The Man in the High Castle is back streaming on Amazon Prime for its second season, and the story keeps getting crazier for Juliana, Joe, Frank, and the rest of them in their Nazi dystopia. While the show has been back for a few months, I’ve just now finished up the second season, and I must say that I like this season just as much, if not maybe even more than the first season. Sure, there are a few crazy storylines that confuse the timeline of the show, but overall there is a great deal of time and energy committed to fleshing out some of the major characters as individuals through these 10 episodes, and fans of the first season should find a lot to love in the way the story continues to unfold. Here are some of my thoughts on season 2, some of my wishes for the show as it continues on its story for seasons to come:
Favorite Character: Juliana
- I think Juliana really blossomed under the pressure she was under during the events of season 2. I was blown away by the way she was able to assimilate to life in the Greater Nazi Reich after she was able to escape the Pacific States. She was able to blend in, make friends with the women in and around John Smith’s life, and still be a kickass spy, fighting to do the right thing in a world that’s all wrong. Juliana is a remarkable figure, one that fans can relate to and respect because you can tell she’s scared, but she never wavers, she never becomes something she’s not, and she never does what she thinks is wrong, regardless of how powerful her enemies are. Juliana, and her portrayal by Alexa Davalos, is one of the main reasons why The Man in the High Castle is such a strong series.
Least Favorite Character: George Dixon
- The strangest thing about season 2, and season 1 to a certain extent as well, is how hardened and unlikable The Resistance can be for the viewers. These people are, on paper, fighting the good fight, but they act reprehensively at times, even downright malicious when it isn’t needed. Nobody encompasses the coldness of The Resistance better than George Dixon. George, who is revealed to be Juliana’s sister’s biological father, is a Resistance fighter who treats Juliana with a great deal of disdain, all the while telling her he’s taking care of her because she’s Trudy’s sister. The guy comes off so bad in all of his scenes, and the way he turns on Juliana towards the end is almost heartbreaking because it started to seem like there may have been some decency in him after all. George embodies the emptiness that underlies the show and adds to its tension, because he is just one of many people in positions of power who are jaded beyond compassion in their new world.
Best Character Development: Frank Frink
- Of all the characters in this show, I think Frank improved the most from season 1 to season 2. I thought he lacked the gumption needed to match up with Juliana and Joe in season 1, but in season 2 he finaly was able to embrace his reality, and fight not only for himself and the family he lost, but for justice and the way things should be. The way Frank stood up for himself with the Resistance fighters were just as admirable as Juliana’s action in New York, and his ability to stay cool under pressure and muster up the courage to make the ultimate sacrifice in the end was a bittersweet story to watch unfold. I’m sad that Frank’s life had to come to an end in such a way, but I’m glad the producers went to great lengths to redeem his character and allow him to blossom into a hero.
Best Storyline: Thomas’ illness and the cover-up
- This storyline was amazing for so many reasons, but above all, it’s special because it has the chance to sway the tides of history in this universe. Nazi eugenics are the law of the land in the Greater Nazi Reich, and one of its highest leaders, John Smith, has been forced to turn against this central mentality and defy the law to save his son Thomas from being put down. This story has made Helen Smith a central figure in the show too, and lead to some really powerful scenes with John and Helen, and with Juliana and Helen as she accidentally gets roped into the conspiracy that has been unfolding. The show is digging in really deep into the heart of the characters as they begin to face the true ugliness of their political system, and this story is truly the lynchpin for the changes that could come. I’m also glad it had a tragic end, even though it was a heartbreaking moment when they held Helen back as Thomas was taken away. I think this tragedy will become a catalyst for action for seasons to come!
Most Confusing Storyline: Tagomi’s dream sequence
- The part where season 2 started to get a little bit weird was when Tagomi found himself in his own alternate reality where his family was living in a free United States instead of in the Japanese Pacific States. It was a really strange sequence, and while it was a wonderful story being told, I didn’t understand the what, the when, the how, or the why of the whole situation. I guess the show is experimenting with delving into alternate reality more, but I would’ve preferred if the show could’ve found a way to transition into that story in a less confusing manner. I enjoyed watching the scenes, but I hated them at the same time knowing it was all just a fantasy.
