Creator Frank Spotnitz helps break down the new antagonists: Heydrich in the East, and the Yakuza in the West

By Shirley Li
Updated December 08, 2015 at 02:01 PM EST
Credit: Liane Hentscher/Amazon

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 8, “End of the World.”

Just before the penultimate episode, the world of organized crime in the Japanese Pacific States gets in the way of both the Resistance and Inspector Kido (Joel de la Fuente), while an unexpected diagnosis and the arrival of a higher ranking Nazi from Germany stop John Smith (Rufus Sewell) in his tracks. But Juliana (Alexa Davalos) and Joe (Luke Kleintank) get into just as much trouble when they attempt to get the film reel to the Resistance, and wind up nearly getting killed by the kempeitai and taken by the Yakuza in the end. (Read EW’s full recap here.)

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start with Robert Childan. We talked a bit about him in an earlier chat and how he’s the comic relief of the show, but in this episode, he’s out for blood. Can you tell me more about what he was thinking with tricking the Kasouras?

FRANK SPOTNITZ: He idolizes the Japanese and wishes he could be Japanese, which of course he can never be. I think he was so thrilled to get that invitation to go to their house, and they’re so beautiful, you know? They’re just like the John and Jackie Kennedy of this world. They’re cultured and well-dressed and well-spoken and good-looking, and to be in their company was so flattering to him, and you can see at the dinner that he really was so enjoying the status that that invitation gave him. And then in the end, when he realizes he’s being dismissed and that he really was there as a curiosity, as a research subject, his feeling of resentment is so profound. He has a racist rant because he’s so humiliated. He’s a victim of his own delusions, you know? I think he’s looking to get even.

The focus of Kido’s story this episode involves the Yakuza. Why did you decide to incorporate a story in San Francisco about the organized crime scene?

Well, it’s interesting because this is the point when the two chief antagonists of the series, Inspector Kido and Obergruppenführer Smith, get antagonists of their own, who are actually more powerful in some ways than them and who are antagonistic to them. You can’t help but see Kido’s point of view, and Kido has been such a villainous character in so many ways, that really, this is the beginning of starting to understand the way he sees the world and his code and that in his own way, he does have values and a sense of honor. He has a lot of integrity, actually, in his own ideology, and seeing the Yakuza helps you understand that.

The Yakuza is part of Japanese society to this day, and they have an interesting relationship with organized crime that I don’t pretend to fully understand, but it’s a different philosophy. There’s an understanding that in every society there must be shadows as well as light, so that’s why we introduced them at this point.

How do the Yakuza differ from Smith’s antagonist, Heydrich? They have different flavors.

They do. So, you know, the Japanese are shown to be falling behind the Nazis, and you see that San Francisco is less organized, less disciplined, through the production design and the way they enforce law, so it made sense to me that Kido’s antagonist would be someone like an organized crime figure. On the Nazi side, it’s somebody above Smith in the chain of command, and Smith is about as high as you can go as a Nazi in the American Reich. Heydrich, a Nazi from Germany, is the first major villain we’ve met who’s from Berlin, and he helps bring us into the conspiracies we’ve been talking about since episode 1, of all these people vying to knock Hitler off his chair and take his place.

We’ve also talked before about quote-unquote “good” Nazis on this show. Is Heydrich considered “good” in any way for wanting to overthrow Hitler?

Look, Heydrich is a very, very dark figure in history, and I don’t see him any different in the way that history sketches him. He’s really scary. But he’s against Hitler not for reasons we would think are “good” reasons. He wants to attack the Japanese, and it’s uncharacteristic of Hitler to stay his hand and refuse to strike down a weaker enemy. And so by the very ideology that Hitler has established, Heydrich feels Hitler must be removed, and that he’s not himself because why wouldn’t he attack the Japanese?

This might be a stretch, but in this episode, Smith is confronted with two people in his life who are headed for death: Thomas, his son, is ill and could be euthanized, and Wegener, his old colleague and friend, has a death wish. Are we meant to draw these parallels?

I think that’s right. I mean, for very, very different reasons, though. The truth is, Thomas is not necessarily headed for death. According to Nazi law, he should be euthanized, but he could live quite a while with his growing disability. But that’s a different part of the ideology than what Wegener’s got himself ensnared in.

The Man in the High Castle is available for streaming on Amazon.

Episode Recaps

The Man in the High Castle

Amazon adapts Philip K. Dick's 1962 novel about an alternate universe where the Axis powers won World War II.

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