So I binged out on “The Man in the High Castle” over the break December 1, 2015Posted by Tantumblogo in Admin, awesomeness, foolishness, fun, history, silliness, Society, Uncategorized.
Did anyone else watch “The Man in the High Castle” on Amazon? What did you think?
I was very impressed. The first two pilot episodes had production values that were up and down, but the fully funded episodes (3-10) were vast improvements. It was, to me, a most convincing alternate reality. If you’re not up on the series, it is an internet TV-like production of Phillip Dick’s 1962 novel of the same time, which hypothesizes a world where the Japanese and Nazis somehow emerged not just victorious in WWII, but in possession of the entire land mass of the United States, save for a lawless but Nazi-dominated “neutral zone.” Japanese and Nazi relations have deteriorated since they completed their joint victory in the late 40s, and they now exist in a tense state of Cold War, with the Nazi’s having a tremendous technological advantage on nearly all fronts (including sole possession of nuclear weapons, which is frankly stupid, but whatever).
The real drama in the series is not so much the tensions between Nazi and the Imperial Japanese but the horrible life Americans lead under these conditions. The point of departure for the series was Roosevelt’s assassination in early 1933, which allowed the isolationist elements in the US to keep the US from preparing for war until much later than in our time line. When war finally was forced on the US, we were unprepared and lost in the Pacific after a protracted struggle and during a Nazi invasion of Virginia in the 1947 time frame. The US finally surrendered after Washington, DC was nuked by the Nazis (a fitting end, I might add). Life under Nazi rule is unbelievably awful, with all but the fittest and healthiest (and whitest, and non-Jews) being consigned to endlessly operating death camps. There are hints of horrible slaughters and a greatly reduced US population. The US is also greatly impoverished, having never really emerged from the Depression.
Incredibly, the Japanese, even the incredibly fanatical and ruthless Kempetai, come off as comparatively reasonable and “humane” in their rule, in comparison to the nightmarish evil efficiency of the Nazis (who have also conquered most of Africa, killing hundreds of millions, all of Europe, etc. South America exists as kind of free but under Nazi domination. Japan holds most of Asia. Russia has been fully conquered). While there are no black or even brown people in Nazi-occupied America, there remain many in a much more polyglot “Japanese Pacific States.”
The main background is that Hitler is old and very sick. He is expected to die shortly. Hitler prefers peace with Japan, while all his underlings want to fry San Francisco (the Japanese administrative capital in the US) in nuclear fire and take over the entire US for themselves. Everyone is waiting for the shoe to drop once Hitler dies. But the series finale hints that Hitler may not be as sick as he pretends (for some reason, neither Fascist Italy nor Franco’s Spain is ever mentioned, probably due to lack of creativity on the part of the writers).
With this background, the plot centers around films that somehow show history as it unfolded in the world we know, with the Allies victorious and Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan crushed. These films exist among resistance forces in the US and are attributed to the eponymous “Man in the High Castle.” The Nazis and Japanese are terrified of these alt-reality (our reality) films and want them confiscated at all costs, fearing they may inspire more resistance or even for that correct history to somehow play out. Again, there is a hint at the end of the series (ep. 10) that the films are not what they appear to be, and the man in the high castle may have a most surprising identity.
I really enjoyed the series. I thought many of the performances top-notch. I still cannot get over the idea of Obergruppenfuhrer John Smith, the head of the US Nazi police state. It is such a shock to hear Obergruppenfuhrer…….Smith?!? I thought the performances of the main American leads -the heroes, to date – to be so understated as to be almost bland. Now, they could be trying to emulate the reality of life under a brutal occupation – the same kind of very closed down, unemotional, hyper-guarded behavior one can still witness today among older people in former communist-bloc countries. However, in a dramatic series, they often came off as a bit cold and distant.
There are a thousand small details that make this series work, dramatically. I haven’t the time to even begin to go into them, but I’ll say even though the history proposed is asinine* beyond belief, if you can suspend your disbelief just a bit at the get-go, the series sucks you in and keeps you hooked with cliffhangers at the end of every episode. It is made for binge watching.
Some video trailers and excerpts below. The last one in particularly chilling:
Must watch this one:
*- Regarding this alternate reality, I have long believed -and I believe it can be quite proved – that Germany lost WWII on July 22, 1941. Nothing the United States or Britain did was necessary to change that fact. Our material aid certainly helped hasten the ultimate victory, and we played a huge part in terms of military arms, of course, but the very, very best Nazi Germany could have done once they invaded the Soviet Union was to maybe, if absolutely everything wen their way, was to fight to a draw, a draw that would have bled all of Europe white achieving. Materially, the Soviet Union had greater economic resources than those of Germany. Not much greater, but enough to keep them in the war, and almost certainly win it (after a brutal 8-9 year slog) even without Western aid. This alt-history is very sketchy on the details, it is a very long walk from Roosevelt killed in 1933 to the US occupied by Germany and Japan. They don’t tell us how Britain (with her own massive resources, nearly equal to those of Germany) fell, or how Germany could possibly have the manpower (and Navy!) to implement an invasion of the US, or conquer Russia in 1941. As it was, Barbarossa as fought – even with the mistakes like the diversion to Kiev in September 1941 – generally went about as well as it possibly could have for the Germans. Even had they conquered Moscow, the Soviets would have still rolled them up once General Winter set in (unless you start hypothesizing really unlikely things like the Japanese invading Siberia in 1941 in support of the Germans, something, given their experience in 1939, they were most hesitant to do) due to the Nazis’ greatly extended lines of communication and extreme thinness of their forces relative to the front they were defending. From there, the Nazis could probably continue to make advances on a partial front in ’42 and ’43 as per our history, but even if they advanced to the magical Arkhangelsk/Astrakhan line, they’d have been damned hard put defending that 2000 mile long front for as long into the future as Stalin cared to fight – which was pretty danged long. Even if Stalin negotiated a peace treaty, the drain on Nazi manpower to subjugate conquered portions of the Soviet Union and maintain large forces for the inevitable Soviet counterstroke would have been enormous. No way they would have enough manpower for an invasion of the US, let alone the fact that they had virtually no navy to speak of. I could go on, but you get the point.
This series hypothesizes that the Germans/Japanese succeeded because a huge number of Americans became very willing collaborators and soldiers in the Axis forces. Yes, some of this would happen, it always does, but I strongly doubt there would really be an “Obergruppenfuhrer Smith” in any kind of realistic reality. The Nazi’s never trusted their conquered subjects enough to give them that kind of authority, and they looked on Americans as a largely sub-Aryan mongrel race, anyway. I find the idea that most Americans would become quite willing Nazis, to the extent of having no compunction at all regarding the mass-slaughter of those judged to be less than imperfect, difficult to take, but, then again, this nation has very happily seen the murder of 60 million odd unborn children over the past 44 years and most people are, at most, only slightly put off by that. Only a relative minority find it as horrifying as it indeed is.
So maybe there are a lot more would-be Nazis among us than we realize. The vast majority of them call themselves progressives, just as the Nazis presented their ideology as a new order and a very progressive, “scientific” way of life.