As a fan of alternate-history stories in general and The X-Files in particular, I’ve been eagerly awaiting to watch the new TV series created by Frank Spotnitz, whose past collaborations with Chris Carter have yielded some of my all-time favorite small-screen moments (Millennium, The X-Files).
Opening with the propaganda film that declares, “It’s a New Day,” this dystopian version of New York City in 1962 looks very different from the one shown in old schoolbooks. In the world of The Man in the High Castle, the United States was on the losing end of World War II and the Axis Powers have cohabited U.S. soil, with the Greater Nazi Reich comprising the majority of the country, the Japanese Pacific States taking over the West Coast and the lawless Rocky Mountain States acting as a buffer in between, also known as the Neutral Zone. Based on the novel by acclaimed science-fiction author Phillip K. Dick, in this world FDR has been assassinated, German technology is superior to all other countries and the underground American resistance group hopes to fight all odds in order to overthrow its captors.
Setting the tone of the TV series, not a word is spoken by an on-screen character for the first four and a half minutes before 27-year-old Joe Blake (played by Luke Kleintank) introduces himself as the newest recruit for The Resistance of East New York. Given orders to meet up with his contact in Canon City, Colorado, Blake is sent on a cross-country road trip. In San Francisco, Juliana Crain (Alexa Davalos) receives a mysterious newsreel entitled The Grasshopper Lies Heavy. After watching and rewatching the film, Juliana has a spiritual awakening and blindly joins The Resistance by replacing her half-sister and traveling to Colorado, not knowing, exactly, what she has gotten herself into. Both Joe and Juliana are quite sneaky, which is a necessary trait for those characters.
“Fate is fluid. Destiny is in the hands of men.”
In this universe, there’s an air of desperation and hopelessness, with elements of Big Brother constantly hovering around nearby. Freedom feels like a four-letter word. Oddly enough, both the Germans and the Japanese speak in English and never in their native tongues. There’s no subtitles and the show feels too American, in that aspect. There’s great period costumes, incredible dialogue and an engrossing atmosphere on display in the first episode, The New World. I kept expecting a big, explosive event to take place during the pilot, but it never really happens. It’s only a secret revelation, left as a cliffhanger. Expect to watch long episodes, as each one is commercial free, logging in approximately 15 to 20 minutes longer than anything found on network or cable TV.
History, as we know it, seems to be changing every day. With the TV show Hunting Hitler redefining the last moments of World War II, paired with this Phillip K. Dick adaptation, Nazis seem to be quite the pop-culture trend, lately. This series proposes a fascinating “What If” scenario that very well could have become a reality. After watching the pilot, I’m preparing to binge the final nine episodes before my trial subscription ends.
Season 1 of The Man in the High Castle received a 10-episode order and Amazon has already approved the series for Season 2 after proclaiming the episode the “most watched pilot ever.” Other than signing up for temporary 30-day trials for free two-day shipping, I’d never used Amazon Prime to watch TV shows before. Watching a TV show on a computer is never ideal, especially with a hit-or-miss Internet provider, but with the advent of Amazon Studios and quality entertainment provided like The Man in the High Castle, Netflix may have some serious competition in the near future and I may have to regularly plan on subscribing to the service.
– “How do you feel about pain?”
– “I found the reason… for everything.”
– “You want to help? Don’t ask questions.”
– “You’ll never see us again. That’s how it works.”
– “I can’t even remember what we were fighting for.”
– “Technology is not the measure of a great civilization.”
– “Do you have a problem with beating a man to death?”