Wednesday, January 30, 2019

A Look At Season Three of Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle

I’ve finally binge-watched season three of The Man in the High Castle and what I’m writing now are my initial impressions. 

First, I’ll say I liked what I saw. Although I was concerned that as they entered season three that showrunner Frank Spotznitz and his crew would have precious little left from the original Philip K. Dick novel from which to mine. The first season stayed pretty close to the novel’s plot and while season two tied up some loose ends to be close enough, what they would do with season three left me with those nagging questions.  I had speculated (and correctly as it turned out), that they might take a piece from Dick’s unpublished sequel to High Castle by exploring the concept of the Nebenwelt, or a larger multiverse.

Details, details...

I continue to admire the care and attention to detail given by Spotznitz the others behind the show to building a believable alternate world.  It’s all about the details, whether it’s the cars on the streets or the picture phone on Smith’s desk or having historical persons like J. Edgar Hoover and American Nazi leader George Lincoln Rockwell make appearances during the course of the season. It adds up to that feeling of a waking nightmare. 

Now a warning: here be spoilers. Several major character arcs came to apparent ends or transitions (with a whole multiverse in play, as we’ve seen, we can’t be too sure) and new characters far removed from the original book, are introduced. We see Tagomi and Juliana Crain draw closer as they discover they have more in common than they thought. We see the newly-minted Reichsmarschall John Smith as the ultimate survivor and careerist as he moves up the Reich’s food chain. With the death of his son and the gradual disintegration of his family throughout the third season, we can only guess what must be going through his mind. Smith is still human enough, after all, to be quietly horrified at the Nazis’ plans for Year Zero and the experiments of Dr. Mengele in his maniacal pursuit of the Nebenwelt project. There may yet still be time for him to save his soul.

The Nebenwelt welcomes careful drivers

Juliana Crain’s own character arc has intersected with that of Smith's and his family during season two. The third seasons sees her begin her relentless drive to unravel the mystery of the Nebenwelt at all costs and has her reunited with Smith, much to his chagrin and with some major revelation. 

Trade Minister Tagomi walks a fine line. He is one of a growing number of Travellers, those who the ability to cross universes (and we meet more in season three). He also represents the Empire of Japan, that we see at the beginning of the third season has just detonated its first nuclear device. Tagomi, among others, recognizes they can’t win an arms race with the Reich and begins to seek another way, which may mean a “lighter touch” and eventual liberalization of Pacific States of America. Certainly, by the end of Season Three, this realization is even dawning on people like Kenpeitai Chief Inspector Kido. 

The big news is that season four of High Castle has already been greenlit, so we will see how this all plays out. Season three ends with some major cliff hangers. I will be watching.

What’s Next?
I have a couple of projects on the go: I am currently reading the last book written by James Conroy, The Day After Gettysburg, which was published after his death. I hope to have a review on this for you soon.  As well, I will be looking at what I remember as the worst alternate history novel I’ve ever read, 1945, by Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen. Does it still earn this label? Have I been too harsh? I will let you know with a review after I’ve read it again.

In the meantime, you can help out a poor unemployed writer by purchasing Elvis Saves JFK! for just 99 cents and War Plan Crimson, A Novel of Alternate History, for $2.99 and now The Key to My Heart, also $2.99 (all are free to preview). All books -- which are already on Smashword's premium distribution list -- are also available through such fine on-line retailers such as Sony, Chapters Indigo, Barnes & Noble and Apple's iTunes Store.  Thanks.