I always wondered how an adaptation of The Man in the High Castle would look. This first season exceeded what I could imagine. It expands on the novel fantastically, in ways that have me wondering what’s next - especially after the trade minister wakes from his little nap in the park. Satirical twists and paradoxes are what Philip K. Dick’s work is all about. If you don’t get that, you might have a hard time here. As for me, I watched the pilot a few weeks ago and the other nine episodes all in one shot. I understand binge-watching is a thing these days, but this show is really something else, from the cinematography, costumes, and settings to the choice of music and the casting. I couldn’t hold back.
I hate to dock it even a star, but the writers need to work on the dialogue a little and get the characters’ decision-making skills tightened up a notch in spots. The acting more than makes up for it. Juliana and Frank are quite good actors, though as characters they’re the two who need to work on making better choices the most. Joe Blake is AOK. He’s listening to Brucker’s 5th on the truck radio in the pilot: that’s a crafty bit that foreshadows which side he supposed to be on if you know your history. (Poor Bruckner was one of the Reich’s favorites.) Trade Minister Tagomi is a favorite character of mine, though what’s going through his mind in the series is largely still a mystery to the audience. Chief Inspector Kido is like the character from Mishima’s Patriotism, ready for death before dishonor. Wegener’s story line is brilliant, and Obergruppenführer Smith… wow. What an actor, up there with Tywin Lannister from Game of Thrones in the hall of bad guy greats.
As for one-star reviewers, I can accept if the grim style didn’t catch them. I can accept that some were excessively irritated by one-too-many dopey decisions made by some of the characters. I can accept their being squeamish about violence. I can also accept if they don’t like though-provoking literature and slept through history class in high school or even if they think everything written today is part of some liberal conspiracy. Some people really can’t help themselves. But I absolutely won’t accept people complaining about potty language and sex. Stop it already. In this series there is almost none of either, and still the complaints. I cannot stomach the righteous. I’m deeply thankful for every great foul-mouthed, doggie-styled work of cinema, music, and art that offends them.
From what I see, the story arc will build on Dick’s genius and do it proud. I guarantee some wild stuff is ahead. With the overwhelming number of the 52,000+ reviews being positive, I think we’re looking at some recording-breaking viewership next season. I couldn’t be happier.