“Truth” was more about the characters telling the truth than the audience learning the truth, and The Man in the High Castle once again led us on a beautiful, if slightly frustrating, journey into what might have been had the Allies lost WWII.
Hit the jump for the in-depth recap and review.
The seventh episode of The Man in the High Castle, "Truth," begins where we left off last time, with Smith (Rufus Sewell) catching Joe rummaging through his office. Smith stands in the doorway, looking every bit the menacing SS officer and disappointed father. He’s smug too; clearly Joe was setup as tidily as Wegener in the previous episode. “I know you’ve been lying to me,” he says. "Truth time. Tell me about the girl." Good lord, I love Rufus Sewell. With just a look he can instill fear and loathing.
In San Francisco, Juliana is looking into what she’s learned from her job at the Nippon Building. Another film is out there and the Japanese want to get their hands on it. Frank comes home, and he and Juliana apologize to each other. It’s still pretty awkward between them but Frank opens up, telling Juliana about what has happened to him and his assassination attempt. He explains how he couldn’t go through with it when he looked into the little Japanese boy’s eyes. This is the best we’ve seen Rupert Evans/Frank and as they kiss and make up I swoon a little.
In New York, Joe confesses to John Smith about Juliana, and how he helped her cover up the death of the Nazi spy. He claims it was all to keep his cover intact but Smith knows otherwise. “She’s just a girl,” Joe implores. But Smith doesn’t buy it and Joe is told to get dressed and collect his things. “Where are we going?” Joe asks with more than a hint of dread.
Arnold calls Juliana, asking her to come over and see her mom because she’s been upset and out of sorts. Juliana tells Frank what she learned at work and we’re left to wonder if there’s really something wrong with her mom or whether Arnold knows Juliana saw her in the Nippon Building.
At the antique store, the owner, Mr. Childen, receives a phone call; he is invited over to dinner at the Kasoura’s, as a friend. As usual, he is overly enthusiastic about the chance to schmooze the Japanese couple and I cringe a little. You can almost taste the foot he’s about to put in his mouth.
At Nazi HQ, Joe receives his orders from Smith. The good news is his little trip into Smith’s office hasn’t earned him a death sentence… yet; the bad news is he’s being ordered to find the new film, using Juliana. "If you fail, the girl dies with you," Smith warns. “It that clear?” Joe agrees to his mission but he doesn’t look happy, or comfortable, with it. He calls Juliana, and Frank answers the phone. Awkward. Juliana looking a tad guilty tells him she’ll call him back that night. Smith orders a wiretap on Joe’s phone and ends the scene with an order to… ahem… not “fuck it up.”
At Juliana’s Mom’s house, Arnold shuffles himself off to work, quickly making himself scarce. Her mom had believed Trudy was dead, but now she's convinced herself otherwise. Juliana seems wracked with guilt over her mom’s hope; you’ll remember Juliana witnessing her sister’s death is what started this whole mess. We’re left to wonder if Juliana will tell her mother the truth.
Joe makes it home and we finally learn a little something about his life outside of being a spy. He has a girlfriend named Rita (Jessie Fraser), and she has a son named Buddy (Carter Ryan Evancic). The copy of Huckleberry Finn he bought way back at the beginning makes sense, although his seeming crush on Juliana is now thrown into question. Does he really have feelings for Juliana? Or is he just playing the part to extract information from her? Can he just not keep it in his pants? I know Joe is supposed to be ambiguous, but it’s sometimes frustrating just how ambiguous his character is. I want to either love or hate this guy, but instead, I sit in limbo, mildly angry with him and as such, with Luke Kleintank as well.I have to wonder how much of my frustration is the writing and intentional and how much is just Kleintank's relative inexperience.
In San Francisco, Trade Minister Tagomi cries while remembering lost loved ones and retreats to the garden to water his flowers. It’s a simple little scene in which we learn nothing plot related but gain a greater understanding of Tagomi’s heart and perhaps even his motivations. He returns to his office to find Officer Kido (Joel de la Fuente) waiting for him. Kido is not impressed with Tagomi’s decision to hire Juliana, "the sister of a known subversive." Tagomi offers some platitudes but it’s clear he doesn't care.
As Juliana enters on Kido’s departure, apologizing for not being forthright with him and offering to resign, he implies he believes she has a higher purpose. Tagomi reflects on his previous life with his wife in Kyoto, growing flowers, and the previous garden scene becomes that much more beautiful. As she leaves, he instructs his assistant to find out about Trudy. Perhaps we are supposed to believe Tagomi isn’t as noble as he appears, but I’m sure this ominous little suggestion isn’t what it might appear to be.
At Frank’s factory, the Kempeitei is paying a visit. Everybody is to be sent home early, but they are to be searched on the way out. Franks bolts, and Kido notices, but they choose not to follow or detain him. “Not yet,” says Kido.
