Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Reviewing the Second Season of Amazon's The Man in The High Castle

I’ve just finished binge-watching the second season of Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle at a most precipitous time.

The first 10 episodes based on Philip K. Dick’s 1962 alternate history classic of the same name has achieved wide acclaim; the second season of 10 episodes, released this past December, is in my opinion, are equally as good, adding greater breadth and depth to the nightmare world we were introduced to last year.

Although strictly speaking most of the themes of the novel that the series was loosely adapted from were covered in the first season, the second season carries from on some key points from the novel and the first season.  Both the novel and the television series take place in an alternate dystopian 1962, where the Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany won the Second World War and have split North America and the rest of the world between themselves and are teetering on the knife-edge of a Third World War.  In the second season, we are given a guided tour of the capital of the Reich, Welthauptstadt Germania, where the final power struggle to replace an ailing Hitler is coming to a head. We also meet the sons and daughters of the Nazi elite, who are in a quiet rebellion against their elders.

The second season is not without its surprises as the cast of characters continues through their well-defined story arcs.  We also finally meet the titular Man in the High Castle, Hawthorne Abendsen. He’s a rather genial, if mystic figure. We are given hints – and hints only – of how he is able to see between realities.  The second season ends on a similar note to the first: with one the main characters seemingly in transition between worlds.

The sophomore run of The Man in the High Castle is a worthy follow on to the series’ debut season.  Once again, the show’s actors, writers, directors, and producers have put on a master-class in world-building that is both utterly engaging and utterly frightening at the same time.

High Castle's second season concludes at a time when the imagined alternate reality of Dick’s world and the reality of our own seem to be blurring. As Donald Trump is sworn into office, I find that his unexpected election as President of the United States has the ring of alternate history to it. Coupled with the rise of Donald Trump, has been the rise of intolerance against The Other that is happening not only in the United States, but around the world.  Anyone who is different – Muslim, women, black, Latino, Jews, LBGT – is now in the crosshairs of hate groups who only seem to be emboldened by the Trump victory.

I wonder what Philip K. Dick would’ve thought about the whole sad thing that is now unfolding before us. Then I look at my copy of The Man in the High Castle and I already have the answer.

Up Next:

I’ll be exploring a trio of Robert Conroy books: 1882: Custer in Chains, Germanica, and Red Inferno: 1945. (I know, I know, I said I'd do it for this month, but stuff happens.)

Meanwhile, you can purchase 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.

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