Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Man in the High Castle 2x02 Recap: "The Road Less Traveled" (Starting Over) [Guest Poster: Stephanie Coats]


"The Road Less Traveled"
Original Airdate: December 16, 2016

What do you do when you’re wanted by the government and hunted by the resistance? You rely on the kindness of strangers. And you also dredge up old family drama because there’s always time for that.

Juliana hitches a ride with a nice, former army medic who fixes her dislocated shoulder. She goes to her mom’s house and while she waits for her step-dad, Arnold, to come home, she pages through family photo albums. There she finds a picture of Arnold with her dad and the mystery man she remembers from the funeral. Her mother sheepishly admits that man, George Dixon, is Trudy’s dad and that Trudy found out. “Did you plan on going through the whole unit?” Juliana snaps back. Harsh but also, seriously mom.

Once Arnold arrives and Juliana catches them up on basically everything that’s happened, she tells them to leave town. It makes sense that Arnold, who does wiretapping for the Japanese, would refuse but interestingly, so does Juliana’s mom. When Lem and Gary show up at the door, Juliana just manages to escape and leaves her parents behind. If your daughter was clearly being hunted by both the police and a resistance group, wouldn’t you decide now was a good time to take a vacation? Especially because very soon the police are going to know she’s up to no good.

ELSEWHERE, IN THE PACIFIC STATES OF AMERICA


It doesn’t take too much effort for Chief Inspector Kido to piece together that, in the shootout between the Japanese guards and the Resistance, the latter was also likely shooting at Juliana. Just about the time he’s making that connection, he’s also getting blackmailed by Mr. Okamura who is the leader of the Japanese mafia (known as the Yakuza). Frank has managed to convince the Yakuza he can make forgeries for them, but only if he has his assistant, Ed. Okamura cashes in the favor Kido owes him and Ed is released, though there are hints Kido has perhaps threatened Ed into becoming a double agent of sorts. Poor Ed. He still deserves better.

Meanwhile, Trade Minister Tagomi is still suffering the after-effects of having seen an alternate reality. His devoted aide, Kotomichi, searched for records of things Tagomi saw referenced in that world, such as Nelson Mandela, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Lolita. None of them exist. Juliana shows up at his house and tries to get his help but Tagomi politely refuses. She warns him to leave the city before respectfully bowing and leaving.

THE REICH


Throwing in his swastika, Joe goes back to the honest work of breaking concrete. He also returns to Rita and her son, Buddy, and they make a nice little family unit that probably works better on paper than in practice. Even though Joe doesn’t fit into the Nazi mold, he doesn’t fit into this mold either. The fact that he can’t find contentment in either lifestyle is a strong indicator he’s made for something else.

The only person who knows this better than we do is probably Obergruppenf├╝hrer Smith. After his startling dressing down by Hitler, he seems to be a man unsure how to proceed. On the surface, he appears the same, happily telling his wife’s friends (who all stare appreciatively as he walks into the room) that the Fuhrer is in excellent health. In private with his wife, though, he confesses it’s the opposite and he’s worried. Smith no longer looks like a man proud to do his duty but scared to fail.

So it’s with a dose of intrigue that Smith pays Joe a visit. Here is a man attempting to live a life within — but separate from — the Reich and is visibly dissatisfied. When Smith says he understands the appeal of this life, does he mean it or is it another manipulation? It hardly matters at this moment because Joe has been ordered to Berlin by Reichsminister Heusmann, his high-ranking father. While this may be a ploy on Smith’s part to get someone he knows stationed in Berlin, there’s no denying a part of Joe is hungry to see his father. Rita, who had no clue Joe worked for the Reich, tells him to go and if he comes back, it shouldn’t be for her.

But you know who would really appreciate it if Joe came back? Juliana. In his defense, Joe does not know that a) Juliana is alive (Smith keeps insinuating she’s dead) and b) that she’s making a last, desperate move to save herself. She rushes toward the border of the Reich as Japanese guards, having recognized her, shout at her to stop. They aim their weapons and so do the Nazi soldiers who are unclear what exactly is happening. Right about the time it looks like someone is about to get shot, Juliana throws herself over the border of the Reich. “My name is Juliana Crane,” she says, voice shaking. “I work with Joe Blake. I need asylum.”

Final Thoughts:
  • I’m hoping I’m wrong but is it possible Helen Smith is a spy or a member of the Resistance? She takes such a keen interest in her husband’s observations of the Fuhrer and handles the news so calmly. There is certainly more to her than meets the eye. 
  • This episode’s smack-you-in-the-face moment happened while Joe and Buddy were reading Huckleberry Finn. Buddy asks if Huck is good or bad and Joe responds that Huck is trying to be good but that it’s difficult. Everyone faces this challenge. Confused, Buddy asks, “What about Jim? How can he be good if he’s black?”
  • Did Juliana’s dad die during the war? Or is there something more suspicious about his death? Also, is there a reason her mom slept with three best friends? 
  • Lastly, there was a tiny scene of Kido at a club with the General where they are entertained by polite conversation with American women. One woman seems to have caught Kido’s interest despite his wife and children back in Japan. But the man is far too tightly wound to even drink let alone pursue an American woman. Or is he?

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