The Bounty Hunter
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The Illustrated Woman was anything but illustrious. An episode constructed solely to be a filler, all of the pilot’s problems come rushing back to manifest themselves here, except for the opposite pace. Little of consequence happens in this episode, and when it largely does, it does on the backs of such a stupid and ill-advised character, it’s hard to take any of it seriously at all. In a series set within the construct of the Axis powers winning the Second World War, that’s a significant problem. When that storyline is dealing with your protagonist, it can be catastrophic to the legitimacy of the entire narrative. Let me put it into perspective, even if it’s probably already too obvious to begin with. The Greater Nazi Reich and the Japanese Pacific States, even if one is clearly more dominant than the other within the show’s universe, have unlimited resources at their disposal. Both governments would have espionage agents running constantly throughout the world as expected, but they would be numerous and they would expectedly be competent. Some would obviously be more competent than others and certainly there would be a reasonable expectation that the middle echelons of the Nazi government would be ubiquitous with bureaucrats trying to outwit one another to gain the most favor through their various espionage agents. Sadly, we haven’t seen much of the Nazi government outside of Obergruppenführer (that’s a joy to spell) Smith for that to become a thing (although that sounds like a narrative too good to miss), so instead we get the Marshal and immediately the episode plunges into mediocrity.
The Marshal is easily the most obnoxious, ridiculous, stupid character in this series. Yes, we are only three episodes into High Castle and there has been a plethora of moments already where I’m rolling my eyes significantly, but nothing, nothing has even come close to when the first camera shot lands onto the Marshal and you know exactly where this is going. As soon as he utters his first piece of dialogue, the groans begin and they are never ending. Burn Gorman, who has appeared on screen as if his very existence was ubiquitous, is noted for his appearances in Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim and as traitorous Night’s Watchman Karl from Game of Thrones. With the right material, Gorman can pull in a great performance. Here he simply can’t get up to the task and the script plus the voice dubbing just shell him into the ground. The existence for his character is logical in one sense – the Nazis would of course have bounty hunters and assassins to do their dirty work for them. But one would expect that they actually be able to shut their mouth and be good at their job. The Marshal is the complete opposite, mouthing off his horrid dialogue as if he was trying really hard to do a Western parody but somehow ended up making it semi-serious. It’s almost difficult to understate how awful this character is and not in any of the right ways.
Running away constantly from this idiot of a gunslinger whose arrival can be heard from about fifteen kilometers away are Joe and Juliana, whose story here becomes imminently less interesting than the episode preceding it. The slow pace of Sunrise seemed like a blessing after the hectic pace of the pilot but here the show seems to have taken the cliché of “too much of a good thing” and run with it. The rapport between what have ostensibly been designed to be the series’s two main protagonists was actually a bit livened in the previous week but here it resorts a bit quickly into a semi-deadpan, where the sparks of chemistry seemingly hit an unfortunate brick wall and fizzled out. The two of them are hiding dastardly secrets between them, but a problem so far is that Juliana’s basically opened her diary up to him and Joe seems content to espouse a couple of facial expressions meant to portray his guarded nature, I suppose. That imbalance gives a decent chunk of the tension between the two of them away here and it is slightly disappointing that Juliana isn’t learning as much about her fellow as he is about her. The sequence of the two of them throwing the body into the river was an effective one, however, showcasing their teamwork in a quiet and knowing fashion without going overboard, which is something other storylines could use some help in.
The most intriguing part of High Castle so far is the Japanese political faction. The most consistent players since the pilot episode, the Japanese have received a treatment the Nazi characters have not, in that they are actually a complex and intriguing bunch who receive actual character and plot development. The new players that arrive in San Francisco are the Crown Prince and Princess of the Japanese Empire, the two of them well aware of the precarious geopolitical position they are placed within. The Crown Prince noted that the military had been given far too much power within the realms of the war and if there’s anything anyone who has ever bothered to read a history book in relation to militaries and their relationships to governments, is that militaries rarely agree to let go of power once it has been seized or given. To remove the Imperial family of Japan would be too grave of an insult and misstep in a nation where ceremonies and traditions have such a vital role, but they appear to be marginalized to an extent here and that discontent is all too apparent on the Crown Prince’s face. His acknowledgment that the Nazis were more powerful is on its face obvious, but the grim reality it presents is a gold mine the series so far has tackled spectacularly.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+The moment Frank looked at the bodies of his family members
+The shot of the Nazi embassy in San Francisco
+Why are the Japanese delegates talking to each other in English?
+Confession through LSD?
+The discovery of a dead women with a list upon which Trudy and the diner owner’s names were listed gave an ending jolt to a disappointing episode
+/- The bookseller subplot looked like it was going somewhere, but nope. He’s hanged and his fingers are mutilated. Well, there it is then.
-Frank’s illustration of Juliana just happens to be there, ripe for the picking. For the love of Pete, people.
Episode Title: The Illustrated Woman
Written by: Thomas Schnauz and Evan Wright
Directed by: Ken Olin
Image Courtesy: Serial Freaks IT