The Man in the High Castle 2.07: “Land O’Smiles” Review

The Pharaoh

A Television Review by Akash Singh

NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!

There are few smiles in an episode that brings forth plenty of simmering turmoil to the surface. Karyn Kusama, who directed the recent horror triumph The Invitation, arrives to deliver what might be the most visually triumphant hour of the show. Each frame is picturesque and telling, calling attention to the thematic undertones of the narrative without being, as is often the case with this show, blunt. That isn’t to say that there is a constant triumph of subtlety in this episode, either, but Kusama helps the show improve on its ability to be less forceful in moments when a quiet simmer does the trick perfectly. Kusama is not just a great visual director, however. She manages to garner great performances out of her cast, even if the writing isn’t always there to support them. Rufus Sewell in particular should garner a few nominations for Best Supporting Actor, especially if Amazon plays its cards as well as it does with its comedies Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle. His speech is so thoroughly ironic but so vital to the character’s actions and how the audience understands them that it becomes nothing short of impressive as to how well crafted the sequence becomes by its final presentation. He’s standing on the dais of what used to be a church, delivering a eulogy for Gerry in name but instead to himself, Helen, and the audience, it’s a eulogy for his murder of Gerry. It’s a eulogy for the son him and Helen are about to lose from their lives. The cold, cruel irony of what they have to do to protect their child is seemingly still lost on them, however, and that is a disappointment.

The episode opens upon an effective sequence shot like an eerie, beautiful nightmare. Frank is going through the history of the Jewish people over dinner with his deceased sister and her two children. Amidst the dimly lit dinner, he is in particular going through the segment relating to the pharaohs of Egypt. Frank’s nephew asks him who the Pharaoh is and before Frank can answer, there’s literal tremors and tumults and he wakes from the burgeoning nightmare before it could complete itself. It’s a nightmare that serves to invigorate Frank’s desire to avenge his murdered family and perhaps it came at the right time. While on duty at a grain facility, Frank and Sarah have a well, frank discussion about race relations in the Pacific States in a way that was fairly open and honest. It was admittedly quite odd to note Frank talking about treated like crap because of what he looked like. The reality right across the Neutral Zone was something considerably more different and certainly in the world as we know it, it’s far more likely for Sarah to be discriminated against than Frank. Sarah shuts him down quickly, noting that she grew up in a concentration camp and it wasn’t that long ago when white men would be the ones to call the shots. Frank, in a moment of rare openness, reveals his Jewish heritage. Sarah is thankful for that honesty but she isn’t fixated upon it because, in part, they can’t afford to do so. Two minutes later, Frank discovers what he is sure is evidence that the Japanese are building an atomic bomb at the grain facility.

The Resistance, after recovering slightly in their depiction over the past week, succumbs once more to fairly trite writing as Gary continues to be one of the dumbest individuals on this show, which is saying something. You can’t be an effective leader of a resistance movement if you keep on trying to do the “my dick is bigger!” power moves. Aggression in its baseness won’t get you far. Kido, in a surprising move, rushes in with a raid on the Yakuza, which is significantly more bold than I ever expected him to be. The raid naturally needs an explanation and General Onada receives one in the form of Taishi Okamura being a spy for the Nazis. Kido believes that to be the case and for now Onada buys it, the latter acting more like the drunken cowboy he was when Kido got his secret stamp than a military general. Taishi’s surprising death also has the effect of lifting Frank, Ed, and Mr. Childan’s debt, although that happiness celebration via weed is cut quite short. If the Nazis gained wind of the Japanese construction of the atomic bomb, Frank wagers, they would flatten San Francisco to the ground before that bomb was ever lifted in the first place. The Nazis, however, have a significant problem that isn’t even related to the potentiality of a Japanese atomic bomb. Smith receives a phone call and suddenly he finds himself faced with the news that the Führer has collapsed. The entire power structure that had been whittling away with Heydrich’s imprisonment is now looking tumultuous. The power rush is now going to be in full force and Smith must now choose sides if he’s looking to simply survive.

Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:

+There was an excellent shot of the Nazi flag covering the cross and the only one to truly rival it would be the equally gorgeous shot of the Yakuza headquarters before Kido’s Kempetai rushed inde

+Ed for the win

+“It wasn’t that long ago that white males called the shots.”

+Kido is exactly the kind and understanding husband and father I expected him to be

+“Useless eater.” Wow, is he voting on a bill to cut free lunch programs?

+Alice wants an autopsy because Gerry was getting death threats

+“No man is immortal.”

Great

8/10

Episode Title: Land O’ Smiles

Written by: Rob Williams

Directed by: Karyn Kusama

Image Courtesy: Amazon

Musings:

Every review from now on will have links to organizations who are in need of resources. Please contribute if you are able:

Syrian Refugee/Refugee Crises

Preemptive Love Collection

World Vision

International Refugee Assistance Project

World Relief

White Helmets

Syria Relief

International Rescue Committee

Hand In Hand for Syria

Karam Foundation

Portland Refugee Support Group

Lutheran Community Services Northwest

Catholic Charities of Portland

Workers’s Justice

Interfaith Worker Justice

Voz Workers’s Rights Education Project

Medical Justice

Doctors Without Borders

The Syrian Medical Society

Women’s Reproductive Rights

Planned Parenthood

Center for Reproductive Rights

Environmental Justice

Neighbors for Clean Air

350 PDX

Natural Resources Defense Council

Friends of the Columbia Gorge

Columbia Riverkeepers

Sierra Club

OPAL Environmental Justice

Northwest Environmental Defense Center

Greenpeace

Audobon

Crag Law Center

Green Lents

Racial Justice

NAACP Legal Defense Fund

Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund

Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice

Don’t Shoot Portland

LGBTQIA Rights

The Trevor Project

Q Center

GLAAD

Friendly House

Equity Foundation

The Immigrant Legal Resource Center

Imperial Sovereign Rose Court

Human Rights Campaign

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