The man in the high …warehouse? (spoilers for Man In The High Castle)

We finished Season 2 of The Man In The High Castle last night and although I enjoyed a lot of it (especially the bits with Rufus Sewell in), it’s fair to say I found watching most of Season 2 a confusing and distressing experience.

It didn’t begin well when I started watching the season hoping that it would still be compelling without Rufus, given that I was convinced his character had died near the end of the previous season. Turns out, I was completely wrong about that and that his character had very much not died, and is a major part of this season. So, I’ll own that one and say many “yay”s for more Rufus. This was not the fault of the writers, but a consequence of me getting confused in my middle age. It did, however, start the worrying thought that maybe I should have re-watched at least the end of the last season, just to get my bearings, if not re-watched all of Season 1. Of course, I didn’t do this. Busy-busy life, only so many hours in the day, we’ve already invested in watching it once for goodness’ sakes. I didn’t even read a synopsis, which would probably have proven helpful.

I like the style of the season. What America would be like under the Nazis/Japanese in the 60s if they had won the war was, in my opinion, well imagined. I enjoyed the action up to a certain point, but early on got myself very confused about who was betraying who, and what the point or influence of the eponymous character was. Which meant that the double timeline denouement with (actually, this time) characters coming back from the dead and some things left open ended, for reasons I couldn’t determine was really properly confusing. Because the husband has a tendency to work in front of the TV, I’m often asked what’s going on at various stages. At the end of Season 2, I was unable to help.

“Didn’t she die?”
“Yes.”
“Then why is she there?”
“I don’t know.”

If there was meant to be a link back to Season 1, I would have enjoyed clearer references. Late on, we discover that Washington was nuked at the end of the war. That could have been made more of, and could have been a bigger part of the general build-up to the threat of all-out nuclear apocalypse that hung over the second half of the season. As someone who was a child in the 80s, when the cold war still “raged”, the threat, and any fall-out from there being attacks on US soil (in every sense) apart from the obvious different-outcome-of-the-war thing felt very underplayed.

I did, however, enjoy the playing out of the fate of John Smith’s son, Thomas. The boy has a form of MS which, under the 3rd Reich, means that he should be reported to the authorities and euthanised, however, his father is plotting to get him out of the Reich and away to safety. Thomas realises the situation (because he’s a bright lad) and shops himself, but in a way that won’t harm his parents. I never used to try to guess what happens when watching films & TV, but from early on in this episode, I stated several times “he’s going to kill himself”. The scene where the medics arrive to take him away is well-constructed, and very moving. Even given the subject matter, it’s a high point for me.

I was quite disappointed, as well, that the man in the high castle is really a dude in a warehouse. Given that Germany features prominently in the storyline (with John Smith zipping back & forth from New York to Berlin like it’s round the corner) I had high hopes for an actual castle.

If there’s a season 3, I’ll watch it, if only to hope for things to improve. However, there is definitely some winning-me-back to be done.