‘The Man in the High Castle: Season 2, Episode 5’ - TV Review

As it starts to seem like this season is finally getting closer to providing some answers, Episode 5 shakes things up and raises more questions. As a whole, this show is driven by its mysterious plot, while its setting provides a disturbing, but artistic, appeal. The acting supports these other elements but is not the crux of the show’s success. That’s okay, though, because the audience does not need to be emotionally invested in the characters to appreciate the uniqueness of the show’s storyline and the remarkable attention to detail the creators have paid in building both versions of America.

In a moment that provides some light humor (which is so rare for this show!), Tagomi (Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa), who continues to dimension-hop, attempts to eat a Twinkie with chopsticks. The fun part of watching this scene is playing I Spy with all the “real-world America” details.  The American flag on the house, American-brand foods that line the food cabinets, Lincoln on the five-dollar bill, and the content of the radio broadcasts all serve as reminders that the show’s main version of reality isn’t necessarily fixed. Subtle details in set and props continue to achieve powerful effects in being significant markers of a particular reality. Part of the show’s success is its delicacy with the sci-fi element. Each episode pushes Tagomi just a little further into a second reality (Earth-2?), which allows the audience to attempt to rationalize the presence of multiple dimensions but has yet to offer a suggestion of their relationship. This is what makes the show’s synopsis so unique, and the gradual pacing makes it all seem plausible while still creating wonder and mystery.

Playing George Dixon, Tate Donovan is a welcome addition to the cast. As the possible key player in preventing San Francisco being destroyed by an atomic bomb, his role seems pivotal; however, are Juliana (Alexa Davalos) and George’s actions setting in motion events that will actually cause this devastation or prevent it from happening? Though used quite often in film, the idea of meddling within timelines is fresh in this show, because the films in this universe provide evidence of other universes. Perhaps, then, there are not just two Earths, but as many as the man in the high castle’s stack of films.

Secrets from Joe’s (Luke Kleintank) past come to light, explaining why the writers sent him off to Berlin for so many episodes. But while Joe gets emotional learning about his past, this reveal is not all that shocking or powerful. Perhaps if there were a Vader moment with Hitler, we might feel the angst that Joe does. But the scene lags in the emotional intensity it tries to stir. The set, though, is striking, as the dilapidated, abandoned building greatly contrasts with the grandiose Nazi buildings in the city. While Joe’s storyline is rather weak, the awe-inspiring Berlin set certainly makes up for it.

The end of this episode is one of the best cliffhanger moments of the season, especially because it makes it seem likely the coexistence of Earth-1 and Earth-2 universes. Are the writers taking on the comic book multiverse tactic? That would make the man in the high castle the Stan Lee of this series! If we really are witnessing a multiverse, though, then why is it that Tagomi does not have a doppelganger? Tagomi’s travels are evidence of different potential life paths, and while it seems less and less likely that the characters will be able to reset the past, there are documented options for the future. If George and Juliana help save this Earth, then does another get destroyed? With so many possibilities, this season continues to disrupt conventional notions of time, choice, and reality. 

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