Erica McCrystal, Fanbase Press Contributor

Erica McCrystal, Fanbase Press Contributor

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.

Coming off the excitement of Episode 3, the fourth installment of Season 2 of The Man in the High Castle slows down as it puts the key players in place in what feels like a setup episode for upcoming action and plot resolutions.

As Episode 3 builds tension between characters, confrontations and interactions keep us on edge and in anticipation for some hefty climaxes. Characters previously involved in separate storylines cross paths, such as Inspector Kido (Joel de la Fuente) visiting Juliana’s parents (Daniel Roebuck and Macall Gordon) and Obergruppenführer Smith (Rufus Sewell) questioning Juliana (Alexa Davalos). As we hold our breath, characters must not slip up in order to avoid potentially dangerous consequences. The music in this episode is loud and poignant, which also heightens the intensity and makes each scene even more dramatic. The dangers seem more real as some characters teeter on the brink of their breaking points.

In Episode 2, a withered Ed McCarthy (DJ Qualls) returns and is reunited with Frank (Rupert Evans) who now owes the Japanese. At this point, Frank’s plot doesn’t seem to have anything to do with Juliana’s (Alexa Davalos), but I imagine that what he builds for the Japanese will ultimately connect to the other main storylines. It seems likely that Joe (Luke Kleintank) will run into Juliana again too, even though he currently thinks she’s dead. Misinformation and deception are so common in this show that the characters really shouldn’t trust anything that anyone tells them.

We love genre mashups. Like Joss Whedon’s Firefly (a western about pirates in outer space), Stranger Things successfully mixes popular genres, becoming an '80s sci-fi kids' adventure/thriller that’s not really meant for a youth audience. When The Goonies meets The X-Files and lasts for 10 hours binged in one weekend, you get an entertaining and engaging series.

The disturbingly beautiful rendition of “Edelweiss” by Jeanette Olsson in the opening credits of The Man in the High Castle brings us to the alternate reality where the Nazis rule eastern America and the Japanese have control of the west coast. Adapted from Philip K. Dick’s short novel of the same title, The Man in the High Castle shows us an America that lost World War II; however, this world is not as simple as an alternate version of history. When videos inconsistent with this reality are discovered, showing America winning the war, the characters risk their lives trying to get their hands on the films. Season 1 left us wondering whose side characters were really on, with growing tensions between the Nazis, the Japanese, and a secret group called Resistance. The sci-fi element throughout Season 1 has been subtle but present enough to raise questions as to whether these characters can recover the history that we know. Season 2 provides similar suggestions of alternate realities coexisting, and the first episode, “The Tiger’s Cave,” leaves us anticipating another great season.

New Jersey’s largest indoor toy, comic, collectibles, and gaming con, ToyConNJ, was held the weekend of November 12 and 13 at the PAL building in Parsippany. Over 30,000 square feet of gyms, utilities rooms, and hallways held over 200 eight-foot tables filled with vintage and contemporary toys, movie memorabilia, comic books, video games, artwork, and more. From hard-to-find G.I. Joes to the latest Funko POP! figures, the vendors offered a huge range of toys at reasonable prices.

This Halloween season, The Rise of the Jack O’Lanterns brought 5,000 hand-carved jack o’lanterns to four locations across the country for guests to explore. Artists crafted their pumpkin masterpieces to the likeness of classic characters, celebrities, athletes, and politicians. The New Jersey event at the Meadowlands Expo Center contained Disney characters, horror movie legends, superheroes, supervillians, and Hillary and a Trumpkin. There was an in memoriam section that included Gene Wilder, Alan Rickman, and Muhammad Ali, among others. The room was dark, allowing the illuminated pumpkins’ carved images to glow.

New York Comic Con at Javits Center boasts its high numbers of fans every year. These numbers were certainly visible in the lines to get inside. Gridlocked sidewalks full of heroes, villains, robots, and the less adventurous t-shirt wearers extended down 39th Street all the way from 11th to 10th Avenues, then around the corner to 37th Street. If you tried to avoid this line, you were diverted down 34th Street to 12th Avenue and all the way around the exterior of Javits. And these lines didn’t even include the fans who lined up for panels at offsite locations: Hammerstein Ballroom, BookCon, and the Theater at Madison Square Garden. Crowd control was a struggle for some workers on the streets who just couldn’t compete with a mob of Luigis or Pokemon. Perhaps these impatient fans need to get multi-day passes next year! In line, though, was an opportunity to explore the NYCC app, which provided schedules, maps, guest lists, interactive activities, and ways to link your experience with social media. It also alerted notifications on when panels and autograph lines reached capacity (as Stan Lee’s did every single day).

Despite the actor playing the role or the upgrades to his suit, we always recognize any version of Batman. The supervillains, too, are clearly identifiable by their appearance. But what about Gotham City? Gotham has become a recognizable staple of the Batman franchise. It is what made Bruce into Batman and what is known as the comfortable stomping grounds for all of Batman’s foes. But each creator’s version of Gotham is so different from the others. Do we recognize the city simply because it contains the Bat? Or are there other features that remain consistent? Gotham’s skyline is certainly recognizable when it features the bat signal. Beyond that, though, Gotham has been visually depicted in so many different ways that the cityscape always is unique, even though each version maintains a geography suitable to Batman and the supervillains. Because Gotham is often depicted as dark, tall, and labyrinthine, evil may lurk in any corner. And the average man cannot navigate the city as successfully as Batman. His technology and resources equip him with the means to scale any building or negotiate any sewer system. Gotham City may be defined, then, as a space that always embodies the struggle between good and evil. Even though Batman may be triumphant, since supervillains always threaten the city, there is never any permanent relief. Batman tries to give hope to a city under constant threat, but Gotham will never be free from danger. Gotham is Gotham because it is perpetually at risk of complete devastation. So, perhaps Gotham may be recognizable as a space for the villain/hero cycle of activity. We can always count on Batman to save his city but must accept that this is temporary, as a new villain will be arriving soon.

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