Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Man in the High Castle 2x03 Recap: "Travelers" (Doctor, Doctor) [Guest Poster: Stephanie Coats]


"Travelers"
Original Airdate: December 16, 2016

Sometimes, it’s not so easy to be a Nazi. Juliana, Joe, and John Smith all discover this in different ways and their reactions vary. But what will it mean for them choices moving forward?


JULIANA AND JULIA


After dramatically throwing herself at the mercy of the Nazis in the last episode, Juliana learns what she’s truly in for. Before she’s questioned about her association with the Resistance and Joe, she’s given a horrifically invasive medical exam. The slight yellow tone of her skin is grounds for concern, as are the scars from the bus accident — which had also broken her pelvis. That means it’s unlikely she can bear children, which is a major issue because what value does she have to the Reich if she can’t produce new little Nazis?

When she finally gets to the questioning portion of her horrible day, we learn the most startling thing of all: everything on this show has taken place in the span of only two weeks! Juliana writes down everything that’s happened, but leaves out anything about the man in the high castle, and — for some inexplicable reason — Gary. If anyone deserves to be on the Reich’s watch list, it’s Gary. Obergruppenf├╝hrer Smith is disappointed by both omissions, and suspects that she’s holding back. But he gives her asylum anyway, on his personal authority, despite the many “defects” discovered during her medical exam and issues with her story.

I’d like to say Smith does this out of the kindness of his heart, perhaps seeing Juliana’s questionable medical standing as no different than his son’s; but he just wants to use her against Joe and/or the Resistance. He and his wife set her up in a nice dorm for single women, also giving her clothes, make-up, and a new name: Julia Mills. It’s cultural shock on every level. The clinical cruelty of the Reich is counterbalanced by overt kindness once you’re “in.” Institutionalized racism is everyday but, unlike the Pacific States, there seems to be little fear. People don’t even lock their doors. Though when everyone is the same as you, what is there to fear?

Refusing to take Smith at his word that she can see Joe soon, Juliana (I’m going to keep calling her that because it’s just easier) puts on her best Nazi American face, even giving herself a haircut. She tracks down Joe’s address but when she arrives, Rita is there to tell her Joe is in Berlin visiting his big wig dad.

BERLIN


It would’ve been more accurate to say that Joe is in Berlin acting like a petulant manbaby with his big wig dad. Several times in season one references were made to Joe wanting to make his father proud, yet now we see them together and Joe has nothing but contempt for the other man. Reichsminister Heusmann apparently abandoned Joe and his mom to a life of poverty in the states. So, yeah, Joe’s not super cool with his pop showing him off at a swanky Nazi party and toasting to his ability to get a shipload of men blown up.

As he’s leaving, a beautiful woman suggests that Joe should consider staying in Berlin to help the Reich instead of returning to his honest job in the States. Why is every woman so hot for Joe? Is it just because he’s the son of a prominent Nazi or do these women have a sixth sense that he’s the guy in the show they’re supposed to like? Look, nothing against Luke Kleintank, who is very handsome, but someone please tell me what I’m missing here.

THE PACIFIC STATES OF AMERICA


Having freed his BFF Ed, Frank is now going to work for the Yakuza. Their payment is due in a week. They set up shop in Childan’s house but Frank is immediately distracted by the presence of Gary, who, when asked for details on Juliana, says only that she got Karen killed. Which is lie because we all know effin’ Gary was responsible. Frank soon learns Juliana has defected to the Reich and so when Sara from the Resistance gives him a chance to help save a busload of people, he agrees.

Here’s what happened: two Japanese cops died during the shootout with the Resistance when Juliana escaped. As retribution, the Japanese are going to select 12 people at random from a factory and shoot them. Thankfully, the Resistance intervenes and in the course of the rescue, Frank kills a guard who was holding Sara at gunpoint.

While this is a big win for the Resistance, the Japanese are even more angry than before. Chief Inspector Kido visits Juliana’s family and all but threatens the couple if they don’t report in when Juliana calls. Then there’s the General. He’s peeved at Trade Minister Tagomi, who tried to change the plans to covertly transport radioactive materials. The General is going to move them on public buses that are only carrying American women and children.

Tagomi is horrified by this decision, knowing he is in part to blame. “When they die,” he tells Kotomichi, “it be because I failed to prevent it.” Late that night, Tagomi meditates in his office. When Kotomichi goes to check on him, he’s disappeared from his chair.

JOHN SMITH’S DILEMMA


At the start of the episode, Smith received a house call from the doctor. The man knows Smith has not yet euthanized Thomas for being “defective.” It’s a crime against the state to both withhold Thomas’ diagnosis and to not kill him. The doctor tells Smith to “take care of it,” as if this were a chore like taking out the trash, or he’ll do it tomorrow.

Throughout the episode, we’re presented with moments of Smith’s struggle with his conscience. Almost immediately after all but pleading for his son’s life with the doctor, Smith breaks the rules by granting Juliana asylum. He watches sadly as Thomas plays outside with his siblings. Remembering back to his conversation with Helen in the last episode, it’s not hard to see Smith as a man weighed down by responsibilities, some of them too horrible to imagine. It’s also worth noting he spends most of this episode not in his officer’s uniform. It’s easy to forget he’s a member of the Nazi Party. He’s just a father facing a terrible decision.

When the time of reckoning comes, Smith persuades his son to skip a Hitler Youth meeting so they can go fishing at the lake together. They sit on the dock and Smith makes a point of telling Thomas how proud they are of him. Thomas is undeniably a good son, as kind and just as the Reich allows boys to be. We know he doesn’t deserve to die. Smith listens only half-heartedly as Thomas tells him about a girl he likes and as he talks, we see Smith’s face change. Where he’s looked like a grieving man most of the episode, now his expression hardens into something else. This is the look of a man who last season pushed another man — a fellow Nazi, no less — from the top of a building with little ceremony.

Later, he meets the doctor at his car and the other man offers him comfort. But we already know now what’s going to happen. Smith injects the doctor with the fatal cocktail meant for his son. Then he leaves the dead man, the only other person who knew of his son’s illness, in his car.

Final Thoughts:
  • As soon as Thomas’ diagnosis was revealed in season one, the question has been lingering of how far Smith’s loyalty to the Reich extends. Now we know. Not that far.  
  • While I hope and believe his decision in this episode will be the catalyst for Smith to eventually join the Resistance, I can’t help wondering what Thomas’ reaction will be. He’s potentially an even more devout adherent to the Reich than his father. Would Thomas take matters into his own hands? 
  • After being unsure if Tagomi universe-hopped or just had a vision, now we know he’s physically traveling to these other realities. Holding on to the theory this means people from those realities can do the same. 
  • Two weeks ago, Frank Frink was a frustrated artist wasted at a factory. Now he’s a freedom fighter? Didn’t take much. 
  • My interest in Joe and his personal problems is very low. I find it continually hard to sympathize with him and I can’t even really say why. Here’s hoping his story becomes more compelling and less whiny. 

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