In some writers’ room somewhere:
Hey, we have this great idea for a television show. Here it is:
Setting. Nazi Germany dropped a nuclear bomb on Washington, DC, leveling the US government and winning the war. Then the Nazis and the Japanese split the continent with Japan taking most of what’s west of the Rockies and the Nazis taking the land to the east. We’ve got great names for them like “Japanese Pacific States” and “Greater Nazi Reich.” (There’s some space in the middle that we’ll call the neutral zone, with a city called Canon City in it, which is basically Denver.)
There’s a resistance, of course, and they’ve got these films. It’s set in the 1960s so they’re actually old film reels in tin cases. Retro. We’ll give the films cool names like The Grasshopper Lies Heavy. They’re movies about what America might be like if they’d won the war and we’ll hint that maybe they’re not movies at all but actually real, as if the characters are somehow being hidden from the truth. Later we’ve got them watching one of San Francisco after it’s been atom bombed. Don’t worry – we’re not going too far down that road of alternate reality though. We know that sci-fi scares people. People in the resistance have to move these films through an underground network to “the man in the high castle” but they don’t know who that is. Spoiler alert: It’s Hitler. Right?! We think so.
And oh yeah, Hitler has Parkinson’s.
There’s also this whole thing with a Japanese trade minister and a Nazi who turns on the Reich. We have him getting caught but regaining their trust and getting sent to actually meet Hitler even though he still plans to kill him. But because we’re doing alt-history the führer talks him out of it and the guy shoots himself.
Our second side plot is someone shoots the Japanese prince. The boyfriend of a woman running films wanted to do it and bought a gun and the bullets to do so, but he chickens out an a Nazi sniper beats him to it. (Side note here: Guns are outlawed and there’s a registry for anyone who the governments allow to buy them. Yeah – we’re going there!) We’ve got DJ Qualls lined up to be his friend who eventually gets blamed for it.
Okay, now, we were a little coy about these films. In the one of a post-nuclear San Francisco we have two characters watching it – our guy who wanted to shoot the prince and our girl who’s running the films. While they watch one of them we see the guy get executed by a Nazi. Here’s the snake in the mailbox: The Nazi is our main character who’s been undercover helping the girl, pretending to be part of the resistance.
We’re going one step further in the finale: At the very end, the Japanese trade minister opens his eyes and he’s in the actual post-WWII America with baseball and flags and Ronald Reagan.
It’s all based on a book, by the way.
My advice: Read the damn book. This show, The Man In The High Castle, is a snoozefest. A bore of bores. If you’re not familiar with how Amazon Studios develops its original content, it works somewhat similar to regular television by ordering pilots and then a full series of what rises to the top. In this case it produced an outstanding pilot that was visually gorgeous with nuggets like a character ordering beer saying “make it cold” and a positively creepy scene where a police officer casually describes the ashes falling from the sky as the hospital burning the sick, handicapped and other drags on the state. Unfortunately none of that carried beyond the pilot. It’s like the producers put everything into their pitch and had nothing left for the actual work.
The stories themselves are just plain boring. There’s nothing interesting here. There’s the undercover Nazi, Joe, who struggles with his feelings for the female lead, Julia, and his orders to stop and ultimately kill her. Julia’s got her own issues with wannabe assassin boyfriend, Scott, and wanting to find out what is up with these films that got her sister killed. Sounds interesting, but it really isn’t. It’s as if they said well it it’s an interesting backdrop so whatever we do will be compelling. It isn’t.
It’s such a disappointment. The premise is really compelling. The idea that the Nazi-Japanese rule might be an illusion is awesome, but it remains unexplored for most of the season. I’d suggest this show remain unwatched in your Prime video playlist.