The Man in the High Castle recap: Season 2, Episode 5
The Man in the High Castle went all-in on Tagomi (finally!), showing him not only interacting with the people in his alternate reality, but also meeting one very familiar face. Standing in front of the house he traveled to at the end of episode 4, he approaches the front door — walking past an American flag in the process — and rings the bell. His wife, Michiko, opens the door and faces him. He’s breathless at seeing her alive, but she’d rather not talk, brushing past him and telling him he can eat the food in the fridge if he wants, and that they’ll talk when she’s back.
Taken aback, Tagomi can only stick around and explore the kitchen as instructed. He opens the fridge, the drawers, and the cabinets, peering at the American labels and brands before selecting a Twinkie to eat… with chopsticks. As if that weren’t fish-out-of-water enough for Tagomi, he then finds court papers on Michiko’s desk, listing him as the defendant. Looks like Michiko doesn’t want to be Tagomi’s beloved anymore, but for now, Tagomi uses his time to investigate his surroundings as much as he can. He watches television (he’s mesmerized by a program with an actor in yellowface referencing “chop suey,” showing how this reality is also imperfect), hears of the news of Fidel Castro’s hold on Cuba, and then examines a five-dollar bill, contemplating whether the world he’s stepped into is better than the one he left.
At the library, he only finds more disheartening evidence that this world isn’t so great either. Though he finally finds a copy of Lolita, he also hears of the “duck and cover” procedures in the event of a bomb, and then settles in with a history book depicting a World War II in which the Allies won. He’s intrigued by the cover showing the photo of the euphoric V-J Day kiss, but dismayed when he finds the chapters on the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki inside. Tagomi’s breath catches, shocked at how both realities he knows eventually led to horror and destruction.
If only Frank knew that, too. Convinced by the film he had seen that he was destined for death, he’s no longer afraid of taking risks, going so far as to alienate Ed, who he had been invested in saving just a few episodes ago. Ed tries to talk sense into his friend, figuring out quickly that Frank had spent the night with Sara, but Frank brushes him — and the yakuza business — off. Instead, he returns to the Resistance hideout, where Gary and Frank say they trust each other. After Lem leaves on his own mission, Frank asks about the films they’ve been collecting. Gary tells him not to overthink it, because no matter what they see in those film, they’ll all die anyway. “You want to die on your knees, or do you want to die standing tall?” Gary asks.
Frank gets the point, but later, Gary and Sara bring him to Karen’s funeral, just to properly induct him into the Resistance and to show him how much they could lose in the process. Without Frank around, Ed has to deal with the Kempeitai alone, when a representative arrives to check on what they’re doing. Ed reassures Kido’s right-hand man that he’ll recount every detail of their yakuza dealings to the Kempeitai, and the man leaves, promising to continue to keep a close watch on the operation. At the same time, Frank watches as the memorial for Karen grows crowded with Resistance members, including Saul Tigh (but really, are most of the Resistance members made up of Battlestar Galactica alums or what?) one man who delivers a speech for the crowd, emphasizing the importance of their missions… even if their goals can be murky.
Lem’s mission proves that point. He arrives at the home of the Man in the High Castle and finds Hawthorne alone with a burning “high castle” of films. Hawthorne promises Lem that he’s memorized everything on the reels he’s burned, and has saved only a small stash to take with them. Lem watches confused, but follows the Man in the High Castle’s instructions anyway.
Juliana does the same when it comes to her mystery man. During George Dixon’s late-night call (he only did it for Trudy, he says), she explains that the Man in the High Castle sent her to him, and he decides to set up a meet. The next day, the two find each other in Central Park, and as she reveals her lengthy story about how she came to meet the Man in the High Castle. George assesses her and decides to call his Resistance people off from killing her after she let Joe walk free.
NEXT: Guess who’s coming to dinner…
Now that Helen also knows of Thomas’ condition, life in the Smith house has grown tense. “Everything will be fine,” John assures Thomas as Helen watches, unconvinced they can keep up the facade for their son.
