A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The Man in the High Castle continues its tense unfolding of this pleasantly improved second season. “Travelers” as an episode is tense, wrought with a number of storylines finding sweet spots that benefit significantly from a sense of germane, organic movement. Even Joe’s narrative, which unfortunately continues to be the most significantly dull character arc the writers are determined to push upon their audience, picks up some steam as he arrives to meet his father for the very first time, a father who also happens to be one of the most powerful men in the Reich. The emotional heft simply isn’t there, mind you, and not for a single second would I have noticed with the writing and the performances that this was, in fact, the first meeting between father and son if the show itself hadn’t spelled it out. It is unfortunate that that is the case, but Joe in Berlin is so much more interesting than Joe in America that it is at least a significant improvement over what came before. His father is a man of a significant ego, a man right at home amidst the ostentatious nature of what Berlin has become in this particular universe. It’s an ego that would certainly boost the planning of some sort of massive dam between Gibraltar and Morocco, in spite of the mass difficulties that the project would be fraught with. It’s an icy meeting, the iciness in part buoyed by Joe’s father’s seeming inability to understand that a giant feat of engineering wasn’t likely to impress a son whom he had abandoned. The lavish part afterwards does little to improve Joe’s view of Berlin, but the arrival of Bella Heathcote’s Nicole Dahmer is a hopeful sign of intrigue in a character arc that has rarely had any.
Juliana finds a good chunk of her time within this episode in an interrogation sequence that begins, as one would expect, a request for documentation of her genealogy. She doesn’t have that and after a lengthy interrogation, she finds herself face to face with Smith, who has taken a personal interest in this traveler who assisted Joe Blake. Why he so quickly intervenes on Juliana’s behalf remains to be seen, as certainly no one could imagine that Smith is acting purely out of kindness and concern for the welfare of a woman whom he has known about but has just met. It is notable the most stability Juliana has managed to garner so far after the story had kicked off, but she would be quite wise to keep an open ear or two to read between the lines of the Smith family’s generosity. As Juliana quickly begins to adapt to her new life as Julia Mills from Seattle, Frank gets roped in by a woman named Sarah whom he assumes to be a Japanese member of the Resistance. The two Japanese officers shot during the sequence last week together form an incident that the Kempetai were eager to make an example out of. They decided to grab a dozen innocent civilians to make an example out of, an example that is cut short by some brilliant subterfuge. Sarah is grabbed by Gary in the most intelligent move made by him yet and the Japanese officers immediately assume that she is in some sort of hostage situation. The opening is swift and Frank kills his first man. Three more bullets fire from his gun for admittedly unnecessary measures before the enormity of his actions hit him. Sarah spirits him away quickly but the shock on Frank’s face is intriguing.
The most emotionally striking storyline this week is arguably the one that belongs to Smith, who continues to grapple with the reality that his son is, as his doctor friend Gerry notes with a callous cruelty, “defective.” Smith uncharacteristically notes to his son that perhaps the two of them should take some time off and go take a drive to the lake. Thomas is understandably taken aback, trying to understand why his father out of all the people in the world would suggest something as alarming as taking a break from a Hitler Youth meeting. For a moment it seemed, as father and son were sitting near the lake with a beautifully captured sunset, that he would indeed stick the injection into his son and end his life before it was ended for him. Rufus Sewell is fantastic in this scene and as he looks upon his son he is so proud of, one recounting how he simply likes this girl in class, his eyes deepen and his face hardens as if it were transforming into a rock. He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t stick the needle in his son and instead sticks it into Gerry, eliminating a variable but not the inevitable. The irony here, of course, is that Smith isn’t simply a part of a system that has issued a death sentence to his son. He is actively upholding, emboldening, and strengthening the power of such a system and that’s critically what the show cannot lose sight of. It is sad to see a child suffer from an illness and it is natural that the series wants to make Smith’s work feel personal to him in a way that forces him to confront how the death facing Thomas is one he wouldn’t have flinched before inflicting upon someone else. The show just needs to make sure it itself doesn’t forget to do so.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+Why is Juliana protecting a man who has done nothing but try to kill her?
+The Nazi’s focus on women’s value in terms of their reproductive ability
+Auxiliary Citizenship Test
+I assume General Onada doesn’t understand how radiation works
+Tagomi’s trip into the alternative reality. On a related note, I’m loving his relationship with Kotomichi
Episode Title: Travelers
Written by: Erik Oleson
Directed by: Daniel Sackheim
Image Courtesy: Vulture
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