As the series continues to hop from character to character, Episode 8 spends some time with Ed (DJ Qualls) and Childan (Brennan Brown), whose projects seem insignificant compared to the plots that Frank (Rupert Evans) and Juliana (Alexa Davalos) are wrapped up in. Though at times a bit oafish, Ed and Childan serve as reminders of the good, innocent people who could die if the Nazis destroy the city. Childan may be the most likeable character on the show; he certainly has the most personality as a cultured, charming businessman who overextends his attempts at social couth. At the same time, Ed and Childan are pretty useless as fighters, so once the showdown begins, hopefully, they will not be involved.
Episode 7 is a visual masterpiece. Opening with Frank’s (Rupert Evans) nightmare, the episode illustrates the desperation one faces in protecting family. This applies to both Frank, whose nightmare recalls his involvement in the deaths of his sister and her children, and Smith (Rufus Sewell), who has chosen to protect his son over allegiance to his party. The dinner table gassing of Frank’s nightmare uses an overhead perspective as if the audience were the gas, suggesting the audience is complicit in such tragedies. Throughout this season, all alternate versions of reality—the content of the film, Frank’s nightmare, Joe’s (Luke Kleintank) drug trip, and Tagomi’s (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) visits alternate America—serve as powerful stimuli for characters. These scenes are also visually dynamic and emotionally charged.
The sixth episode is titled “Kintsugi,” which is a Japanese artistic practice of repairing broken pottery while keeping the cracks visible, which is meant to create visual historicity in the object. While this is potentially a literal reference to the broken teacup that Tagomi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) finds in alternate America, it also serves as a metaphor that spans the entire show. Each group—the Nazis, the Japanese, and the Resistance—actually denies the reparation of the broken nation. While each group continues to disrupt the agenda of another, America seems more and more likely to be beyond repair. The groups end up being more destructive rather than restorative, and the potential annihilation of San Francisco that was foreshadowed in the man in the high castle’s film would effectively eradicate much historical evidence of Japanese influence in America.
For those who enjoyed the unpredictability and edginess of Stranger Things, Netflix’s new series, The OA - co-created by Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij - needs to be next up on their binge-list. The OA raises questions about the world, the afterlife, and the space in between. This 8-episode season incites hope and bridges connections in unexpected places. Each episode traces the story of Prairie (Brit Marling), a young blind woman who has been missing for seven years. When she returns home, now calling herself the OA, her sight has mysteriously been restored. The FBI, her parents, and the local news reporters all want to hear her story, but Prairie finds a group of five misfits to share it with in hopes that they can help her save the lives of others. The show is thrilling but offers hope in dire circumstances, creates community among unlikely individuals, and demonstrates what willpower can achieve. And the story is so compelling that the end of each episode demands starting the next.
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.
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.
Like its predecessor, Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Legend of Korra is a miraculous mix of Eastern and Western influences, comedy, drama, and action. Now, Nickelodeon has packaged all four seasons – or books – in one handsome package as The Legend of Korra: The Complete Series. Does the series hold up after its 2014 conclusion?