Monday, December 19, 2016

The Man in the High Castle 2x01 Recap: "The Tiger’s Cave" (Meet the Maker) [Guest Poster: Stephanie Coats]

"The Tiger’s Cave"
Original Airdate: December 16, 2016

Everything you need to know about why The Man in the High Castle is an immersive and emotionally complex show, you learn in the first few minutes of season two.

Thomas Smith, the secretly sick son of Obergruppenführer Smith, begins his day at school. He smiles shyly at a cute girl before being called up to lead the class in the morning pledge. They recite their allegiance to Hitler and give the customary Nazi salute. It’s the perfect way to start the sophomore season. Everything we see seems incredibly normal and recognizable... right up until the point where it becomes unsettling.


Speaking of Nazis, Joe Blake is still on the boat that Juliana helped him escape on at the end of season one. He pays the crew to help him and the Nazis deliver the money. But as soon as Joe is aboard their plane, the boat explodes. I don’t know why Joe is shocked; doesn’t he know who he works for?

Obergruppenführer Smith, who arranged Joe’s safe return and the explosion on the boat, is very pleased to have obtained the film at last. Feeling he’s done his duty, Joe wants to resign, especially when Smith tells him they believe Juliana is dead. Smith chastises him, “In the future you have to learn to keep your feelings in check,” which is a bit rich considering Smith is currently letting his love for his son override a decision he’s supposed to make.

The Obergruppenführer continues to be one of the most complex (and let’s face it, gorgeous) characters. It’s plain how much he genuinely loves his family and is unwilling to sacrifice them or even abandon them to torture. After his tense encounter in the cabin in the woods last season, he returned home to his worried wife. It seems their plan, if he’d been killed, was for her to shoot the kids and herself in order to avoid torture. Just let that sink in a moment. His relief they are all alive and well is palpable.

But this emotion is balanced by his cruelty and apathy, such as murdering a shipload of men without batting an eye. Yet, he’s also not above fear himself. In one of the best scenes of the episode, he goes to Berlin to deliver the film to Hitler, who berates him for failing to locate the man in the high castle. Smith, usually calm and authoritative in any situation, shrinks into a petrified child before Hitler. His behavior drives home the notion that the Nazis have cultivated a godlike image of Hitler. Men literally tremble before him.


Poor Juliana is having a rough time. Unable to explain why she couldn’t kill Joe and why she let him leave with the film, the Resistance shoots her. As she dies, we see flashes of her whole life, including two key moments: her father’s funeral and her throwing herself in front of a bus in an apparent attempt at suicide. This is an interesting tease because though Juliana’s bus accident, and the subsequent scars she bears, was often mentioned in season one, we’ve never learned any details until now.

Thankfully we’ll have the chance to learn even more in the future because the shot was actually a sedative. Juliana wakes at the residence of Hawthorn Abendsen, a.k.a., the man in the high castle. He asks her to tell him exactly what she saw in the film, and for an important reason. Abendsen has thousands of films, all arranged by year, and every film that shows Japan winning WWII ends with San Francisco being wiped out by an A-bomb. Every film but one. Abendsen believes a Nazi man killed in that particular film is the key to preventing San Francisco’s desolation. But Juliana isn’t sure if she saw that same man in the film Joe is carrying.

Juliana’s conversation with Abendsen is tantalizingly close to providing us with answers about how these films exist and what they actually show. He tells her “each one of these films shows a reality like ours, but not ours” and expresses his belief that most people are different in each film depending on the path their lives have taken. This would explain Joe as a careful Nazi soldier in one film while in the current reality he’s incredibly conflicted. Juliana wonders if it’s possible for people to come over from these other realities, specifically, because she’s almost positive she saw her sister recently. Which can’t be true because Trudy is definitely dead, right? But Abendsen won’t give her an answer.

On his orders, Juliana is sedated again and driven away. But Resistance guy Gary wants to kill her for letting Joe and the film escape. Karen and Lem both object. When Juliana manages to escape from the trunk of the car, Gary wheels around after her. The Japanese engage the Resistance in a shootout, allowing Juliana to get away. Karen is shot and killed in the fight, which is entirely Gary’s fault. Effin’ Gary. Hiding in the forest, Juliana thinks more on the man from the film and realizes she does recognize him. He was at her father’s funeral.


And then there’s Frank, the guy who both can’t catch a break and also manages to ruin so many things. He desperately tries to get the Chief Inspector of the Kempeitai to arrest him for the Crown Prince’s shooting. As we’ll recall, Frank’s devoted friend Ed had taken the fall for him. When his pleas fail, he convinces the antiques dealer, Mr. Childan, to take him to see Mr. Kasoura, the wealthy Japanese lawyer they sold a fake antique to last season. When Kasoura refuses to help them free Ed, Frank reveals their forgery for some reason and Kasoura detains them.

The Chief Inspector has much bigger things on his agenda than Ed. The Japanese have the plans for the A-bomb and, once it’s built, they plan to aim it at New York. This, they hope, will put them on even playing field with the Nazis. The only person uneasy with this plan is the person who most helped put it into effect. Trade Minister Tagomi speaks to his aide, Kotomichi, of his vision of San Francisco where the U.S. won the war. He says, “It wasn’t the past. And it didn’t feel like a dream,” perhaps hinting that he will soon learn of the alternate realities Abendsen mentioned.

Final Thoughts: 
  • I continue to feel incredibly conflicted about finding Obergruppenfurher Smith so dang attractive. He’s a Nazi but he’s also super hot? And he’s conflicted? If he could just defer to the resistance or something, that’d help my feelings a lot. 
  • Frank is such a pain. I feel bad for the guy but also I kind of don’t.
  • Mostly, I feel bad for Ed. He deserves much, much better. 
  • Did Tagomi “jump” to another reality or merely have a vision? If the former, could this mean people from other realities can “jump” into ours?
  • Gary can suck an egg. 
What did you think of the season premiere of The Man in the High Castle? Sound off in the comments below!


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