Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Man in the High Castle (Amazon Prime Video)

If you're a fan of alternate history science fiction, then you have to watch the Amazon video series, The Man in the High Castle. But your problem is, it's not on commercial television—network or cable. You need to be an Amazon Prime Video subscriber.
To watch it on your home television set, you need a streaming device like Roku. Or, you can watch it on your phone or some other mobile device (e.g., iPad, tablet, laptop).
The Man in the High Castle is based on the 1963 Hugo Award-winning dystopian novel of the same name by Phillip K. Dick, the same novelist who wrote Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968), which became the film, Blade Runner, starring Harrison Ford. Other movies based on Dick novels include Total Recall, Minority Report, A Scanner Darkly, and Adjustment Bureau.
The premise is simple and intriguing: What if the Allies had lost World War II? How did that happen? Well, for starters, the Germans dropped a nuclear bomb on Washington, D.C., wiping out our leadership. Then, things got worse.
Our western states are now a puppet government of Imperialistic Japan (the Pacific States of America), and the eastern half of America is now a puppet government of Nazi Germany (the Greater Nazi Reich). The Rocky Mountain states serve as a buffer zone between the two occupiers, who are now in a tense Cold War of their own.
It's 1962. Adolph Hitler's famous black hair and mustache are now gray. Although under oppressive rule, and despite the ever-lingering tension, Americans move about fairly freely. The Resistance is functioning in secret; subversive enemy spies are everywhere. Bibles, while not exactly illegal, are hard to come by. Everybody's searching for a newsreel film called, and destined for, "The Man in the High Castle."
The early principal cast of characters is excellent and includes:
  • Juliana Crain (Alexa Davalos), whose sister hands her an apparently genuine black-and-white movie newsreel showing historical World War II scenes that we are familiar with—the fall of Nazism, Japan's surrender. But how can this be?
  • Joe Blake (Luke Kleintank), a double-agent searching for the Resistance contact in Colorado. While waiting for contact, he meets Juliana, discovering later that she's the operative who took over after her slain half-sister.
  • John Smith (Rufus Sewell), a former American citizen and now an SS Oburgruppenführer investigating the Resistance in New York. He is Joe's handler and a cunning and ruthless pursuer.
  • Frank Frink (Rupert Evans), Juliana's boyfriend, a Jewish-American war veteran fearing for his life. When his sister and her kids are killed in his stead, he plots to assassinate the visiting Japanese Crown Prince and his wife.
  • Nabosuke Tagomi (Cary-Horiyuki Tagawa), the trade minister of the Pacific States of America with an agenda that moves toward a puzzling season-ending revelation.
  • Ed McCarthy (D.J. Qualls), Frank's co-worker and friend who does what he can to curtail Frank's life-threatening plans, placing himself in dire jeopardy.
Rolling Stone has named The Man in the High Castle one of the best 40 science fiction television shows of all time. Season 1 (10 episodes), which I’ve completed, is currently on Amazon Prime. Season 2 will be available on Dec. 16, 2016.
Warning: If you are offended by stereotypical racial and religious denigrations, you may want to skip watching this series. Plus, this was the '60s, so everybody smokes ... second-hand smoke be damned.

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