Direct Beam Comms #54
The Man in the High Castle – Season 2 premier – Grade: B+
All episodes of the second season of The Man in the High Castle are currently available on Amazon Prime, but so far I’ve only watched the first episode of the second season so take that into consideration.
In the second season – it’s bleak times for Americans living in 1962 in The Man in the High Castle. From the east coast to the Rockies the Nazis rule with an iron fist, eliminating any resistance along with anyone not measuring up to the aryan ideal. On the west coast the Japanese Imperial Army occupies everything that side of the Rockies. And while living under Japanese rule is slightly better than the Nazis, it still means that the Americans live as third-class citizens with the Japanese killing and executing whomever they want with impunity. But in all this bleakness is a tiny ray of hope — a film found that seems to depict an alternate reality, presumably ours, where the Nazis and Japanese lost and the Allies won WW2.
The second season starts essentially where the first left off. With characters Juliana Crain (Alexa Davalos) and Joe Blake (Luke Kleintank) separated while trying to get one of these films to the titular Man in the High Castle with Japanese diplomate Nobusuke Tagomi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) suddenly realizing that these films might be right and their reality might be one of many and American Nazi John Smith (Rufus Sewell) returning to his position of power in New York.
Movies, and now series, based on Phillp K. Dick stories can be challenging to adapt and none more challenging than the novel The Man in the High Castle. Reportedly, Dick used the I Ching to assist with randomizing plot points in his book. Which makes for an odd, yet strangely compelling read, where characters aren’t so much doing things or driving a story forward but instead living lives in Dick’s novel and making interesting choices. So, translating this book to screen must’ve been difficult for the series creators who needed to take something that for the most part doesn’t have a central plot or much structure and create a TV series that does and is still based on Dick’s underlying story.
And their solution in the first season was to take most of the elements form the book — from the idea of the alternate 1960s America, the characters, these weird alternate-history artifacts — and to place them into a standard narrative where the characters are going from point “A” to “Z.” And for the most part in the first season all this worked.
If there’s one thing that concerns me the most about The Man in the High Castle is its bleakness. Right now I don’t see this as an issue, but I can see it becoming one down the road, especially looking at another show that seems to bask in bleakness; The Walking Dead. For a time in that show all the bleakness of civilization crumbled and mankind reduced to living off their wits against a plague of zombies and one and other was interesting enough. But as the seasons progressed and the show seemed to double down on all the bad, for me at least The Walking Dead became more and more hard to watch until I finally gave up on it.
I only bring this up since I could see The Man in the High Castle going down this same road, especially if Amazon sees this show as going on forever without a definite end in sight. The good thing is that so far, one episode into the second season, most everything from characters to story in The Man in the High Castle is working and the series is enjoyable. If the feeling I have watching the show now is different than I did before the election. 😉
More alternate Christmas movies
Gremlins (1984): Honestly, Gremlins is the closest thing to a Christmas movie I can think of that isn’t a Christmas movie. It’s got Christmas songs, is about a Christmas present and has lots of snow. Yet this film about tiny reptilian monsters that cause havoc on a small, unsuspecting town with only Billy (Zach Galligan) and his nice, cuddly mogwai to stop them is anything but a Christmas movie. Gremlins is more horror than Christmas with the titular creatures being so scary they scarred a generation of kids who didn’t know what they were in for when they went to go see this rated PG movie.
The Mothman Prophecies (2002): Much of The Mothman Prophecies takes place during wintertime in Point Pleasant, West Virginia where John Klein (Richard Gere) faces weird, unknowable paranormal forces surrounding the town. Which all leads up to a confrontation on a bridge in Point Pleasant that takes place on Christmas Eve.
I Am Legend (2007): From the looks of it, I Am Legend takes place at the height of summer, or late enough in the year that character Robert Neville (Will Smith) is able to harvest corn that he’s grown in a ruined New York, City. However, I think of this as a kind’a Christmas movie in that when the plague hit that caused most people in I Am Legend to die and some to turn into bloodthirsty mutant monsters — all that happened during Christmastime. So Neville is living in this weird, wrecked New York where all the Christmas decorations are still up and whenever he breaks into a building or apartment looking for supplies sees things like Christmas trees and stockings all up and waiting for a Christmas that will never come.
Dunkirk movie trailer
“There’s no hiding from this…”
This week in pop-culture history
- 1957: Denise Crosby, Tasha Yar of Star Trek: The Next Generation is born
- 1971: A Clockwork Orange debuts
- 1978: Invasion of the Body Snatchers premiers
- 1979: The Black Hole premiers
- 1981: Mad Max 2 opens
- 1985: Enemy Mine premiers in theaters
- 2009: Avatar opens in theaters
- 2015: Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens