For those complaining that Man in the High Castle is too slow for their liking and lacking in the sci-fi that the book delivers, episode nine, “Kindness,” should ease those complaints. The entire season has been building up to this point, a slow burn, almost as though they were preparing us for the impact of delving from a believable if altered universe and into hardcore science fiction. For some, the unveiling was too slow and they jumped ship, but for those of us who hung in there, I believe the payoff was well worth the wait.
“Kindness” brought not only the sci-fi but also the emotion to the series, and with that it raised a disturbing question: To save the world, must we save Hitler? If that’s not a question that piques your interest in the series, then I don’t know what would.
Hit the jump for the recap and review.
Starting directly from where we left off in the last episode, Juliana and Joe are locked together inside a room. Juliana tells Joe she needs to be at the bus station with Frank. He wonders what kind of trouble they are in but she’s not talking. Joe apologizes for their predicament but wonders how she knew about the raid. Juliana is cagey, not wanting to implicate her stepfather, instead redirecting his attention to the lost film.
Meanwhile, Frank and Ed argue about Frank not wanting to leave without Juliana. It’s a testament to his feelings for Juliana despite his ongoing jealousy and the pain she has brought to his life.
In New York, Smith hears a loud thud and finds Thomas in a heap at the bottom of the stairs; he’s fallen. His daughter makes fun of her brother as any good sister would do and, out of character for Smith, he yells at her, knowing the real reason for the fall. He sends his wife off with the girls and takes care of Thomas. It’s becoming painfully clear that he will have to make a decision about his son’s life. Will he hide his condition or abide by the Nazi’s rules? This guy really needs a hug.
Back to Juliana and Joe, and the couple discusses Juliana’s plans to run away with Frank. Joe wants to know what the big secret is and why they are running away. He seems upset that Juliana was going to leave and that he’d never see her again but it also feels like he’s pushing for more information as part of his undercover job for Smith. As always, I don’t know whether I’m coming or going with this guy. The Yakuza arrive mid-conversation and Juliana is taken away leaving Joe alone in the cell, having learned nothing from her.
Juliana is taken to Okamura (Hiro Kanagawa) who has made a deal with Lem and Karen for Juliana’s release. They believe the film will be a part of the deal but the Yakuza boss informs them that terms have changed since they brought the Kempeitei into play at the club. Lem and Karen don’t know where they will get that kind of money and prepare to leave. Juliana promises 10,000 yen for Joe’s release but Okamura informs her the cost will be 50,000 yen. Youch! If she can’t deliver, Joe will be sent to the Kempeitei where he will be killed. Lem and Karen are only concerned about the film, claiming it’s for the greater good, and that she should be willing to sacrifice Joe for the film. Juliana won’t compromise.
In New York, Smith visits Erich (Aaron Blakely) at the hospital where he is recovering from the ambush in the alley. Smith thanks him for saving his life and tells Erich he believes the attack was an order from Heydrich. He produces a letter and asks Erich to deliver a message to Hitler, and only Hitler, if anything should happen to him. It feels like everything is falling apart for Smith.
We cut to Tagomi, meditating in his office. Inspector Kido, wanting records for the trade on the docks, interrupts him. Kido informs him that the Kempeitei is cracking down on the drug trade and the Yakuza will no longer be allowed a free pass. Tagomi presses for information as to why Kido is suddenly forcing the issues but Kido shuts him down, coldly reiterating his request and taking his leave. I have to wonder what Kido is up to. Is he just irritated by the Yakuza’s snub of him at the club, or has he got something else up his sleeve? It would be unlike Kido to simply be out for revenge and I keep holding out hope that Kido might be playing for the side of justice, even if he is playing on the ‘enemy’s’ team.
Back to Juliana. Ed grabs her from the street before she can run directly into the Kempeitei who are waiting for Frank at his place. Ed takes her to meet Frank who is waiting at Ed’s grandfather’s apartment. As usual, they have a petty argument that is more about Frank’s jealousy than anything else. Frank wants Juliana to forget Joe, to let him die (Cold, Frank, cold.) but she refuses; he saved her life, she reasons. Begrudgingly, Frank agrees to use his money to free Joe, but only if he is the one to make the ransom drop.
Next we hop over to someone we haven’t seen in a while: Wegener. The man is looking sharp in his full SS regalia; he’s off for a meeting with Heydrich (Ray Proscia) to discuss how he’s going to make up for his treason. Wegener would like to know why he’s not in front of a firing squad. It's a damn good question. Apparently, the Fuhrer has a soft spot for Wegener. Heydrich reveals that Wegener gave the Japanese the designs for the Heisenberg device which we can assume are nuclear bombs since they were what was used to destroy Washington, D.C. and win the Nazi’s the war. At first, Heydrich refuses to carry out whatever Heydrich’s plans are, but the officer threatens Wegener’s family and his face reveals that Heydrich has hit the magic button.
Back in San Francisco, Frank retrieves his hidden gun and at the docks he meets with the Yakuza to bargain for Joe. With some huffing and puffing, the boss agrees to the reduced amount of 46,000 yen, Frank's entire savings.
Meanwhile, Ed informs Juliana he can no longer purchase bus tickets because the Kempeitei is staked out at the bus station.
Back in the warehouse, it seems Joe is free, but as they prepare to leave Joe insists on having the film. The mob boss won’t budge and Joe takes Frank’s gun and fires on the Yakuza, killing two men. Holding the boss at gunpoint, he steals the film before coldcocking him so the two can make a break for it. Frank is not amused by his actions and some jealous manliness happens. It’s a little bit groan-worthy and I wish the writers would quit with this lukewarm love triangle. The chemistry just isn't there.
