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The Man in the High Castle

Moons ago, I watched the pilot episode of Amazon’s series The Man In The High Castle. It was terrific. Dark, exciting, complex, suspenseful, brave.

It’s based on Philip K. Dick’s novel, in which the Japanese and Germans prevailed in WWII. Now (that is, the early 1960s) Germany controls the eastern U.S. and the Japanese control the Pacific States, with only a narrow and perilous neutral zone between them. Though most Americans seem to have accepted their overlords (and many have become dedicated Nazis), a desperate resistance emerges from the shadows.

One focus of the resistance is a film, produced by (?) the mysterious Man in the High Castle, that shows an alternate reality in which the allies triumphed. Does the film show something true? Is it just a masterful piece of propaganda meant to undermine the tyrannical victors? What is it, really, and who is its mysterious creator? Nobody knows.

Last spring, I wasn’t aware that the pilot was the only bit that yet existed. I just knew that it was the most-watched pilot Amazon had produced, and I could see why. I fell headlong into it — and about went nuts when I realized the cliffhanger ending was all I was going to get!

The show was “too expensive and too dangerous” for the networks. The BBC and SyFy both rejected it. But Amazon viewers said go!

The 10-episode series has now been out a while and I just picked it up at episode two. No binge-watch yet. Episode two is as far as I’ve gotten. But by damn, it was better than the pilot. Without seeing another minute I’m ready to recommend this series to every freedomista anywhere.

Has anybody else watched it? No spoilers, please, but am I right? Is this as powerful a statement of resistance to tyranny as it seems to be?

Guess I’ll find out soon enough, as the binge-watching is about to commence.

The episodes are free to Amazon Prime subscribers. For some reason, I’m unable to find a non-Prime per-episode price (which would usually be $1.99 or $2.99). Maybe this one’s only available to Prime subscribers at the moment (UPDATE: Yes, available only with Prime right now).

Not a Prime member? Don’t despair. You can take a 30-day free trial, AND if you sign up through this link before January 10, you help this blog — even if you turn around and quit your membership before the fee is due.

If the rest of the series is as good as episode 2, freedomistas everywhere are going to love it.

15 Comments

  1. Alan
    Alan January 4, 2016 10:16 pm

    Watched the pilot back when they were testing it. It was good enough I rewatched it and binge watched the rest in the course of about 3 evenings. Excellent. Twisty ending. Can’t wait for season 2.

  2. Alien
    Alien January 5, 2016 5:03 am

    I’ve watched all the episodes of The Man in the High Castle and wound up buying Dick’s book (partway through that). I’d classify High Castle as more interesting than the other Amazon original offerings I’ve watched.

    Production values are high, character development is excellent, acting is excellent. Five stars isn’t enough. More, please.

    Side note – I wonder where all the working correct vintage cars came from, and I’d really like to tour the historically accurate sets.

    As for spoilers, send me fifty bucks or I’ll reveal that the butler did it.

    Ooops…..

  3. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty January 5, 2016 5:34 am

    I found the book at Amazon and will be reading it. It’s been a long time since I saw any of his work and am looking forward to getting it. Wish I could see the movies. sigh

  4. Mac the Knife
    Mac the Knife January 5, 2016 6:09 am

    I agree with Alan about the twisty ending. I hope there is a season 2, but since there has not been a season 2 of Bosch yet, my favorite series they have done, there may not be.

  5. Bill St. Clair
    Bill St. Clair January 5, 2016 6:44 am

    I enjoyed it, but when they finally showed us the film they’d been hiding for the whole season, it was not at all what I had expected. Saying more would be a spoiler.

  6. Jorge
    Jorge January 5, 2016 6:59 am

    I am a very big PKD fan. I saw the trailer. It has very little to do with the book, other than Germany & Japan win the war and are occupying the US. I was going to skip the series but now maybe not. BTW, the “free with Prime” only applies in the US.

  7. Claire
    Claire January 5, 2016 7:31 am

    Jorge — Sorry about you not getting “free with Prime” where you are. With PKD, I’m the opposite of you. I find his books virtually unreadable, but have enjoyed the movies I’ve seen made from them. I realize filmmakers changing books is a hot-button issue (and I’ve done considerable ranting about ill-advised changes, myself), but it seems to me that the makers of this series (and movies like Blade Runner) have improved on PKD.

    Bill — It’s been months since I watched the pilot, so I could be mistaken. But didn’t they show a large segment of the mysterious film and didn’t it consist of actual newsreel clips from our real-world version of WWII? I realize now that’s probably not the whole story.

  8. Claire
    Claire January 5, 2016 7:33 am

    MtK — I hear that season 2 of Bosch is in the works as we speak. And Wikipedia says a second season of High Castle is due later this year, date as yet unannounced.

  9. Claire
    Claire January 5, 2016 7:36 am

    “the butler did it.”

    🙂 Now won’t we all be mad at you if he really did?

    Thanks for the good review. I also wondered about the vintage cars (though I did notice a prominent thank you to Toyota in the credits last night). And I wonder even more about the sets. Credits say the series is filmed in British Columbia, but boy, they sure have interesting reproductions of San Francisco and New York. I’m suspecting much green-screen and CGI work!

  10. Adaptive Curmudgeon
    Adaptive Curmudgeon January 5, 2016 9:23 am

    No spoilers from me but a huge recommendation. It doesn’t fade (at least as far as I’ve watched). Every minute has been incredible. Every shadow artfully framed. Every scene perfectly set. Good dialogue. Good acting. Always keeping you wondering what’s next. I didn’t think modern TV could muster this kind of storytelling.

    I’m not binging. I’m watching it slowly. Savoring it like fine wine. If I consume all that excellence at once I’ll have to go back to whatever else the TV spews forth and that’s unthinkable. This (and not the usual crap) is the purpose of TV.

    Incidentally the pilot was so impressive I freaked that it was only a pilot. Amazon did well to continue it. I also bought the PKD book (from Amazon of course). I’d change the oil in Jeff Bezo’s car and smile while doing it to keep this show going.

    Also, spoilers should be punished by execution.

  11. Claire
    Claire January 5, 2016 11:05 am

    “Every shadow artfully framed. Every scene perfectly set.”

    Ahhh, Adaptive Curmudgeon — a fellow aesthete! Yes, High Castle is dark, moody, ominous perfection. Beautifully lighted, composed, filmed, and directed.

    I can see the point of slowly savoring it. But I’m not sure I’d have the willpower.

  12. Laird
    Laird January 5, 2016 12:04 pm

    I saw the ads for it on TV but didn’t pay much attention to them, as I assumed (you know what that gets you!) that it was merely another alternate-history fantasy, and frankly those don’t interest me. But from what you all have been saying here I guess I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for the recommendation.

    FWIW, I tend to agree with Claire’s assessment of PKD: the movie adaptations have generally been good, but the books themselves are a hard slog. I never read this one, but perhaps I should give it a try.

  13. peter connor
    peter connor January 5, 2016 5:41 pm

    Episodes 3-4 of Man in the High Castle aren’t real good, but 5-10 do a great job of bringing everything together….Waiting for Season 2! Another series I recommend is Fargo, Seasons 1 and 2, pretty crazy stuff.

  14. peter connor
    peter connor January 5, 2016 5:43 pm

    My one criticism of Man in the high castle is that Juliana is a much more interesting and powerful character in the wonderful novel…

  15. Claire
    Claire January 5, 2016 6:14 pm

    peter connor — I just watched 3 and 4 tonight and I agree these are weaker than the pilot and episode 2. It’s still keeping me going, though. I think my limit is two episodes at a time. It’s too intense for a true binge watch.

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