Creator Frank Spotnitz talks why Frank had to (almost) become a killer
The Man in the High Castle has arrived on Amazon, and if you’re binge-watching the series, EW has you covered with postmortems for each episode. Creator Frank Spotnitz, who adapted Philip K. Dick’s original novel for the small screen, answers burning questions and talks in-depth about the major story beats. Read on for his thoughts on episode 4, “Revelations.”
Four episodes in, and Joe (Luke Kleintank) and Juliana (Alexa Davalos) are officially leaving Canon City behind. They manage to evade The Marshal (Burn Gorman), but they don’t get much closer to figuring out who the Man in the High Castle really is, and why the Resistance has to collect these rebellious films. Over in the West, though, Frank (Rupert Evans) struggles to keep himself together and prepares to take out the crown prince of Japan during his visit Stateside. And then, at the last second, he doesn’t pull the trigger when he spots a little boy… but a shot rings out anyway.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start with Lemmel Washington (Rick Worthy), who’s the only living Resistance member left on the list. What does he represent in the story? Last time, we talked about how The Marshal embodies the type of evil that can thrive in this world, so I’m wondering if Lem also embodies something as a lone Resistance operative.
FRANK SPOTNITZ: What’s interesting about him is you see his home and you see his family. There are people in different races, children with disabilities [there], it’s like he’s collected people who would be rejected by Nazi society. We don’t know what’s happened to African Americans in this world, but clearly he’s somebody who’s made a home for himself in the neutral zone and is trying to take care of others while doing a very dangerous job. And I think what’s interesting about him is that you sense that he likes Juliana, he has a connection with her, and yet in episode 4, he’s forced to turn against her. So he’s a character with a lot of built-in contradictions. And Rick plays him with a lot of authority.
This episode closes the Canon City chapter of the story. Why finish that adventure up so soon?
I was eager, personally, to get Juliana back to San Francisco, and Joe back to New York. It sets the relationship between the two of them, and I think the way they part with her in the bus and him not having said goodbye begs questions of when, if ever, they’ll be reunited.
Let’s move on to Frank and his assassination plan. For episode 2, we talked about how the shootout was similar to a scene in The Godfather, and now in episode 4, Frank’s gun practice felt reminiscent of Taxi Driver.
[Laughs] We’re going through the entire Robert De Niro canon. We’re gonna skip Meet the Fockers, though.
Tell me about why it was important to break Frank down to this level.
It was very much, “How does Frank respond?” Because obviously when you meet him, he’s just someone who’s trying to get along. But with the deaths of his sister and her children, it’s just, what can you do? And it just feels like, as a man, he has to do something. So episode 4 is really him determined to go through with revenge, to get some kind of justice… For me, this really touches on that Philip K. Dick theme of, “What is human?” I don’t know the answer to that question, but I just think, for Frank, if he had shot the crown prince, he would have lost some of his humanity. That’s what he’s meant to subconsciously sense when he looks into the innocent face of that little boy. Something about it helps him see himself in that moment, and he hesitates.
I want to highlight the introduction of Robert Childan, the man who’s trying very hard to impress his Japanese clientele. He’s a key figure in the book — why insert him now?
I think, first, he provides some much-needed comic relief to the show, which is very heavy, but I think what’s great about him is that he speaks a lot to the social reality of living in the Japanese-occupied San Francisco. The Japanese are on top, and the white people are on bottom, and he, as minorities sometimes do, in this case comically, wishes he were like the superior race, wishes he were like the Japanese. He covets their status, their beauty, their taste, their refinement. And you know, it’s ridiculous, but it’s what goes on. It’s like a funhouse mirror version of that.
Finally, now that the series is out, have you been following the reactions and what people are saying?
Absolutely, I have. [Laughs] It seems, you know, enormously positive, but I think it’s human nature, certainly my nature, to hear 100 good comments but the two bad ones are the ones that are really gonna stick with you. I do listen to the criticism and think about it, and some of it undoubtedly will affect my thinking, and some of it won’t. But it’s a very funny process being a writer, because it’s like, you’re communicating with people, and that’s why I read this stuff, because I want to know, how has my communication been received? But you also have to be true to what’s inside you and what you’re understanding of the world is, so you can’t lose that. It’s a really painful and interesting process [laughs], no matter how well-received a show is.
The Man in the High Castle is available for streaming on Amazon.