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The Mystery of 'The Man in the High Castle' Continues
October 5, 2018  | By David Hinckley
 

Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle returns Friday after a long hiatus, and it’s as dense as ever.

Also, it’s as good as ever, which means that this new Season 3 perpetuates an unusual situation. TMITHC is intriguing enough to watch even when you couldn’t pass a quiz on exactly what’s going on.

Perhaps reassuringly, the show’s lead character seems to feel the same way. That would be Juliana Crain (left), played by Alexa Davalos, who ought to get an award at some point for her complex and superb portrayal.

Under the premise of The Man in the High Castle, the Axis powers won World War II, and 1962 America is an occupied country split into three sectors.

The Germans control the East, now the Greater Nazi Reich. The Japanese rule the West, the Japanese Pacific States. A ragged swath in between is technically a neutral zone and really more of a no man’s land, with rundown vestiges of the old America and little law or order.

While a neutral zone may seem like an odd thing for winners to create, we learned early in the first season that it also functioned as a necessary barrier between two countries that don’t like or trust each other.

In fact, as Season 3 begins, repercussions continue to reverberate from earlier rumblings about a German attack on the Japanese territory. As the weaker partner, Japan finds this disturbing, and the tension between this Japan and this Germany neatly and cleverly mirrors some of the real-life early-‘60s Cold War jostling between America and the Soviet Union.

Against this backdrop, Juliana has worked with the outgunned Resistance. Her actions have not been consistently heroic, however, and she is as puzzled as viewers about one of the show’s central plot points.

The title character, The Man in the High Castle, has been circulating vintage newsreel footage that says the Allies, not the Axis, won the war.

Needless to say, the Germans want to eliminate both the man and his film. The larger question is where the film came from, since it seems to be authentic, and what if anything it means.

As Juliana and other characters gradually come to understand it, the films raise the possibility of an alternate universe in which the Allies really did win. This obviously raises further questions, like which universe, if either, is the “real” one.

It also catapults the show into the supernatural, which pretty much guarantees confusion, since the rules of the supernatural can be whatever the creators want.

The fact Juliana repeatedly appears in footage from the alternate universe clouds the skies further.

At the same time, John Smith (Rufus Sewell, top) is celebrating his ascension to a higher position in the Nazi hierarchy, becoming the first American the Germans trust at that level.

Smith, who served in the U.S. Army during the war and whose name suggests he could be any American, is a soft-spoken family man who has fiercely embraced the ideology of the victors.

This success has come with at least one personal price. His only son, Thomas, was diagnosed with a genetic illness which under Nazi law meant he needed to be killed as a “defective.” John tried to protect him by covering up the diagnosis. Thomas, who wanted to please Dad by becoming the perfect Nazi, turned himself in.

Now we see whether anything from that tragic drama will affect John in his new position moving forward.

We also catch up with Joe Blake (Luke Kleintop), a Nazi agent who tried to infiltrate the Resistance and got caught up in one of those awkward situations where no one on either side trusted him. As Season 3 starts, he needs to sort that out or he’s in a lot of trouble. Truth is, he’s in a lot of trouble anyway, and no, it’s still not clear where he really stands.

In the higher echelons, Nobusuke Tagomi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, right), Japanese minister of trade, walks a shadowy line as he juggles friends and foes. It might be easier if he didn’t have an acute personal connection with the aforementioned alternate reality.

The supernatural element means The Man in the High Castle could go almost anywhere in the world, or in its choice of worlds. It has some time to get there because it’s already been renewed for a fourth season.

There’s a lot to like in the pieces, even if we must often guess where they could fit in the puzzle.

 
 
 
 
 
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