Amazon’s long awaited series, The Man in the High Castle explores an alternate reality where the Allied Powers lost WWII and Japan and Germany now occupy the United States. The story was originally an award winning novel written by Phillip K. Dick and recently adapted into a series by Frank Spotniz.
The Man in the High Castle is a fascinating glimpse into a world that could have been; a reality where freedom is a far off dream and the country is split in half. It takes place in the year 1962, 15 years after the alternate ending to WWII, where the war lasted until 1947. The East Coast of the United States is now The Great Nazi Reich, while the West Coast is the Japanese Pacific States and in between is the Neutral Zone. In these new societies, citizens were constantly living in fear of being monitored, censored and controlled. In the midst of the two dictatorships, there was a third secret group called the Resistance. Their agenda was simple; restore the United States to it’s once great glory. If one was caught working with the Resistance, they would be interrogated and executed. The Man in the High Castle revolves around the undercover battle between these three groups.
After 15 years of Japan and Germany occupying the United States, Americans were forced to fall in place or be killed. It’s hard to imagine a world where American citizens would actually support the Nazi agenda, but under the circumstances, it very well could happen. The Man in the High Castle depicts Americans as Nazis, as well as Japanese supporters. It takes a moment to come to terms with what you’re seeing, but 15 years is a long time. This means a 25-year-old American could have easily been a part of the Hitler Youth and know nothing about what the United States once represented. Those who were old enough to remember, would see the old America as a distant memory. And politics aren’t the only thing that has changed in this alternate history.
Japanese and German occupation has influenced every part of the culture including fashion, design and even language. Frank Spotniz’s attention to detail is quite remarkable. Not only is this an era piece, it’s also a fictional fusion of cultures. The clothing is a beautiful blend of 1960’s Japanese, German and American fashion. The billboards are geared towards Japanese and German ideals. The architecture on the West Coast is assimilated to Japanese culture, while in New York City there are Nazi skyscrapers. Everything was spot on. I even thought I caught a slip up when I saw the classic Eames Chair in a scene. I was under the impression that chair was created in the 1960’s and American artists would have been stifled under a totalitarian rule, hence the chair would have never existed, but after some fact checking I found out something interesting. Though many of their iconic designs were created in their Venice studio in the 60’s-80’s, the classic Eames Chair was a product of WWII. The manufacturing of the 1940s couldn’t create the chair’s seamless curves in molded plywood, so Ray and Charles Eames used a government contract designing splints for World War II soldiers as a test lab to solve the assembly problems themselves. In this alternate reality, the classic Eames Chair would in fact exist. Touché The Man in the High Castle. To my knowledge, they didn’t miss a thing.
The Man in the High Castle is a complex series with many moving parts. For all it’s successes, it comes up short in one instance, the character development. They had to spend most their time explaining how the world would be different in this alternate history, as well as tell a story. This left little time for us to get to know the characters. We essentially know nothing about their pasts, what made them who they are and what drives them. It’s hard to fault Spotniz though. There is only so much you can do with ten episodes without making the series convoluted. This is a prime example why the second season of most series is rated much higher than the first. Now that they have set the scene and introduced us to this alternate history, it gives Season 2 a chance to dive into character development. It also has the chance to take the series in a much darker direction; possible flashbacks to the initial US occupation or even personal experiences of German soldiers exterminating Jews. Cross your fingers Frank Spotniz gets the opportunity.
I highly recommend The Man in the High Castle. It’s a captivating look into the world that could have been and will keep you on the edge of your seat. Check out the trailer and click the link below to watch the entire series on Amazon now. Binge on my friends!
Watch Now: The Man in the High Castle: Season 1
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