Back at the Nippon building, Juliana runs into her stepfather in the hall. They agree to meet up later.
Frank meets with Sampson (Michael Gaston), the Jewish man from his sister’s funeral, in the street. They sit down for a chat. Frank is bemused by Sampson's commitment to his religion as it could get his family killed. "This is who I am. You can't live your life in fear," he says. He reveals that Jewish Americans were lynched in Boston at the end of the war and that he was there. Sampson is amazingly hopeful and full of faith in the future. He gives Frank a piece of his mind regarding his art, asking why he is wasting his time making fake guns for the enemy. Frank is afraid, but Sampson implores him to live his life. If Frank needs metal for his art, Sampson can source it for him.
In a quick scene in New York, Joe assures his girlfriend he isn’t in any trouble. It’s a bold-faced lie.
At the Kasoura’s, Childen arrives for dinner. He about falls over himself in his efforts to praise and schmooze them. It’s uncomfortable. They drink whiskey, and Mr. Kasoura shows off his prized handgun. Childen notices that the Colt revolver is likely a counterfeit but he doesn’t let on. They eat a classic American dinner and talk about American culture and arts, but things end abruptly and awkwardly as Childan, in his efforts to say what he thinks they want to hear, claims America is lucky Japan and Germany won the war or, as he claims, “Semites would be running the world today.” Childen comes to believe that they've invited him over to study him like one of his antiques, but I’m torn on the Kasoura’s; it’s possible they are truly progressive and Childen in his efforts to suck up has just blown his opportunity to make some real friends and possibly even allies. Try as he might, to smooth things over, the Kasoura’s are dismissive of him and send him home.
Joe finally receives his phone call from Juliana amid dirty looks from his girlfriend and a wiretap on behalf of the SS. He digs for information on the new film, and Juliana tells him there’s something different about this one. He digs for more information but Juliana doesn’t have any. Noticing that she’s under surveillance by the Japanese, she quickly hang up the phone. Joe’s girlfriend wants to know who she is, and in classic Joe fashion, he avoids the question and heads out to see Smith. Despite Joe trying to dismiss Smith’s beliefs that Juliana can get to the new film, Smith sends him out to San Francisco to get the film from Juliana. Before he leaves, though, Smith takes a moment to threaten Buddy.
Back in San Francisco, Frank visits Childen with an offer to make fake guns, but Childen has a better idea. He’s going to scam the "condescending bastards" he had dinner with. He makes fun of the Japanese’s obsession with Americana and wonders if Frank could replicate a Native American neckpiece. "Let’s screw him over. 80,000 yen split two ways," he says, convincing Frank of his plans merits. Frank goes home and gets to work sketching his forgery.
Juliana returns from her meeting with Arnold at a diner to tell Frank what she’s learned. As we suspected, he sold out Trudy, working for the Japanese for 16 years. But he believes he saved Trudy and that she’s still alive in the Neutral Zone. He warns that Juliana can't get involved, no knowing she's already part of the Resistance. Juliana admits to Frank that she couldn’t bring herself to tell Arnold she saw Trudy killed and that she thinks she saw Trudy, alive, in the marketplace. Frank thinks she’s crazy and implores her to run away with him. They aren’t safe in the city.
At the Nippon Building, the episode nears it’s tragic conclusion as Tagomi reveals he knows about her sister and gives Juliana the closure she needs, telling her Trudy’s dead and where she can find her sister’s body. “It’s a horrible place to see,” he says. But Juliana insists, she was taught than in Japanese culture, “truth is of the highest importance.” Tagomi bows his head and concedes. “When you find her, ask for our forgiveness,” he implores, handing over one of his flowers. Juliana takes a bus to the middle of nowhere and we learn the Japanese’s horrible secret: all of the Kempeitei’s victims dumped in a mass grave. It's terrifying in both its scope and carelessness. Juliana spots Trudy's sweater and is drawn in, dropping her flower and falling to her knees. The scene is shot beautifully both from above and up close and personal. Brushing away Trudy’s hair, Juliana confirms the death of her sister.
We cut to Juliana, mournfully walking through the market in a state of shock. She’s followed by Joe. The episode fades to black.
While some might find the lack of answers in “Truth” frustrating, for me, this is High Castle at its best. It’s a slow burn for sure, but the cinematography and scoring more than make up for any lulls in action. We learned so much from the small moments this episode: Joe’s “family”, Tagomi’s sadness, Frank’s burgeoning hope. The plot didn’t move forward very much, but I felt a connection with the characters, even some I might normally find a tad annoying. “Truth” ranks up near the top of my favorite episodes so far.
Stay tuned next time for episode eight: “End of the World.” As always you can catch up on Amazon Prime.