The Man in the High Castle (Amazon)

The second season, now available on Amazon, goes far beyond Phillip K. Dick’s book, which makes sense, since PKD didn’t really provide an ending.   The three protagonists — Frank, Juliana and Joe — follow their own story arcs this season.  Each character faces his own moral dilemmas,where the “right” decisions — either morally or operationally — are not immediately apparent.  We get a glimpse of life in 1960s Berlin, where the children of the elite dabble in forbidden music and psychedelic drugs.  Meanwhile, the younger generation of Americans is intent on being even better Nazis than the original Germans.

The Japanese trade minister, a hero of the first seasons, spends much of Season 2 wandering around in an alternate universe, which is startlingly like our own.  What’s more, he’s not the only one.  And there may be more than two worlds.  I’m not sure what the alternate universe storyline adds to the overall mix, but unlike certain other recent programs (cough, cough, Westworld), at least when you’re watching it’s pretty clear what timeline you’re on.

One of the strengths of this show is in the interesting, morally complex characters.  You might find yourself more sympathetic to the Japanese police chief than the ethically-challenged, “ends justify the means” Resistance.  Another strong point of the series is the set design. The folks who put this show together really thought about what an America in the 1960s, whose cultural development was retarded by a repressive government, might look like.  In large part, that means technological progress (solid state TVs, supersonic planes) far ahead of its time, but music, art and fashion stubbornly stuck in the early 1950s.  They come up with a look that is very similar to the world we know, but subtly just different enough, much like Battlestar Galactia.  (Speaking of BSG –  three members of the anti-Japanese resistance are played by actors who were human/Cylons on that program).

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