The Man in the High Castle follows an alternate reality in which the Axis powers won the Second World War, and the world has been split between Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Season 3 picks up as Juliana Crane (Alexa Davalos) attempts further investigation into the mysterious film reels, John Smith (Rufus Sewell) navigates the politics of Nazi America, and Nobusuke Tagomi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) continues to explore the concept of the multiverse. The resulting 10-episode run is a slow burn, but one of rich characterisation and highly enthralling worldbuilding that makes for an entertaining show.
The look of the show is once again stunning. Although Netflix is usually the frontrunner of original streaming shows, Amazon clearly has the resources to give them a run for their money. The highly detailed set pieces, costumes, and score really make this alternative world feel genuine, and the viewer can’t help but be drawn into the fantastic cinematography.
There are some issues with the world, however. For instance, Imperial Japan continues to be underdeveloped compared to their Reich counterparts. It’s understandable (Nazi’s always make for great villains), but the world would feel more fleshed out if we understood more about the other dominant power. Hopefully Season 4 will be the first time we see this version of Japan.
The show seems to be finding its identity more than in previous seasons. Previously, the showrunners seemed reluctant to commit too much to the science fiction elements of the premise, such as the multiverse and travelling between worlds. This season delves into those concepts in more detail and this makes for interesting viewing that is greatly satisfying to fans of the genre.
The stand-out character this season is John Smith. Sewell is a master of conveying inner turmoil through facial expressions rather than dialogue, and his portrayal of a man plagued by doubt and desperate to hold his family together is incredible. Considering he is a Nazi, Sewell and the writers do an incredible job of convincing the audience to feel for his character. The rest of the cast also give stellar performances. Tagawa continues to be quietly charismatic, and Davalos seems increasingly confident in her role as a leading woman.
Of course, the flip-side of this excellent characterisation is a slow plot that can, at times, feel like it’s spinning its wheels. The first half essentially covers the aftermath of Season 2, and thus it takes a while for this set of episodes to commit to its own narrative. Yet by the mid-point the story rapidly kicks into gear, and the subsequent tale is very well written.
While Season 3 might be a heavy load for binge-watchers with its slow pacing, the excellent characterisation and dedication to exploring strong sci-fi themes marks The Man in the High Castle as a show worth watching.
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