The final episode of The Man in the High Castle can only be described as a game changer. With the final cliffhanger, all the season’s loose threads and meandering storylines finally coalesce into what could be a wildly successful and long-running series as the sci-fi element is fully introduced. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, first the recap!
Hit the jump for all the spoilerific goodness.
As we catch up with Juliana and Frank, they’re just finishing up watching the latest film from the Man in the High Castle, in which Joe executes Frank. Understandably, they are disturbed, to say the least. Juliana sees another man in the film and he looks familiar to her but before they can watch again, Joe arrives. Awkward. Joe wonders why they are so shaken up but Juliana assures him that everything is fine. Joe wants the film but Frank isn’t budging on this one. They fight over it, each landing some pretty good blows, and Frank accuses Joe of being a Nazi. Clearly, Frank has taken the film to heart even if this reality hasn’t taken place (yet?). Juliana demands Joe tell her it isn’t true, but he’s not denying the accusation and he leaves with the film.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the country in the wee morning hours, John Smith prepares to go hunting with Heydrich. Smith reasons to his wife that is Heydrich simply wanted him dead he already would be, there’d be no need to go hunting. That being said, he makes her promise she won’t ever let Heydrich near their children if he doesn’t make it back.
In San Francisco, Kido is having a hard time. He speaks with his sergeant about duty and sacrifice to protect the Empire. It seems both these leaders are in something of the same boat; bound my honor and with no good options.
Juliana and Frank meet up with the Resistance and tell them what they have seen on the film and in a disturbing lack of empathy, or even curiosity, they really don’t care, more concerned about the film and the amount of money they just blew. Frank just wants to know if they will help him get out of town or not.
We rejoin Kido as he tracks down the Nazi sniper in a hotel room. It doesn’t take much effort for the sniper to agree to make a confession, it’s too easy– remember the Nazis want war– and so without any warning Kido shoots him in the head. The Kempeitei is cleaning up the mess, not looking for justice.
The Resistance claims they can get Juliana and Frank out, but it’s going to cost them, and it won’t be money this time: They want the film back from Joe, and he has to die. In an effort to appear reasonable, Lem points out that he didn’t deny he was a Nazi. Juliana doesn’t look at all sold on this idea and it’s clear she’s still harboring feelings for the wishy-washy heartthrob. She refuses to kill him herself but in an apparent bout of self-preservation, it’s decided Juliana will be an accomplice, luring Joe to the right location so Lem can pull the trigger. I wonder if she’ll be able to go through with it when the time comes though as she nervously smokes a cigarette.
In the hotel room, Kido and Yoshida (Lee Shorten) continue cleaning up. Yoshida points out that Japan won't be happy with this turn of events. There’s no evidence against Frank and they are destroying all traces leading back to the German. Kido explains his motives: he’s trying to avoid war. His sergeant understands this but wonders how they will placate the empire. The Crown Price wants action and answers regarding the assassination attempt on his life. Mollifying the prince will require another sacrifice and it’s heavily implied that Kido will commit Seppuku if the time comes. It’s a testament to both the writing and Joel de la Fuente’s acting chops that the thought of this upsets me; after all, Kido has committed some atrocious crimes. Yoshida is also upset by this turn of events but respectfully accepts Kido’s choices.
Smith arrives in the woods for his hunting trip with Heydrich and finds he has brought a friend. It’s looking ominous for my favorite Nazi officer. Side note: That’s not a phrase you type every day. Heydrich offers Smith the use of one of his rifles but he, wisely, I’m assuming declines. A friendly hunting trip this is not.
In San Francisco, both Joe and Juliana are making their way to the Reich’s embassy. Joe looking for a way to escape and Juliana looking to set him up and get him out. The Resistance provides her with her cover ID.
In the woods, Heydrich makes small talk and delves into what Smith knows of the attempt on his life, wondering if Smith suspects him. "The world will change forever today," he says ambiguously. He wonders if Smith will be a part of the future or the past. Smith is beginning to catch his drift; this trip to the woods is a test.
We head over to Germany and catch up with Wegener who is on his way to meet with the Fuhrer. His escort is very curious about these last minute plans.
Joe bides his time in the embassy flipping through a scrapbook when the phone rings. Everything about the way this scene is shot and played screams for him to pick it up. Alas, he doesn’t and some officers arrive to ask Joe to continue waiting while subtly digging for information on his work for John Smith.
In his office, Tagomi is troubled as he flips through the uranium mine plans. Everything he has tried to work for seems to be going up in smoke and peace seems far away. As always, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa plays these scenes with quiet gravitas. Kido visits to reveal he knows Juliana is the girlfriend of the suspected shooter of the Crown Prince, Frank. Adding on to the guilt trip, he also reveals he knows Tagomi helped Wegener, but concedes that probably helped Japan in the long run. "There comes a time when all men must bear the weight of their responsibility," he says, and I feel as though he’s feeling it almost as much as Tagomi is. On his way out, Tagomi bows but Kido refuses, slapping a little extra offense onto Tagomi as he departs. I really wish these two would get together and talk it out. I feel like they are more similar than they realize and god knows they could both use a friend.
We catch up with Wegener as he returns home to his family. It’s an emotional scene as he covertly says goodbye, making amends and apologizing for being a bad husband. His wife tries to stay strong but she clearly still loves him as tears form in her eyes. She seems to know this might be the last time they will see him. His daughter is the wholesome girl every father could hope for, reveling in his affection, but in an emotional gut punch, his young son, at first, rejects his attempts at reconciliation. “It’s far from easy to be a good man,” Wegener tells his boy, picking him up for a hug. “Yet it becomes increasingly important to at least try,” he directs to his wife over the child's shoulder. Oh God, I need a hug right now. He kisses his wife goodbye.
