A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The three wise monkeys refers to a Japanese saying that revolves around three literal monkeys. Mizaru cover his eyes and thusly sees sees no evil. Kikazaru covers his ears and thusly hears no evil. Iwazaru covers his mouth and thusly speaks no evil. Collectively the three monkeys saying (in the Western tradition) often refers to individuals who choose to deal with a quandary by simply turning a blind eye and embracing the bliss of ignorance. Three Monkeys is the best episode of High Castle yet and a hopeful indicator of where every episode of this series should be aiming to at least match, if not surpass. Some of the quandaries of the past are still present here in an unfortunate plethora, but the quality of the espionage and treachery more than make up for it, resulting in a fairly satisfying hour. Each character is traversing through a byzantine labyrinth, where evil lurks in every corner and more often than not appears in full form and it is up to them to embrace Mizaru, Kikazaru, or Iwazaru or perhaps fulfill the rarity and confront those quandaries at their core. Those quandaries in at least one storyline come to a complete, marked stop and that moment is High Castle at its best: thrilling, logical, and bursting at the seams with a sea of turbulent, complex emotions.
Juliana arrives back at the Nippon to her surprise, after having rebuffed the interviewer for his sexual demands. Unsurprising to the viewer, however, is her being asked in by Tagomi, who sensed something in Juliana and by all logical accounts wants to keep her close by for that reason alone. An intelligent man, he keeps those visualized thoughts to himself and instead opts for a more curt and logical response in bringing her back. There indeed is a job opening as Juliana had been informed by the Resistance and Minister Tagomi would prefer it be inhabited by a white woman. He notes without any trace of irony or comic relief that in his constant meetings with the Reich, the Nazi officials tend to prefer a familiar, white face in the surroundings. It’s a complex commentary on the ethnic divisions that adds neatly into the social hierarchy of the Japanese Pacific States that’s already been established. So far the Japanese have expectedly been treated as the top of their social class, but this admission that they require certain ethnic jobs to appease their Reich “friends” is another neat, but not overstressed note on the relative power positions between the two. That bit of subtlety is something the show could certainly use more of. For Tagomi, this hiring is already paying dividends. Juliana, putting her keen eye to task, notices how a SS Officer Diels kept on touching his throat, the same thing she does when she’s trying to hide a secret.
Frank has been a difficult character since his introduction in the show. At his onset, he was harmless enough to not really make an impact but there was enough sympathy towards him as the audience immediately grasped the severity of Juliana had thrown herself into. When the Kempeitai came knocking on his door in the season’s second installment, that sympathy was even further solidified with the inevatability of what would happen. I expected in some part for Frank to escape, but not the gas slaughter of his sister, niece, and nephew. Each time Frank rises in fury and guilt over what happened to his family, his character feels rich and Rupert Evans’s performance comes alive. When he does the “boyfriend musing” over Juliana’s sojourn into Canon City, Frank becomes a petulant, whiny child and it doesn’t suit him or the show in any way. There are times when the show takes turns into random corners that don’t completely make sense and there are other times when those turns are extremely significant but don’t exactly create for thrilling storytelling right off the bat. Frank standing in the midst of a Jewish home as the family recited Yiddish is more of the latter. As Juliana can’t turn a blind eye towards her stepfather working in the Nippon surveillance room, Frank can’t turn a blind eye towards his roots, either. He lost family to those roots, him embracing them tearfully signals a huge turn for the character. I’m not expecting him to become a revolutionary within the next hour, but I certainly don’t expect him to be the same.
VA Day is upon the Reich, a day chosen not to be celebrated by the Japanese in a marked statement that requires little metaphorical understanding to completely comprehend. The majority of the action takes place at Obergruppenführer Smith’s home, where Joe and Rudolph converge for the celebrations. Seeing Smith in a cardigan and playing catch with his son is disarming and one could almost be lulled into a false sense of security until the first “Sieg hiel!” is uttered. Rudolph and Smith, buddies who hadn’t seen each other for fifteen years, have a conversation in which Rudolph is a lot more forthcoming and honest than he really ought to have been, going so far as to note the extermination camps that bear so heavily on his conscience, whose mention doesn’t even register on Smith’s expression. In a reversal from the reveal about the Nazi spy that tried to kill Juliana, the reveal that Smith knew exactly what Rudolph was up to and that Helen had helped him in his plans works right before his trap springs. The inevitability was set up strongly enough that when Rudolph came face to face with the Nazi officers awaiting to arrest him in the cold, it felt earned and the tension arose naturally from what exactly awaited Rudolph outside that door, not if something did. “You were always smarter than me, Smith,” he noted ruefully. The three monkeys all opened their senses without a single moment to waste, turning the lights on after that departure so Smith could capture the second of his prey that evening, a man in whom Helen had seen so much of her husband existing.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“I want to make my country proud.”
+“Well, nothing worth having comes easy.”
+“A man determines his own worth.”
+“Nobody talks about the camps. Nobody talks about how many we exterminated. We got commendations for it.”
+“If I talk, we both die.”
+“We were only as happy as we were allowed to be.”
+One thing this show does very well is cross-editing between various storylines to craft a tense, meaningful sequence. The final few minutes of this episode were no exception.
Episode Title: Three Monkeys
Written by: Rob Williams
Directed by: Nelson McCormick
Image Courtesy: Vulture