But John can’t think about next steps on that just yet. Kido and the Kempeitai have located Juliana and learned of her association with the Smiths, so Kido pays a visit straight to Smith (without an appointment!), giving him a file asking for the extradition of Juliana Crain. (Was that the document he had the drunken General approve in the last episode? Or was that a document helping Tagomi get what he wanted as far as the transportation of uranium went? Hmm.) John argues that he’s offered her asylum, but Kido says that Juliana was involved in the murders of Kempeitai officers. John counters that Juliana was never a part of the Resistance, but Kido says Juliana only betrayed them after meeting the Man in the High Castle. Without proof of her meeting, neither side can be sure of where Juliana stands.
John, though, gets the impression that Kido is telling him everything. He sends Eric away and waits as Kido looks at the objects in John’s office, including a medal for his military service in the Sonoma Islands. Kido comments on how they were both there, and the two villains finally speak candidly. But… what about? We don’t see or hear their conversation, and instead, we see Kido leave, and John telling Eric to erase the record of their meeting from the log. Maybe Kido told John about the General’s plans? Or could the inspector have cooked up something more sinister and secretive?
Speaking of secretive, George plays pirate radio for Juliana and only opens up when Juliana presses about their shared past with Trudy. George explains that Trudy worshipped Juliana, and that as close as he was to her mother, he couldn’t stay with her. He also tells her that his people want her dead, but that she has a chance to redeem herself, if she can somehow get close to John Smith. No one is asking her to assassinate him, he explains, but he will need her to play along… or else. “You really should not have helped that Nazi,” he says quietly, as Juliana’s eyes well up with tears.
Back in her apartment, Juliana thinks it over, cleaning the rooms while looking warily at the vents and possible spaces that could contain bugs tracking her every move. She’s more paranoid than ever, and when she arrives at the Smiths’ for dinner, she’s careful to observe everything around her. (She just misses Helen taking a pill before the dinner.) Though John and Helen both turn on the charm for Juliana, John quickly gets pulled away for a call — it’s from Joe, but we’ll get to that — and Juliana politely makes conversation with the family until John returns and looks intently at her. Could she be the card he’s about to play with Kido?
After their tour, Joe’s father reveals why he’d taken him there: Joe himself is a product of the birthing house, and everything he thought he knew about his upbringing with his spurned mother is a lie. He had been kidnapped and taken to Brooklyn, where his father could not follow, as he also realized the idea of birther houses was wrong in the end. Distraught, Joe punches the wall and cries… until he walks outside and smokes with his father. “You are a good man,” his father says, “worthy of my trust.” And with that, Joe is ready to go to his father’s home without putting up a tantrum. There, he’s greeted by a maid who’s ecstatic to be in the presence of an “elite” product of the Reich and holds his face in her hands. Thrown but convinced his father told he truth, Joe decides to stay — and then calls John, wondering whether John knew the truth about his past. John says he did, and Joe decides to cut things off between him and his father figure. John Smith, it’s safe to say, never thought he’d lose this son, too.
High Castle then continues its streak of bookending episodes with Tagomi’s adventures: In the final scene, Tagomi returns to his house with Michiko and finds his son alive and perturbed by his father’s presence. “Wow,” he says. “You’re back.” His son then asks him why he won’t leave Michiko alone, but Tagomi has no idea what he means about his “benders.” And to make things even more confusing for the poor trade minister, his son then calls out to his wife to tell her Tagomi’s back. Out walks… JULIANA, clutching their baby. What.
At least that explains why Tagomi felt such a connection with Juliana last season: They had been family in a different life, even if it’s family by law. With that jaw-dropper, Tagomi’s eye-opening scenes, and John and Kido’s verbal showdown, the episode sets things up for a back half of the season filled with even more surprises. Though I’m still finding Joe’s story a little tedious because it’s so separated from everyone else’s, I’m glad to see Frank turn much more to the morally gray side. It doesn’t exactly suit him, but it does make him more interesting than when he was pining for Juliana.
Episode grade: B+
Amazon adapts Philip K. Dick's 1962 novel about an alternate universe where the Axis powers won World War II.