We cut to Frank and Juliana, where emotions are also running high. She explains that the new film has shattered her will to keep fighting. In a surprising move for Frank, he wills her to go on. “What else is there?” he asks. Aww, our boy has grown up over the last few episodes, taking the pain he’s been dealt and growing. If he can just restrain himself from any more fits of jealousy over Joe, I might just learn to like this guy.
At the factory, Ed finally finds some purpose other than a plot device when he's caught trying to smelt Frank's gun by his boss.
At the trade minister’s office, Tagomi meditates. His aide arrives and Tagomi wonders if he has been a “misguided fool” trying to change fate. His aide urges him not to give up, fighting back tears, but when Tagomi questions his composure he pulls himself together and informs his boss of his schedule, taking his leave.
Meanwhile, Kido is in crisis. He prepares to commit seppuku. The scene is shot beautifully and the score swells. We’re only halfway through and my heart hurts. Inspector Kido is prepared to atone for his sins. As is usual for Man in the High Castle, I’m torn between relief when Yoshida brings him the gun, stopping the act, and a wee bit of disgust in myself for not wishing he’d gone through with it. After all, this man is in all likelihood a mass murderer and isn’t exactly known for his warm and fuzzy side.
Still, Joe waits. The phone rings again but this time after some hesitation, he answers it. New York is looking for Joe; they had no idea he was already there. Smith has left word that Heydrich is not to be trusted and the Diels is working for him. Caught on the phone, Joe is told it’s time for him to go back home to Smith. Toward a certain death seems more likely as Joe isn’t allowed to leave by the front door and is instead directed toward the basement. It seems Heydrich is cleaning up any traces of his impending coup.
Juliana shows up looking for Joe and a little too conveniently runs into him in the lobby when he decides the guards waiting for him in the basement aren’t his cup of tea. The two escape the embassy together, him not knowing she’s here to lure him to his death. Outside, Juliana confronts him about the film. "That's not who I am," he says. He goes on to reveal that his film in canon City showed Joseph Stalin in 1954, a problem because in their world Stalin was killed in ‘49. He doesn’t believe they are real, but if he doesn’t get them back to New York, everybody is dead. He wants her help and we cut away as Juliana has a moment of soul-searching.
Meanwhile, Kido interrogates Ed; he’s found his new patsy. Proving either his immense loyalty, or even greater stupidity, Ed confesses to Frank’s crime.
In the woods, Heydrich and Smith have reached a cabin. Heydrich wants to know if the films have power. Smith is loyal, telling him to address his questions to the Fuhrer. Heydrich thinks loyalty is overrated. He is convinced that he is the next rightful leader of the Nazi party and that Hitler is weak and must be taken out. He wants Smith to pledge his loyalty before Wegener carries out his goal.
We cut between scenes as Wegener arrives at the Hitler’s residence. Wegener watches from the shadows as Hitler views a film showing the Allies winning the war and Germany in ruins. There’s an entire library of these films in the room and I wonder if maybe Hitler is the ‘Man in the High Castle.’ The location is certainly right.
"Destiny lies in the hands of men," Wegener quotes.
“Almost,” he replies. “Destiny lies in the hands of a few men.”
That seems like it might be very important. Hitler knows Heydrich sent Wegener to kill him. He plays on Wegener’s guilt, pointing out that his death will only lead to an attack on Japan and more bloodshed. He accuses Wegener of being weak and tells him he will spare his family’ life in exchange for his own. Wegener is breaking, and I along with him.
In the cabin, the phone rings. Heydrich answers, expecting to hear Wegener with the news of Hitler’s demise, but alas, it’s the Fuhrer on the line.
All hell breaks lose. From outside, a sniper takes outs Heydrich and his goon, and in Hitler’s office, Wegener commits suicide.
I cry. And rejoice a little when Smith gets on the line with Hitler to tell him he’s apprehended a traitor. What on earth has this show done to me?
In the meantime, Frank has learned of Ed’s capture and runs off to the Kempeitei to save him. Honestly? I don’t care about either of them right now. I wish that Ed’s character had been more deeply fleshed out over the season.
While Frank’s off trying to save Ed, Juliana takes Joe to meet his fate with Lem. They arrive and she apologizes. Joe is stunned by this turn of events and pleads for his life. "You said once, I might be a different man if I'd met you sooner. Well, I am. You changed me. That's why I'm not the guy in this film."
Juliana searches her soul and comes to the conclusion that she believes him. Is it wrong that I wish she wouldn’t have? As Joe escapes on a boat, I’m left wondering if it might sink, saving us all the trouble of enduring Joe’s half-assed loyalties and vague intentions. It’s probably the best scene we’ve seen between these two but I can’t help but think it was too little, too late.
Cut to Tagomi as he goes for a walk. Sitting on a bench, he once again meditates over Juliana’s locket. The score turns whimsical as we focus in on the charm. When Tagomi finally opens his eyes… the Americans have won the war. In an idyllic scene, the American flag flies and a baseball game plays on the radio, all to the tune of "The Twist.”
Season one fades to black.
Talk about a game changer.
If the films are real we are left with endless possibilities as these characters now have seemingly endless timelines to play in. If the films are fake then who is the real Man in the High Castle? Is it Hitler as it was implied? He is a man. In a high castle. Or is it someone else and Hitler is just a believer, hook, line, and sinker? What’s up with Tagomi? Did he jump universes, or has he lost the plot? Will Joe be forever lost at sea? One can hope. And how about Ed? He’s not my favorite, but I don’t want him to die. Not after that show of Extreme Friendship: Doormat Edition.
And finally, and perhaps most importantly… WHY DO I NOT HAVE A ‘NEXT’ BUTTON?