What if the Allies lost World War II and the United States was invaded by Japan on the Pacific Coast and the Nazis on the Atlantic? The Amazon Studios show “The Man in the High Castle” premiered in November 2015 to answer just that question. The second season of the show drops on Amazon on Dec. 16, 2016.
The show is based on the novel of the same name, penned by sci-fi legend Philip K. Dick. “The Man in the High Castle” is in good company; Dick’s other films and short stories include “Blade Runner,” “Minority Report,” and “Total Recall.” The Amazon Studios show does not perfectly follow the book, but stands tall on its own.
If you haven’t seen the first season, be advised: there are some minor spoilers ahead.
“The Man in the High Castle” is more than just an alternative history story. The science fiction element stems from the show’ namesake. Someone known as the titular “Man in the High Castle” is looking for films that appear to depict multiple timelines, including one in which the Japanese Pacific States and the American Greater Nazi Reich never exist.
The films are newsreels that show U.S., British, and Soviet forces defeating the Nazis. What’s more, one even shows the destruction of Japanese cities by an American superweapon. Now the Japanese and the Nazis are in an arms race as each try to capture as many of the films as possible. Resistance fighters are also looking for the films as the rest of what used to be America struggles under the boot of occupation.
Here are a few things we loved about the first season and some things we’re looking forward to for the next.
1. Seeing Juliana’s face as she watched a film for the first time.
When Juliana first discovered the films, she watched it (over and over) in her apartment. The film showed D-Day, the Japanese Surrender, the liberation of Paris, V-J Day, and the fall of Berlin. The look on her face was everything.
2. Googling Canon City to see if it’s a real place (it is).
In the show, there is a sort of neutral zone between the two Axis powers, and it looks like it encompasses the Rocky Mountains. Basically an ungoverned space, it’s the place to go for anyone seeking to leave the heavy-handed brutality of the Reich or the Japanese States. Canon City is what’s left of the former United States.
3. Inspector Kido is quietly frightening.
The head of the Kempeitai — Japanese secret police — in San Francisco is Takeshi Kido, a no-nonsense officer with the determination of Michael Ironside’s Richter from “Total Recall” and the look of Ronald Lacy’s Sturmbannführer Toht from “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
4. DJ Qualls!
Everyone’s favorite movie friend is in the cast too, playing Juliana and Frank’s friend (duh), Ed McCarthy. Ed does everything he can to keep Frank out of trouble and help Juliana escape capture by the Kempeitai. Now that Inspector Kido think’s he’s the would-be assassin of the Crown Prince, what will Frank do?
5. Obergruppenführer John Smith is an awesome villain.
Cold, calculating, and murderous, the great thing about Obergruppenführer Smith is that he honestly believes he’s on the right side and will do anything to further Hitler’s Reich. Plus, he throws unsuspecting people off of buildings. It will be interesting to see if there’s any weakness in his resolve now that he has to kill his son.
We also like saying the word “Obergruppenführer”. (Amazon Studios)
6. There’s a Cold War coming.
It’s 1962 and Hitler is close to death. Everyone seems to think that the fragile peace between the two Axis powers is only because Hitler is still alive. Once he dies, everyone predicts a coming war. To stave off impending conflicts, the Japanese “acquire” a superweapon from a Nazi turncoat. Now both sides have the ability to destroy each other and the world.
7. Trade Minister Tagomi tasted freedom.
Tagomi, who never seemed to be fully into the full-on oppressive occupation of America, suddenly ended up in the alternative history (that is, the real history as we know it, where America won WWII) and stepped into 1960’s San Francisco. It’s probably likely this experience significantly changed his character.