The Man In The High Castle, S01E01

The other night I discovered that Amazon Prime has a long list of original shows just like Netflix. I don’t know how this escaped my attention. Actually I do know: I usually find something to watch on Netflix before I click the Amazon button on my Vizio remote.

Anyway, scrolling through the Amazon Originals list I spotted The Man In The High Castle, which is a show I’ve heard about often but never realized it was an Amazon show. I don’t know where I thought it was. I just assumed it was on some channel I didn’t have, like Showtime or Starz or something.

I also never realized it was a show about an alternate timeline where the Axis won World War II, based on a Philip K. Dick novel. I always thought it was some kind of generic spy show, maybe like The Americans.

The point is, I finally watched the first episode. My expectations were fairly high, but unfortunately I didn’t really get into it.

I had one big problem with it, and it’s a really nerdy, nitpicky detail that I shouldn’t have in a show that is obviously fiction and not even about this: They didn’t adequately explain to me how the Axis could possibly have won World War II and go on to invade America. I wanted to see a historically accurate, plausible explanation, with all the logistical details of how they replaced the U.S. government with a German government, but all I got was: They used the atomic bomb first, and they invaded Virginia Beach.

That’s what I was waiting for through the entire first episode: The explanation. Some explanation. Any explanation. I guess I did get “any” explanation, but it was rather disappointing.

I’m not an expert on WWII, but I know enough to know that “Germany dropped the A-bomb first” is not a good enough explanation to overcome historical facts. I mean, the Normandy beach landings across the English channel were a logistical nightmare, how did Germany pull off an invasion of Virginia Beach, across an entire ocean?? Where did Germany even get the manpower to pull off such an invasion?? Presumably they wouldn’t have dropped their A-bomb(s) until late in the war, at which time they were utterly devastated as a country and an army. The only way any of it makes sense is if they drop their A-bombs on Day 1 of the war, before they got the bright idea to invade Russia. And yet nobody had A-bomb technology on Day 1 of the war, so how do we explain that little detail? (This is why I don’t write historical fiction. Too many details to pick apart.)

That’s the kind of stuff I kept thinking about while I was watching the episode.

The things that the characters were actually doing on screen seemed unimportant to me in comparison to figuring out how they arrived at that time. As the show went on, I got the impression there is some kind of time-travel element, because that woman had tapes of the “real” outcome of World War II. That was a bit of a disappointment, too. Not only did they not give me a plausible explanation for the Axis winning, they weren’t even committing to it! They are saying that the events of this show are happening in the “wrong” timeline, and presumably our heroes will be spending the show trying to fix things. Or–even more preposterous–the war turned out the way it was supposed to, but something happened after the war to allow Germany and Japan to take over America, and it was all covered up to the point that nobody knows about it.

Given that I didn’t see anything better on Amazon, I guess I’ll watch some more to see if I can resolve some of these mysteries, but I’m probably not going to be glued to the television while the episodes play.

I rate the first episode a “meh.”

P. S. The second episode did not draw me in either. It occurred to me that Nazi bad guys are such a cliche now that seeing actual Nazi bad guys in an appropriately Nazi setting seems like more of a joke than a serious dramatic element. Especially since they are playing them up as stereotypical Nazi bad guys instead of complex characters who happen to be Nazis.

2 thoughts on “The Man In The High Castle, S01E01”

  1. I read somewhere it’s an alternate universe and the films somehow get brought through a portal. I didn’t get that from just watching the 1st episode, and since I thought ep 1 was boring, I haven’t watched any more of it either.

  2. The series, like many such adaptations, is aimed at the fans of the book, which has been popular over the years. One of the things about the book, which the series takes its time exploring, is whether or not this conquest of America even happened or is just an illusion. In the show this is brought up via films that come from said man in his metaphorical castle that show the allied victory that we know, though even that has some divergence from what we “know” just to muddy the waters.

    In the end, the “how did it happen” doesn’t enter into it so much as “how do we know it happened?” in a situation where things start to appear that indicate that maybe it didn’t. And, of course, there is “can we get back to the what should have happened?” left dangling out there.

    Basically, Philip K. Dick liked to get into deeper ideas than a generally face value genre preferred at the time, and the series has rightfully tried to capture that.

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