- John’s confrontation with Heydrich in the basement
- It was nice to see some resolution to the final scenes of episode 1, and I’m glad the show decided to reveal Heydrich in the basement in such an intense moment in the action, while the world was teetering on destruction. The back and forth between the two was just as good in this scene as it was in the season 1 finale, and it allowed us to see John as the intelligent, fearless manipulator he can be. John might be a Nazi, but he is very much a hero in this story, even when he’s diabolical.
- The Hallucinogenic Party
- The last thing I expected to see in the story with Joe in Berlin was a hallucinogen-fueled party scene, but that was just what we got when Joe ran into a young Berlin woman who brought him on an interesting journey of self-reflection and promise. The sequence was so well-produced, and featured a brilliant scene where Joe hallucinated that Juliana was there. His desperation to see her when he was tripping was a small, but crucial moment in the episode, in my opinion.
- Frank’s last moments
- There was something so vindicating about how Frank was able to look Kido in the eyes before the bomb blew him and most f the other people in that building to Kingdom Come. Rupert Evans was masterful in his portrayal as Frank this season, and I think in that one instance he was truly able to convey the essence of his character with one look. Frank went down as a hero and was able to look the man who had his family murdered in the eyes while doing it. Not only was that a fantastic ending for Frank, I have some hopes that it will be a new beginning for Kido after he saw the machine that he has helped build become a force beyond his control. One can only hope at least!
- Joe learns the truth about his existence
- The scenes at Lebensborn were some of the better ones of the season, half because of the eerie scenery, and half because of the bombshell that Joe’s father drops on him; that he was born and bred in a Nazi experimental program. We got to witness the quickest cycle of grief ever from Joe, as he went through this vast whirlwind of emotions, feeling betrayal, denial, grief, and so much more in just a manner of minutes. Joe’s entire storyline this series focused on one important thing; his need to find purpose and understanding in life. While it was a great series of scenes seeing Joe comes to grips with and accept his father, it actually ended up hindering Joe’s path to finding himself.
5 Things I Would Like to See Happen in Season 3:
- A deep and intense story between John and Helen
- After he finds out about what happened to Thomas, there’s going to be a great amount of pain for John to cope with. I really hope the show doesn’t hold any punches in exploring the pain of the Smith family situation, especially between Helen and John. We got to see a sneak peak of the problems between the two of them at the end of the finale, and I’m really hoping we see more brutal honesty in the storytelling for season 3. For this show to reach the kind of conclusion fans would want, John Smith is going t have to be profoundly moved by what happened.
- Joe finding his true nature again
- Watching Joe come to get a grip on who his father is and accept him was another one of many bittersweet storylines from this season. On one hand it was nice to see him fill that hole in his life that was left when he grew up without his father, yet it was terrible to figure out in the end that his father was just as bad as any of the other Nazi higher-ups. I think Joe will need to finally put the brokenness of his past to rest, kind of like what Juliana and Frank were able to do this season, and discover who he wants to be in this world. I think Joe has the potential to be a transformative figure in the events of this show, but to really live up to his potential he’s going to have to take some time and decide what kind of future he sees for himself.
- Kido becoming a better leader for his people
- When the Japanese embassy blew up and Kido was left in charge due to the deaths of all the others in the blast, something seemed to change in him. I’d like to think it has something to do with that glance he shared with Frank, but in all honesty, I think he’s starting to come to terms with how out of hand this Japan/Germany feud has gotten and how close it’s coming to ending humanity. I’ve been reticent about giving Kido a chance because I haven’t seen much growth in his character, but right at the end of episode 9 it started to feel like he may be turning a corner. I loved the scenes with Smith and Kido during the finale, and I hope that kind of teamwork is what we can expect from these characters going forward.
- Tagomi finding some peace in his life
- If there was anything that the alternate reality showed us viewers, it’s that Tagomi is unsettled, and filled with regrets. He envisions a different life for himself and for his family, one that they never got to see in they’re time. I hope next season we get to see Tagomi able to reconcile his existence a little better, especially after getting to see a different version of life than his own. Maybe he can surprise us all and be the catalyst of change, the one who can affect the likes of Kido or maybe even Smith and bring some peace to the Americas. Either way, I hope Tagomi stays a prominent character and we get to peek even further into his mind.
- An amazing Joe and Juliana reunion
- After having such an electric chemistry in season 1, it was slightly disappointing to see Joe and Juliana separated for the entirety of season 2. While it’s understandable given the stories being told that they wouldn’t be in each other’s orbits, I think they are going to need to cross paths again because they’re story really could be amazing if they were together. This reunion is a must for season 3!