The Man in the High Castle 2.09: “Detonation” Review

Cherry Blossoms

A Television Review by Akash Singh


The command structure of a dictatorship, no matter how effective, is never free from the realities of a power grab. That byzantine jockeying for positions of power reaches a pitch perfect fever when the top seat within a dictatorship is emptied, whether because of subterfuge or a death by natural causes. The former is the much juicier option narratively, for lack of a better phrase, because there’s an inherent possibility of a whodunnit. In a show that likes to think of itself as an espionage narrative at times even though it is quite frankly not that good at the actual espionage narrative structure, it could be appealing to go down that route. Politically speaking, dictatorships often cultivate a cult of personality around the dictator, founding or otherwise. Death of natural causes can be seen as a potential sign of weakness in not just the founding dictator but also the empire they have created. What does the Reich look like without Adolf Hitler? The espousal of a poisoning, a deliberate assassination by the Japanese works on several fronts as far as the Nazis are concerned. On the cult of personality front, it removes the notion that Hitler was frail enough to die (which is so abundantly ridiculous in logical terms it would seem to be beyond the pale that everyone wouldn’t simply look past it). It serves to clean the image of Hitler’s successors, theoretically quieting the rumors that he may have been assassinated by his top brass for a chance at grabbing his seat of power. Politically it also serves to ensure that when, not if, the Nazis strike at the Japanese, that they will have some popular legitimacy to do so.

Kido was intelligent enough not to take the bait when a Nazi officer brought forth evidence of Nazi agents shooting the Crown Prince, but there was hardly anything he could do to counteract Heusmann’s blaming of the Japanese for Hitler’s assassination. The Japanese top brass goes into an immediate crisis mode, shuttling their nuclear scientists away to safety from San Fransisco. General Onada, now having the legitimacy to put his plan into full force, embraces the typical and frankly idiotic “the captain must go down with his ship” nonsense and Kido agrees. Kido has always been a man of intense loyalty to the Empire for better and for worse and while the show did go to a side length to show his conversation with his wife, it remains perfectly within his character to remain firmly within the camp of duty, even if it comes at the expense of everything else. What makes less character sense in terms of the show’s own handling of the character, however, is Martin Heusmann all of a sudden becoming a prototype Nazi villain. It’s a shrewd character motivation at the base, an engineer who knows quite well that he has to eliminate any possibility of his own elimination and for that to take place, he has to be thoroughly effective. But the show simply hasn’t done enough character work on Martin for him to earn that remarkably cheesy and grating camera shot of him looking like a prototype villain. He just is and while him being put in charge makes sense, his shrewdness makes sense, it doesn’t once again have an emotional impact on the audience and nor does it appear on Joe. At a certain juncture, the show simply has to put the effort it puts into its production design and emulate it in its writing. The generosity of scoring can only go so high.

The Resistance is case in point of how wobbly the writing has been this season. At some junctures the writing seemed determined to eliminate any possible concerns that actual human beings comprise the Resistance a movement. It’s those moments that gave me hope that the writers not only understand how difficult it is for the Resistance to succeed, but also how difficult it is for movements to not become embroiled in interpersonal feuds and politics. At other moments, it seems like the writers simply have no idea how on earth to write the movement and we get typical, macho male aggression as a cheap and easy way to drive forth conflict. It’s ridiculous. The opening sequence where Juliana helps the Resistance lure Henry into a trap using Lucy, eventually getting him to announce the Führer’s death on television is the most effective the movement has been so far. It’s a shock to the system because I had no idea that the Resistance was actually this effective to begin with. I understand the narrative necessity of having identifiable characters for the audience’s sake but at the same time, the production team needs to have faith in the audience’s collective intelligence in this regard. The greatest plot failure of this season frankly has been the lack of intelligence with how the Resistance has displayed. Philip K. Dick’s original novel provides what is arguably a limited amount of source material, but that’s not an excuse for the show not to at the very least show the structure of what the Resistance is and how that structure helps or impedes it from operating. At least there’s Tagomi, giving a fond farewell to his family and promising Juliana that they would meet again before embarking back to the world where he has a mission to fulfill.

Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:

+I liked the picnic scene

+Kotomichi injured in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki films

+“I fear that they will eventually destroy themselves.”

-I’m surprised that they went ahead with the bombing and when they did, they executed it so poorly. I mean, for heaven’s sake, this show should be able to pull some suspense from a sequence like this. The fire also looked relatively fake.



Episode Title: Detonation

Written by: Wesley Strick

Directed by: Chris Long

Image Courtesy: Amazon


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

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Karam Foundation

Portland Refugee Support Group

Lutheran Community Services Northwest

Catholic Charities of Portland

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Voz Workers’s Rights Education Project

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Center for Reproductive Rights

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Neighbors for Clean Air

350 PDX

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Equity Foundation

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Imperial Sovereign Rose Court

Human Rights Campaign


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