Over at Kido’s office, Joe is now on the radar. He was seen with Frank and Kido does not look at all amused.
Ed’s grandpa interrogates Juliana about the trouble she’s in and demands she and Frank leave. He’s furious she’s brought this kind of trouble to his front door and I can’t really blame him. Frank arrives, and they have to come up with a new plan since the bus station is out. Ed offers them his savings and takes the gun to get rid of it for Frank. Suddenly, as the three hug it out, the plot device known as Ed is giving me an entire truckload of feels.
At his office, Smith talks to Captain Connolly (Neal Bledsoe), who is even more squirrely than usual; he’s very interested in where Smith has been. Smith tells him to come with him for a chat and the two end up on the roof of Nazi HQ. The view is amazing, but the situation seems dire. Smith wonders about Connolly’s intimate knowledge of Heydrich as well as accusing him of giving his schedule to the attackers in the alley under the orders of Heydrich. Connolly admits to it, saying he was simply following orders, and Smith takes that as his cue, pushing him off the edge of the skyscraper with a coldness and complete lack of emotion I’d almost forgotten Smith could muster after all of his family drama. Smith returns to the office and tells his officer to alert the police; there’s been a “suicide”.
In San Francisco, Frank and Juliana make their way to Joe where they beg for his assistance in getting out of town. Joe begrudgingly agrees.
Heydrich pays Wegener a visit at his hotel and in return for his family’s safety Wegener agrees to kill Hitler! Suddenly, this storyline became a whole lot more interesting. What will Wegener do? He hates the Nazi’s, sure, but will Heydrich be any better a leader? It doesn’t seem very likely; this is a man Hitler called "the man with the iron heart".
Back to San Francisco again and Tagomi’s having a meeting with General Hata. The general says that thanks to Tagomi and Wegener’s actions they can finally build their own device. Tagomi is pleased, saying this means the Japanese can gain parity with the Nazis and negotiate peace. However, Hata has different plans; the Crown Prince wants to go to war in retaliation for the attempt on his life. It's hard to tell if this is the truth or if the general is running his own game, but either way, Tagomi is shattered, and he argues that millions of lives will be lost. Hata is not swayed and he brushes Tagomi off, demanding that he supplies the Uranium deposit information. Will somebody please give Tagomi a hug? He seems to be the one true altruistic character in this entire damn universe.
Joe calls Smith, looking for a way out of the city. He asks for an evacuation plan for both himself and Juliana and Frank. Smith isn’t amused and orders Joe to shoot Juliana on sight. Damn it, Smith! I want to like you!
Kido and Okamura meet in the woods to discuss the Crown Prince’s assassination. Okamura knows the assassin is a Nazi agent, and he insinuates Kido knows this too and hid the fact and pursued Frank to avoid war. Kido doesn’t deny it and Okamura offers the name of the real assassin… for a “very, very high” price. He's not after money. I’m left very, very interested in what the Yakuza boss is looking for.
Smith arrives home to find Heydrich in his living room, surrounded by his entire family. You can almost taste the anxiety in the air as Smith’s enemy entertains his unwitting family. The two officers retreat to Smith’s office and dance about Connolly’s ‘suicide’ before Heydrich invites Smith to go hunting the next morning. He invites Thomas too, in a sinister and threatening kind of way, but Smith advises him to keep their families out of business. There is absolutely no way this trip to the woods can go well and dread settles into the pit of my stomach.
Meanwhile, Tagomi meditates upon Juliana’s necklace, sensing something – a power in the charm, perhaps – before his assistant interrupts him. He asks of his superior’s well-being and Tagomi admits to being homesick. It’s more than that, though; Tagomi is a broken man.
We’ve almost reached the end of the penultimate episode and we cut between Frank and Juliana, who are at the school to meet Joe, and Tagomi who is deep in meditation at his office. At the school, Frank and Juliana wander the hallways, disgusted by the children’s Japanese artwork. Tagomi prays harder. They enter the auditorium and finding a projector, set the film up to watch. The film rolls and we watch as an atomic bomb explodes over San Francisco.
Wait a minute, this hasn’t happened! What are we watching here? Devastation is everywhere and Frank and Juliana cling to each other as they watch the horror unfold. In the aftermath of the destruction, a line of prisoners guarded by Nazi officers kneels on the ground. We pan down the line as an officer proceeds ahead, shooting each prisoner in the head. We reach the end and to our horror, it’s Frank at the end of the line. He too is shot in the head and falls to the dirt. The camera pans up and finally Juliana and Frank know what we’ve known all along… Joe is a Nazi! And Joe is the one who pulls the trigger on Frank. The episode fades to black.
Is this a glimpse of the future? And if so, can anything be done about it? Next up is the final episode of season one. Odds are, we won’t be finding out the answers to those questions quite yet, but I am so excited to find out what they will reveal.
So far, it’s been a hell of a trip: to watch Kido as he transforms, in my mind, from the evil enemy, torturing Frank and gassing his family, to becoming a stand-up cop with principled, if different, values from my own; to actively root for the head of SS operations in an oppressed New York City; to be worried about the fate of the world should Hitler be murdered.
Man in the High Castle isn’t always edge-of-your-seat exciting but kudos to the writers for taking me on the uncomfortable journey. I can’t wait for the finale.
Stay tuned next week for the recap and review, and as always you can catch up on Amazon Prime.