I am a big lover of alternate history. I also have this weird fascination with stories about WWII. So it’s no surprise that I enjoyed Man in the High Castle. It seemed almost custom made for me. What would have happened if America had lost WWII?
This isn’t the first story to explore that theory. Hell, I don’t think it was the twenty-fifth to do it. But despite going over material most of us have already read before, the creators of this show managed to do it in a new and fresh way. A way that grabbed my attention and the attention of millions of others.
Until that is, they lost it.
But we’re not to that point in the story yet. Let’s talk first about what the show did that worked.
Let’s start with the Smiths, who could be considered the first family of the Reich in America. The parents are John and Helen Smith. They are the picture of American 1950’s perfection. Except, of course, for the fact that they are all nazis.
This is part of how the story crept under my skin. John’s everything a good American man should be. Good at his job, a loving father. But there he is with a swastika on his arm. Oh, and the little matter of killing people who oppose him. There’s Helen, the picture of a 50’s housewife, but she has nazi buttons on her collar. It’s a reminder of how close we all are to that sort of life.
Life is good for the Smiths. Until it isn’t. Until their son is diagnosed with an illness that marks him for death. This brings to light a very simple and horrific truth that this show brings to light quite well. This sort of life works very well for people who fit in. For people with the right skills, right skin color, right body. For those who don’t fit into a very specific mold, this sort of world is heartless and unbearable. The part of the show that worked best for me, the part that I cared about the most, was watching the Smith family break until they didn’t fit anymore.
The other sides of the show were just as deep. Julianna, an American living in the Japanese controlled West Coast, dives deep into the world of the man in the high castle. She finds out that she and a few others can switch between different alternate universes, bringing back home videos to inspire hope.
All of this blended in a science fiction alternate history story that was riveting.
Until the last season, when the creators came to a confusing conclusion.
They decided to take everything good about the story and throw it out the window. Or, taking it to such an extreme as to be no longer enjoyable.
They also made the baffling decision to murder several beloved characters.
The story focused more and more on Juliana, which I wasn’t thrilled with. She’s always been the most unlikable character. They also separated the characters, going so far as to trap one character into an alternate universe. There, she finds characters that we know in a specific way acting the lives they might have had if America had won WWII. You know, our time. While that was a fetching concept for an episode or two, it didn’t hold up.
All in all, I didn’t even finish the last season. For a show that had me sobbing over the death of a Nazi youth, it worked hard to just make me not give a damn anymore.
Falling From Grace is available now! Get it on Amazon.