Saturday, January 24, 2015

Amazon Prime – The Man in the High Castle

I dig high concepts.  There’s something designed to make you think is something that’s right up my alley.  It’s the reason why I like shows like Fringe or even Game of Thrones. 

The Man in the High Castle seemed like the most ambitious Amazon pilot in the batch.  Sadly that didn’t work out too well for The After.  That said, it’s based on a book, just like Bosch. 

In case you don’t know, The Man in the High Castle is set in 1962, in a world where Japan and Germany won WWII and share control of the United States.  It’s a tense allegiance and one that’s set to crumble with Hitler’s impending death. 

Most of the action centers around Juliana Crain (Alexa Davalos) who lives in a Japanese controlled San Francisco and Joe Blake (Luke Kleintank) who starts his journey in a German occupied NYC. 

Joe secures a meets up with some underground rebels and is tasked with driving a shipping truck to Colorado.  But he doesn’t know what he’s carrying or what it’s for, he just knows where he’s going. 

Meanwhile Juliana trains in martial arts, much to her mother’s chagrin and lives with her half-Jewish boyfriend (the Japan controlled West Coast is more tolerant than the German parts of the country).  When her flighty sister pops up out of the blue and eventually gives her a film reel before getting gunned down by occupiers, it’s kind of a turning point.  Juliana watches the film, which is a newsreel that shows the U.S. celebrating winning WWII, which her boyfriend writes off as a fake.  Still Juliana is intrigued and sets out to finish her sister’s mission, which involves going to Colorado, a portion of the country that’s not occupied by a foreign power.  Eventually Juliana and Joe’s paths cross, in Colorado but then the episode is over. 

If you’re looking for story, The Man in the High Castle is slim pickings.  Most of the episode is spent on world building.  We see how the generation who fought against the Germans and Japanese have, for the most part, accepted their new reality.  One character even remarks that he can’t remember what he was fighting for. 

We also see how not only did the world not end, but apart from omnipresent propaganda, not all that much has changed.   TV game shows are still on the air and the trains still run. 

We get a peek into both how the Japanese occupying government and German occupying government work, both individually and with each other.  There are subplots laid in this pilot episode for representatives of both governments. 

This is one very well produced pilot.  It’s well written and looks great.  I’m sure it’s a challenge creating an occupied San Francisco and New York City, but both look pretty flawless.  The costumes and set design are all fantastic.  I really felt like I was looking at a world where the US lost WWII. 

Out of all of the pilots in this pilot season, The Man in the High Castle is the most deserving of being picked up.  It’s easily the best of the bunch. 

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