A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Words with simple meanings are often the ones whose nature is imbued with the greatest degree of complexity. Honesty. Love. Hate. Truth. These are all simple words, often uttered as if they are straightforward and without a greater meaning at hand, but when they hit, their ramifications can truly be something to behold. Truth is a solid episode of High Castle, even if it is a step down from last week’s tense hour. Part of it is because of those narrative conjunctures being somewhat resolved by the time this aspect of the story truly hits and part of it is so because of a solid detour taken by antiques dealer Robert Childan that is a fascinating look into the world the series has crafted within what is partially our world. That segment nevertheless does have the effect of slowing down the pace at a moment when the opposite truly needed to happen and it accidentally reveals one of the series’s major flaws so far. The Man in the High Castle has impeccable production design, a decent amount of good character work, some incredibly tense sequences, but the planning trajectory of the narrative is off. The pilot’s problems have been discussed to death, but the following episodes have a problem of pacing. Sunrise slowing down made sense but then the highs and lows have at times felt so erratic that it feels like the editing is off or the show is deliberately wanting its audience to feel like they’re on a roller coaster to mirror the character’s journeys or something.
Juliana’s first and foremost truth that has slammed into her with the weight of a thousand bricks was that there stepfather Arnold seemingly ran the surveillance room at the Nippon building. I never got any sense of familial love in the Crain family household so if that was ever the intention, the series never delivered on it. In terms of the sheer catastrophe Juliana feels, however, the episode downplays it to a borderline sentiment of her perhaps feeling nothing at all. If Juliana and Arnold were never meant to be close, it makes sense for her to be detached but for her also to feel a massive sense of betrayal that her stepfather was working in an arena with a high probability of having overheard Trudy in the first place. Speaking of Trudy, the series so far had dropped several hints towards the possibility of Trudy surviving, which seemed highly improbable since she was gunned down in the middle of the street by the Kempeitai. If explained well, however, it would certainly have provided High Castle with a jolt of a plot twist and the series could definitely benefit from that as this juncture.
To its immense credit, however, the episode takes a significantly macabre turn but one that underscores its seriousness and certainly helps ground its story in a certain gravitas. Tagomi continues to win my accolades (which don’t mean anything) as being by far the best character on this series and the scene between him and Juliana is definitively one of the best scenes yet. It’s an odd scene to note that for in how little it moves the plot forward (for the most part) and that is certainly the series’s greatest weakness so far, but it adds depths to the two primary characters in concern and that’s certainly a welcome note when it comes to the most interesting pairing yet. When Tagomi is notified that Juliana’s sister was a known subversive, he upgrades her security clearance for some unknown reason. He had a wife in Kyoto when he was young, with a beautiful garden. Only the garden remained. Juliana apologizes for his grief and that moment touched something in Tagomi, who gives Juliana the location of where her sister’s body is buried. Juliana expectedly races there, although what she finds could not have been what she had acutely anticipated. “Buried” is a euphemism for what she actually finds. There are mounds of bodies lying in haphazard piles, flies buzzing around the corpses as if eagerly awaiting their veritable feast. In that lies feast lies Trudy’s body and all slivers of hope that Juliana may have held dear fall away by the wayside.
The cliffhanger of Smith discovering Joe looking through his files is immediately wasted, however, and it’s a gimmicky move that this series should really know better than to follow through on. I was expecting some torture at least (not that I want to see it, just that it would be logical), not a reprimand like a father who discovers that his son is dating a girl that he’s not too fond of. That’s essentially what Smith’s tepid response does, as he notes that a woman of the Resistance is not a suitable companion for Joe, which seems like an odd thing to say to a semi-expendable spy in all honesty. Joe is instead instructed to use that romance to hook, line, and sink Juliana into his trap. Here there’s more than an inkling of a problematic development as far as characters are concerned. I have never found the potential of romance between Juliana and Joe to be in any way possible, partially because the two really don’t have any legitimate romantic chemistry between each other. It doesn’t help that Joe never seems like the guy who’s going to be involved in any type of high-brow romance nor has he ever displayed any romantic touch whatsoever. He’s more adapt at not being very expressive and silently following Juliana through a marketplace.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“Don’t fuck it up, Joe.”
+Childan’s meeting with the Kasouras was, despite the odd narrative timing, an intriguing one where the new couple wanted to learn more of the American ways. His frustration at the realization that he was only there as instrument of learning, for lack of a better response, was amusing.
+“In life, there are too many questions with a lack of time to answer them.”
+At the end of the war, lynch mobs were murdering Jews in Boston
+The reference to Nathaniel West’s Miss Lonelyhearts
+Alexa Davalos does some great work this week as she grieves openly at the knowledge that her sister truly can never come back.
+The marketplace montage
Episode Title: Truth
Written by: Emma Frost
Directed by: Brad Anderson
Image Courtesy: Steam Community