Friday, January 13, 2017

The Man in the High Castle 2x06 Recap: "Kintsugi" (Golden Repair) [Guest Poster: Stephanie Coats]

Original Airdate: December 16, 2016

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer that is mixed with gold. Philosophically, it is recognizing and accepting the beauty in brokenness, rather than trying to hide or disguise it. It also begs the question: what will you do with your brokenness, with your mistakes, with your conflicting desires? Which path will you choose?


After sleeping over in his AU house, Tagomi wakes to his son, Nori, hosting a “Ban the Bomb” meeting. In private, Nori asks his father to sign the divorce papers but Tagomi is highly conflicted. In his world, he yearned to be reunited with his wife and son, and now they are here and yet somehow further away than ever. He also has a grandchild and a daughter-in-law (Juliana), though Nori doesn’t want him left alone with the baby. By the end of the episode, Tagomi seems resolved to take action. With pointed interest, he watches JFK’s Cuban Missile Crisis address, in which the president says the most dangerous thing someone can do when faced with an imminent threat is nothing.

Even though Tagomi is the only character to hear this speech, its message resonates through many of the other main players.


Being a part of the Resistance in the Reich is uncomfortable for Juliana, and not only because she’s risking her life. She doesn’t want to become a Nazi, even if it’s pretend. She also has a hard time reconciling the kindness and normalcy of the Helen and her friends with the atrocities committed by the Reich. When Juliana manages to get an invite to Helen’s bridge club, she listens in horrified silence as the women discuss genetic defects and genetic hygiene. Unnoticed by everyone, Helen’s expression goes cold.

But soon after, Juliana is out shopping with one of the ladies, Lucy Collins, and is smacked in the face with a different image of Nazis. During a breakdown, Lucy reveals she has been trying to get pregnant for three years but has been unsuccessful. She is certain the problem is with her and yet she won’t take a test to find out for sure. Her husband, a prominent member of the Reich’s news (i.e. propaganda) department, would likely be ruined if she took the test because having children is of utmost importance to the Reich. Unquestioningly, Juliana feels sorry for Lucy. Juliana — and the audience, perhaps — gets a glimpse that these American Nazis are not completely enslaved to the Fuhrer; some part of them wishes for a different life.

Helen, of course, knows all about that. With her son ill and subject to euthanization by the state if his illness were to be discovered, she must be wishing they lived in another time or place too. But her husband has taken some steps in that direction. Smith secretly arranged for a Hitler Youth expedition to South America, and Thomas receives an invitation. Helen instantly says no, but later in Smith’s office, they talk the scenario through. (Once Smith has turned off all the recording devices.) The plan is for Thomas to arrive in South America and be kidnapped by Semites, who will look after him. To everyone else, it will look like terrorists have kidnapped the son of a high ranking Nazi and Smith himself will lead the (ultimately unsuccessful) hunt for his own son.

It means a life of keeping up appearances and potentially never seeing their son again, but it also means Thomas gets to live. An impossible choice for a parent but Helen makes it, agreeing to let Thomas go on the trip. He is overjoyed. That night, Helen and her husband quietly and sadly embrace each other in bed.


Just as Tagomi and Helen are being forced to make some major decisions in this episode, as is Joe. Nicole, the woman from the hotel, picks him up and takes him to a party with other people their age. She confesses that some of them, like herself, are also Lebensborn. What she should’ve said is they’re all basically German, swinger, hippies. They all take hallucinogenic drugs, including Joe.

With his mind open, so are the two parts of him that are warring. Joe’s visions sometimes show the partygoers as beasts and himself leaving them behind. He follows Juliana to a quiet area and apologizes that the version of him in the film killed her. Juliana kisses him, but when he pulls back, it’s Nicole instead. Outside, she shows Joe a version of himself that is dead, saying they don’t matter at all — dead or alive. When she shifts back to Juliana, she reminds Joe that she saved his life. She tells him he must make that act matter.

When Joe finally wakes in the morning, he’s unsure what was real and what wasn’t. Nicole seems to suggest they were intimate but it’s hard to know if she is preying on Joe’s frazzled memory. Returning to his father’s house, Joe puts on a nice suit and stares at himself in the mirror. After several seconds of contemplation, he slips a Nazi armband on as well.

Final thoughts: 
  • Some part of the American Nazis is inherently rejecting the Reich. This is evident in Smith and Helen’s decision to protect their son, Lucy concealing her potential inability to conceive, and even Joe’s discomfort with life in Berlin. Are they ripe for a revolution?
  • While looking through his AU house, Tagomi finds pictures of himself serving in the Japanese Army and reference to himself as a Don. Are these true of him in his own reality too? 
  • True in any reality is the blatant good looks of Rufus Sewell, a.k.a. John Smith. As Lucy says to Juliana, “Dreadfully handsome, isn’t he? Don’t worry. We all think so. And Helen wouldn’t be annoyed to hear it. She knows what she’s got.”


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