you have to be an Amazon Prime member to watch it (legally at least). They're not even offering it for sale to anyone else, but you can get a 30 day free trial if you'd like to check out this show, or any of their other offerings. Even if you cancel before the trial is up we'll still get a small commission if you use that link.
The reason I said fewer episodes would have been better is because there is a lot of repetitive action, much back-and-forth across the country for several characters, without enough extra information given during those scenes. I'm thinking six episodes would have been optimum, keeping the tension high and propelling the plot more effectively. I cannot fault anything else about the writing, nor the acting, and definitely not the production detail. Considering this is not only an alternate history, but that it is set in 1962 (as was the book), there is an interesting mix of the familiar with the bizarre. Scenes of San Francisco and New York out of old photographs, but interrupted by Japanese and German signs and buildings from this new "reality."
The setting is a world in which the Axis powers won World War 2, with Germany and Japan sharing the occupation of the U.S. The "man" in the book's title is Hawthorne Abendson, author of an alternate history novel in which the Allies won. In this show, the book becomes a series of films that show scenes of an alternate world. In both cases, "The Grasshopper Lies Heavy" (a title inspired by a Bible verse) is being repressed by the occupying government. For several reasons this change makes perfect sense. First, fewer people read now, plus a book could be shrugged off as mere fiction, not a reflection of anything real. Second, this is a video presentation, and visuals make a more immediate impact and would be harder to fake, especially when some of the films show characters we've seen, but doing things they have no recollection of happening.
As with the book, one of my favorite characters here is the Japanese trade minister (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), and he is still fascinated by a piece of jewelry crafted by Frank Frink (Rupert Evans). He acquires it in a different way, and he has several encounters with another character he never met in the book. Juliana Crain (Alexa Davalos), Frank's girlfriend, gets a job at the trade ministry. The few scenes she and the minister share are highlights, although the dialogue and interaction is subtle, but you are aware that each has made an emotional impact on the other. I could mention quite a few other characters, and the actors that bring them to life, but that might involve too many spoilers. I'll reserve highest accolades for Rufus Sewell, who plays a high-ranking German officer in New York. At first the impression is he's much like any other Nazi, obsessed with following orders and not in possession of a conscience, but he later becomes a sympathetic victim of circumstances when his family is threatened.
Other changes besides the book vs. films are evident, new characters and situations, but that's to be expected when adapting to another medium, especially when allowing the story to go farther. So, a few negatives, but overall my opinion is positive. I'm not as generous with ratings as some though. It currently has an 8.2/10 on IMDb, but I gave it a 7. That's a high rating for me, but perhaps if there had been fewer episodes and sidetracks I might raise that a point. It is recommended, and I look forward to where the adventure leads from here.
"...when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the
almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail:
because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets."
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