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 one powerful scene, Juliana’s physical examination demonstrates the practices of the Reich to permit only particular bodies on its land. Despite being 20 years after the war, the Nazi ideology seems to remain the same. The discrimination creates a moral conflict for Smith, as his son has been diagnosed with a degenerative disease, which necessitates he be executed. Smith is such an effective Nazi villain, but he now has to reconcile his love for his son with his duty to his party. Is Smith really a compassionate softy deep down, or is he as cold hearted as his menacing eyes suggest? Sewell is brilliant in this episode, wearing a torn expression as he grapples with his decision.
Another morally conflicted character, Joe (Luke Kleintank), has been sent to Berlin to meet with his father. Throughout the series, there have been so many opportunities for Joe to turn on the party, but every time that it seems like he will, he returns back to the Reich or gives Smith a phone call. This season, he continues to struggle internally with his Nazi loyalty, especially while attending a fancy Nazi party, when he tells his father, “I’ve seen the blood that pays for this champagne.” Will Joe’s experiences with Juliana and memory of the video from Season 1 sway his allegiances? It’s hard not to root for Joe, because he’s a likeable guy with a pretty face. And he seems to have feelings for Juliana, which makes him less of a heartless Nazi and more of a pining romantic. We’re itching for him to break away, but his plans are not yet clear.
Frank (Rupert Evans) gets involved with some excitement with the Resistance. This is fun to see, because Frank had a rough go in Season 1 with the Japanese executing his sister and her children. But Frank is resilient, quick thinking, and, now, an action hero. Although I’m not sure how much we can trust the Resistance, Frank keeps proving himself both resourceful and skilled, which will hopefully help him stay alive and save others.
One effective technique in this series is the pacing. The individual scenes are rather short and typically end on moments that beg for more. With so many characters to move between, we follow their individual plots (much like Game of Thrones), anticipating the eventual convergence of storylines. This episode is, by far, the best of Season 2 thus far, as the characters are put in new tough positions, and we can only wonder whether the conditions of this world are permanent, whether the videos illustrate the future, and how all the conflicts will be resolved.