Juliana and Frank make deals with their devils while Joe prepares to meet his father
Will Juliana ever not be a part of a cat-and-mouse chase? At least she’s had a pretty good batting average when it comes to meeting Good Samaritans. After escaping the West Coast Resistance — or more just Gary and his gun — she stumbles onto the road in front of a kindhearted local who recounts the suffering after the Allies lost World War II. He takes her all the way back to San Francisco, where she acts on the memory she had of the man in the mysterious reel and heads to her mother and Arnold’s home, hoping they can shed light on whom she saw at her father’s funeral.
As for the cat in this situation… Lem and Gary don’t exactly know what to do about losing Karen. Gary’s focused on the chase at hand, though, and goes to the apartment Juliana had shared with Frank, and the two poke around, finding Frank’s blood on the sheets — he punched through the glass in the premiere — and therefore assuming she made it back.
Instead, she’s talking to her mother after asking her to show her old photos. With Arnold on his way home, Juliana gets some time alone with her and uses it to ask about the photo of the man she remembered from the funeral. Juliana’s mother, though, isn’t too happy to be talking about him: His name’s George Dixon, and it turns out he’s Trudy’s real father — a secret she’s kept from Arnold their entire relationship — and last she heard, he’s living in Brooklyn. Uh oh — that’s Nazi territory.
They’re not able to keep talking for long: The Good Samaritan who brought Juliana to San Francisco stops by Frank’s place and encounters Lem and Gary, passing along her message that she’ll be taking a bus to Sacramento. But when they arrive at the supposed bus stop, they discover that Juliana’s tricked them — so they quickly make their way to her other associated location, catching her just as she’s leaving Arnold and her mother’s, running through a bomb shelter built underneath the building, busting the lights, and making it out just in time. Juliana then heads to a telephone booth, leaves a note for Frank, and tracks down Tagomi’s home. She asks if he can grant her a visa to leave the city, but Tagomi is reluctant to get more involved in Juliana’s life.
After all, Tagomi has his own issues to worry about. He’s still trying to dig deeper into the alternate world he saw at the end of the first season, and he tries to have Kotomichi research a few of the names he heard there, as in Lolita, Nelson Mandela, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Kotomichi comes up empty-handed, and as Tagomi grows concerned over that mystery, as well as how he’ll convince the General not to transport uranium in civilian transportation (even if said civilians aren’t Japanese), Tagomi finds solace in a restricted library, where he finds books like Brave New World and The Varieties of Religious Experience. These are obviously banned books that have been kept closely guarded, and Tagomi delves in, taking notes and meditating on whether there can be a different world.
While Tagomi ruminates over these weighty questions, Frank and Childan have a much more pressing issue: Now that Frank has told Paul Kasura about the forged neck plate, the two Americans have been speedily captured and taken to the head of the yakuza. Frank nearly gets his throat sliced open, but he barters for their lives, saying that he can earn money for the yakuza by forging other artifacts and selling them on behalf of the criminal organization. He throws Childan into the mix, too, arguing that he needs him around, along with Ed, his assistant. The yakuza leader listens, and poor Childan looks like he’s about to fall apart. At one point, he wishes to be in a reality where Frank didn’t make any of this happen. Oh, Childan, if only you knew Tagomi!
NEXT: Just an Average Joe
While Frank shoots himself in the foot to help free Ed, Joe abandons everything about his first-season plot. He’s left John Smith behind and goes back to the construction site where he had been working before taking on the undercover mission to find the film. He convinces the manager to take back his role, and he starts to live what looks like a normal life: He works in construction and goes home to Rita, his paramour who has a son.
But then, John arrives at Rita’s apartment and gets his revenge: He tells Joe that a Resistance woman’s body was found where Juliana had taken off, causing Joe to think Juliana has died. (Of course, it was Karen whose body had been left behind.) Distraught, John then twists the knife by mentioning Joe’s father again — and with that, Joe’s shaken, and Rita can tell. She breaks things off with him, knowing that he’d never fully be with her, and so Joe packs up and heads for Berlin to meet his father for the first time. Between Joe’s father, George Dixon, and the Man in the High Castle himself, it looks like we’re meeting several mystery men this season.
Joe’s all set, but Frank is in desperate need of help. The yakuza toss him and Childan inside a tiny room, trapping them with each other and their thoughts. At one point, Frank nods off and imagines a hole in the back of his head where a bullet would have entered — that’s where he was shot by Joe in the film reel he and Juliana watched — and as he wakes with a start, Childan has nothing but snark left for the man who got them both in trouble. “You’re about to die horribly, but your hair is fine,” he quips.
At the same time, we finally see Ed, bound and imprisoned by Kido, looking emaciated and helpless — but alive. Kido, after investigating the site of Karen’s death and following the leads to where Juliana might have gone, finds time to talk to Ed about his predicament. He explains that Ed shouldn’t get his hopes up. In fact, not only will he be shot, but also his grandfather, Frank, and all of his coworkers at the factory will, too. Ed cries, asking Kido why he would do any of this. Kido explains that he never wanted this at all.
Still, Frank’s efforts pay off. After purposely selling his, Childan’s, and Ed’s souls to the yakuza, Ed gets to walk free while they earn money for the criminals. Frank and Ed finally reunite in a brief moment of happiness.
Even so, none of them are free, now that they’re tied to the Japanese crime ring. And just as Frank willingly walks into danger, so does Juliana at the end of the episode. Left with nowhere to turn and no one to help her, she realizes that she has to make her way to Brooklyn and track down George Dixon herself. And so she leaves a final message for Frank, before approaching the Nazi embassy in San Francisco. The lights come on, the Kempeitai follow, and shouts ring through the air as she’s told to stop and return to the Pacific States. Just in time, she drops to her knees in front of the Nazi embassy and asks for asylum. With her background as a Resistance member with ties to the Man in the High Castle, will the Reich actually help?
That’s a question for episode 3. In the meantime, this hour is another strong installment right out of the gate for the series, placing all of the characters in danger (well, except Joe) and forcing them to confront their reality. The touches of the fantastical and surreal — Frank’s dream, Tagomi’s buzzing mind — continue the disorienting cuts and auditory elements of the premiere, underlining just how out-of-place all of this is. That said, I’m a little worried there are too many balls in the air, now that all the leads are separated: Joe, Juliana, Frank, and John are all in separate stories. Here’s hoping their paths cross again soon…
Episode grade: B+