It’s 1962 in North America. Families work hard for their country, children dutifully go to school and Nazis control a majority of the old Land of the Free.
That is the haunting scenario in Amazon’s new TV adaptation of the book “The Man in the High Castle.” It’s a nightmare of a world and the alternate outcome if the Allies had failed to win World War II.
In the Greater Nazi Reich — the conquered territory that used to be the U.S. East and Midwest — Joe Blake, an undercover Nazi, poses as a rebel against the Axis powers. His mission is to drive a truck to the neutral zone between the two occupied states and find another rebel traveling with a treasonous film. However, as Blake continues his mission, it’s hard to distinguish whose side he’s on after he meets Juliana Crain.
Crain has fully integrated into life in the Pacific States, the Western U.S. coast under Japanese rule. Though her mother tells Juliana her veteran father is “rolling in his grave” due to her practicing judo, she’s rather content with her place in the world. It’s only until her sister, Trudy, gives her a reel of film and is gunned down in the street that Juli realizes the place she lives in is ruled by terror.
She leaves her home and her boyfriend, who struggles to fend off the Japanese police who have come looking for answers.
In the alternate reality, there’s more trouble on the horizon. An ailing Adolf Hitler, now in his 60s, has the new Nazi and Japanese leaders waiting in the wings, ready for battle once power shifts. As tensions rise between the supposed allies, they must first hunt down rebels and stop the distribution of treasonous films — like the one Juli has — that are made by the mysterious man in the high castle.
The film, “The Grasshopper Lies Heavy,” depicts a different outcome, where the Allies win the war. The tapes are, allegedly, so real they don’t even appear doctored to those who watch them.
Though the set up for “The Man in the High Castle” is a well thought-out idea, it’s hard to believe a storyline that’s so far fetched. Could the Allies really have lost the war to Nazi Germany and Japan?
“The Man in the High Castle” has taken World War II and one of the greatest tragedies in history and applied a big “what if.” It’s almost too dystopian, if that’s even possible, but it’s hard to connect with a show where our very existence as a nation has ended and the Jews have been completely eradicated because of historical events our country has already experienced.
The first episode is free for anyone to watch, but the next one can only be accessed by Amazon Prime members. There’s no doubt Amazon is trying to compete with Netflix in the streaming department and now the producing department.
However, so far, “The Man in the High Castle” doesn’t really measure up to “House of Cards” or “Orange is the New Black.” The first two episodes available, though highly rated, don’t grab the reader in a let’s-binge-watch-this way.
Of course, there’s something eerie about watching a mock U.S. under the control of fascist regimes. The intro to “The Man in the High Castle” is enough to make any patriot shiver. The song “Edelweiss” from “The Sound of Music” plays over a swooping landscape map of a conquered America.
If you’re looking for another dystopian piece of work and a show were you can watch characters “do one thing and one thing only, killing Nazis,” as Brad Pitt’s “Inglorious Basterds” character would say, “The Man in the High Castle” is for you. Just remember to thank your lucky stars and stripes that none of it’s remotely real.
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