The Man in the High Castle, season 4, brought the long sci fi saga of a multiverse of worlds to an end. The world most of the story sits firmly in is where the US lost WWII and Germany and Japan have divided the former US between them.
If you’re reading this, I assume you’ve watched earlier seasons of the series and I don’t need to explain the premise behind this science fiction thriller here.
If you need a refresher, I’ve reviewed every previous season of The Man in the High Castle. When the series began, it was before the Trump presidency and the rise of white supremacy all around the globe. The story was first published in 1962. My reaction is quite different now that there is a white supremacist in power in the US.
This paragraph is full of spoilers. If you haven’t seen season 4 yet, skip ahead a paragraph. Because of the political situation in the real world, I wanted a really strong defeat for the Nazi regime. I wanted a really strong defeat for the Japanese. The Japanese surrendered after a brilliant coup by the BCF (Black Communist Federation). The Japanese took their toys and went home. The Nazi top man, John Smith (Rufus Sewell), was defeated, but not in a satisfying way. That averted a war, at least momentarily. The science fiction portal between various worlds in the multiverse opened to a confusing conclusion that didn’t answer any questions for me. There was none of the triumph I wanted at the end.
I didn’t get what I wanted from this story, so I found season 4 to be a disappointment in many ways.
The Good Stuff
It wasn’t all bad, of course.
It was a large cast with many outstanding performances. The various worlds created in this ambitious production were always convincing and authentic.
Juliana Crane (Alexa Davalos) is the main character, the interconnection between the resisters and freedom fighters, the Nazis, and the Japanese. She moves around the multiverse at will in this season. In season 4 she teams up with Wyatt Price (Jason O’Mara), Brad Bellows (Louis Ferreira), and others to lead an attack on John Smith.
Alexa Davalos is the best motivation to stick with 4 seasons of this depressing series, in my estimation.
In San Francisco, a group of Black resisters, lead by Bell Mallory (Frances Turner), Elijah (Clé Bennett), Equiano (David Harewood), and Darius (Malik McCall) organized a coup against the Japanese. They wanted San Francisco as a separate homeland for themselves. A ragtag group of outsiders including Jews, Latinos, and others fought with them.
The German leaders tried to paint the BCF as savages, not human, and planned to carpet bomb them out of existence.
Inspector Kido (Joel de la Fuente) stayed loyal to the Emperor. However, his love for his son brought out some big sacrifices in him. In season 4, San Francisco was visited by the Crown Princess (Mayumi Yoshida), a sensible woman who could have effected peace given half a chance. Kido showed her around.
The Crown Princess also met with Robert Childan (Brennan Brown), the collectibles businessman. Childan and the assistant in his shop, Yukiko (Chika Kanamoto) had their own subplot in season 4. Childan was captured by both the BCF and the Japanese at various points in the story.
In the Smith family, things were beginning to crack. Helen Smith (Chelah Horsdal) took her two daughters to Montana, in the neutral zone, for a year. Eventually she came back. Her oldest daughter, Jennifer (Genea Charpentier) came back radicalized, and Helen secretly agreed with her.
A new character floated around the Smiths in season 4. Martha (Rachel Nichols) was a tough German officer sent to guard Helen and the children. When Helen started lying to Martha to meet with resisters, the crack between the Smiths blew wide open. I don’t know if it was on purpose, but naming this character Martha certainly brought up visions of The Handmaid’s Tale.
Some Thoughts on The Man in the High Castle
There were a few women directors in season 4: Charlotte Brändström, Julie Hébert, and Rachel Leiterman. Not enough.
Apparently, whatever part of the multiverse you are in the only thing men can think of to do with their time is start wars. Wars are about money, resources, capital, cheap labor. The battles in The Man in the High Castle were no different.
It was depressing to see swastikas plastered on all the beloved American places and buildings. But when Juliana and John Smith traveled into the alt-world that is America as we know it, they found the Viet Nam War taking young men away from home to fight. History tells us, that wasn’t the last war to occupy Americans in the world we know.
Speaking of swastikas, here’s a cheerful note from Chelah Horsdal.
Good for them! For the many actors like Chelah Horsdal on the Nazi side of the story, this must have been a great day.
If you’re a Pinterest user, I offer this poster for your pinning pleasure.
Here’s a season 4 preview.
What did you think of the way this series ended? Were you disappointed like me, or did you think it ended in a satisfying way?