A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The question of reality has become a defining one in The Man in the High Castle. The season one cliffhanger of Trade Minister Tagomi opening his eyes through meditation and finding himself in the alternative world, our world, was the first real jump the show had made towards embracing the science fiction nature that Phillip K. Dick’s had became known for. Minister Tagomi has gone back and forth between his world and ours but up until this episode, the personal stakes hadn’t become clarified, not that it makes the circumstances themselves that much easier to navigate. Tagomi had come to know that his wife, who was deceased in his universe, was very much alive in the alternative. Suddenly an intellectual curiosity and indeed, a political one as well, became that much more personal and imperative. There’s a longing in his heart that supersedes everything, which is entirely understandable, although one does hope that he gets back to remembering that Juliana had given him the warning of leaving the city before the atomic bomb went off. Yet the promise of having his wife back in his life lacks the hopefulness that he had expected. In what is possibly the most intelligent twist the show has ever pulled off, the reality of the reality Tagomi has never known isn’t a particularly kind one, either. His wife notes that she feels shame, shame from a husband who never is there to be a part of the family. His grown son despises his father who so thoroughly disrespected his mother and as far as he’s concerned, continues to do so without any shame whatsoever. Tagomi has barely a moment to take in another family member who is disappointed in him before he hears a cry. He turns around to see his grandchild crying in the arms of his daughter-in-law, a lovely and worried turn from a woman who looks just like Juliana Crane. A perfect reality simply doesn’t exist.
That ending alone was worth the price of admission, but “Duck and Cover” is largely thrilling from beginning to end, making up in a sense for how long its predecessor spent hollowed out in the explosives room with Frank and Sarah. Tagomi doesn’t just find a tumultuous personal life awaiting him at home. Between those two frames he finds himself in a charming, peace-focused bookshop where he comes across a World War II compilation, complete with some of the most iconic images left from that conflict. Tagomi is aghast at the images of Hiroshima after the atomic bomb attack and shocked at the image of the American flag being raised on Iwo Jima. How exactly that reality has struck home to him remains unclear, but Tagomi is rattled. As Tagomi is rattled, Joe finds his own reality being questioned to a degree he simply couldn’t have imagined. Now Joe is no Tagomi, but he had an actual emotional breakdown when he realized that he was no abandoned child of a powerful man. Hitler had never given up on his goal of “purifying” the human race, which makes no sense to anyone who has ever bothered reading the definition of the biological term “mutation.” That dream gave birth to a program that would breed “pure” children and Joe happened to be one of them. His mother Elsa escaped the facility with him in town, presumably because of the thoroughly horrifying methodologies the facility had espoused to “purify” the children. With that absolutely hideous thought in mind, Joe gives Smith, a ring and notifies that he’s done. I wanted the line to land more after finding out Joe’s origin story for lack of a better phrase, but at this point the whole “I’m on this mission but I’m done even though I’m on whatever mission this is two episodes after I said I’m done” is thoroughly obnoxious.
Less obnoxious is the assignment George Dixon hands over to Juliana. Quickly discovered, George notes that the only way he called off the Resistance from killing Juliana over her betrayal was to broker a deal that she would assassinated Smith. Dixon knows that assassinating the man he notes to be “the most evil son of a bitch in the American Reich” isn’t going to be remotely easy, but it’s the only option Juliana has. Juliana is suddenly going to be forced to become far more active, alert, and precise in order to survive as she is now facing intense pressure from several parties and the character and narrative result should be thoroughly thrilling as a result. As for Smith, the man has an intriguing set of meetings after his murder to protect his son. Chief Inspector Kido, who has had quite a few moments of quiet subterfuge in the past few episodes, makes another play and for now that play remains hidden. He has taken on General Onada without a single word, parlayed Ed and an unknowing Frank to spy on the Yakuza, and now he has achieved something from Smith without the audience and likely Smith himself knowing quite what it is. He arrived in person to ask for the extradition of Juliana Crane in spite of knowing that with Smith’s protection, Juliana would never be turned over at his request alone. He leaves smiling, although one would imagine that that smile would be wiped out in part due to the Man in the High Castle abandoning that very castle in a surprise yet understandable move to the flames. The camera holds steady as The Grasshopper Lies Heavy fades away from existing as the flames consume it one letter at a time.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+The Cuban Missile Crisis
+The shot of New York was stunning. The cinematography this season has been on point.
+“Run away.” That’s really not helpful advice, George, and I could almost hear the audience screaming “NO!”
+So Smith defected from the U.S.?
+“Why are you really here?”
+I LOVE the “Books Not Bombs” poster on the bookstore’s wall
Episode Title: Duck and Cover
Written by: Erik Oleson & Rick Cleveland
Directed by: John Fawcett
Image Courtesy: Amazon
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Syrian Refugee/Refugee Crises
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