Harmony and Peace
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The banner of “Harmony and Peace” hangs loud and bright above the San Francisco stage upon which the Crown Prince of the Japanese Empire would stand and make his speech. There’s an inherent amount of irony in that sentiment in any sense and remarkably even more so when the context is a physical space crowded by officials from a fascist regime in Tokyo and a fascist regime from Berlin. That banner has arrived on that platform from an arena of war, an arena of war where genocides became an inherent part of the violent agenda, where civilians for the first time became official targets of annihilation. That banner is hanging in a world divided by a less obvious Cold War, but whose understatement is nevertheless understood immensely. The man about to make a speech from that very platform understands a key symptom of what makes that banner so hilarious if it weren’t for the symptom’s extremely dangerous implications. Tagomi notes wisely that “Peace is not weakness” but here it isn’t the danger of Tagomi, the Crown Prince, or his wife not recognize that. It’s everyone else who has the ability to press the proverbial button, primarily the Nazis whose eyes are keen to grasp every bit of the Japanese Pacific States away from the sun and into the hands of the Nazi swastika.
The Japanese perspective within the confines of this series has always been its sharpest tool, up until last week largely relegated to Trade Minister Tagomi, whose presence alone has been more enigmatic and intriguing than anyone else on screen. There’s a certain way Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa carries himself that immediately suggests a deep complexity within a man working for the Japanese Empire in a position of coveted importance yet working with a disillusioned Nazi in Rudolph to prevent the entire world from descending yet into an even further pit of despair and recklessness. The Crown Prince and Princess are welcome additions to Tagomi’s ranks (let’s be real here), primarily arising from their geopolitically complex roles within a military-centered empire and an understanding that the Nazis are in no position of eminent empathy. The Nazis are, however, still too limited not just in characters (the Japanese share the same problem), but perspective. The main focus is on Obergruppenführer Smith and yes, Rufus Sewell is giving the performance of the show along with Tagawa, but unlike Tagomi, Smith’s perspective is too limited to provide the equivalent urgency to the plot lines surrounding him. The Resistance is even more of a mess (which I guess is kind of the point), with vastly numerous and unfortunately forgettable characters (Trudy, case in point) whose structure has yet to click in any meaningful fashion.
The episode opens with the Marshal, just in case anyone had feverishly hoped that he had been struck by a stray bullet at some random moment, chasing Juliana through the dingy and largely uninhabited buildings of Canon City. “I’m gonna find you,” he vapidly croons because you know, it’s unclear what exactly he’s doing in the first place. Joe arrives in the nick of time, bashing the Marshal in the head but since they’re on the same side, not doing enough permanent damage to my liking. An albino resident of Canon City, getting the heavy handed treatment on his phenotypes from the Marshal, helps the two of them escape in the nick of time. The narrative certainly picks up a bit of momentum when the duo are finally heading out of the hellhole that is Canon City, faking Juliana’s death and hiking towards whom they assume is the delivery junction where the Man in the High Castle might actually appear. One of the names found in the pocket of the deceased woman Frank and Juliana had come across at the end of last week was Lemuel Washington, the owner of the diner where she worked and whose importance in the narrative suddenly skyrocketed. His confrontation with Juliana and Joe is an interesting one and his reappearance at the top of the hike was even more so. The Man in the High Castle doesn’t make the films, he reveals, right before pointing a gun at Joe, accusing him of being a Nazi spy. Joe uses the film to weasel himself out of that circumstance, but the inevitable unmasking of his true allegiance ought to be a rewarding one.
The climax of Revelations is by far the best sequence The Man in the High Castle has yet put together. Everything clicks into place, the music, the framing, the performances, all crafting an enormous amount of tension until that beautiful misdirection of a bullet pops into the Crown Prince’s chest. The Crown Prince’s speech was a nervous one to begin with, considering the geopolitical machinations between the Japanese Empire and the Reich. To postpone or cancel the speech would be taken as a sign of weakness and in that vulnerable state, that simply wasn’t an option. Frank’s increasing fury at what the Kempeitai had done to his family understandably begins to engulf him in his entirety, his immediate plan forming as the one whose end result ends up shocking everyone in the vicinity. As the Crown Prince’s words roar through the air, Frank moves silently through the crowd as if a whisper. Michael Rymer’s camera moves superbly throughout this sequence, rising from Frank’s back and up towards the crowd and then the stage. Frank slowly moves his gun forward but just as he does so, a Japanese child notices the gun, looking upwards at the man holding the weapon with a mix of bemusement and fear. Frank takes a moment as the thought process filters through his mind and he quietly packs the gun away. Suddenly two shots ring throughout the air and the Prince collapses on the stage in a bloody mess. Chaos reins in his wake and Frank’s life suddenly became much more terrifying than it ever was before.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“The arrogance of ignorance.”
+The Crown Princess asking abut Imperial weakness
+“Peace is not weakness.”
-Ed is useless
-The dialogue remains overbearing and insufferable at several moments
Episode Title: Revelations
Written by: Thomas Schnauz and Jace Richdale
Directed by: Michael Rymer
Image Courtesy: Vulture