There’s a lot to be excited for in the next season of The Man in the High Castle. The show, based on the Philip K. Dick novel, might be a bit more daunting this time around, given the 2016 election results and the ensuing emboldenment of white supremacists, but that makes it even more of a powerful cautionary tale than before.
The Man in the High Castle is all about what happens when groups of people rebel against a dictator and his regime in hopes of a better world — in this case, a better world revealed through hints of an alternate universe through film reels. The first season established and grew the main characters into heroes of the rebellion, while others faced the consequences of complacency for the sake of personal and professional safety. This season, our heroes are faced with even more obstacles than before in pursuit of the truth, and the villains continue to face their own inner demons. Here are just a few things to remember from Season 1, before heading into what will surely be a fascinating, if terrifyingly close to home, Season 2.
1. Juliana’s sister, Trudy, set the whole thing in motion with her death.
At the beginning of the series, Juliana and Frank were living in San Francisco under Japanese rule. They were subjugated, but trying to make the best of a bad situation. Then, everything changed after Juliana’s sister Trudy handed her a film and told her to get it to the Man in the High Castle. Trudy was later killed by the Japanese for her part in the Resistance, something Juliana confirmed several episodes later.
2. The films aren’t limited to our reality.
The first film Juliana saw was historical reality for the audience, in which the Allied forces won WWII. Frank dismissed the video as some sort of propaganda device to combat the Nazi and Japanese invasion, but Juliana believed it was real. Turns out, it was…in a sense. There are tons of other videos, but they aren’t just of our reality. They’re of many, possibly all, realities. Later on, Juliana and Frank came across another reel that showed Frank being murdered by Joe Blake, as a Nazi. Was it the future in their reality, or an alternate world in which Joe has never questioned his place in the Third Reich? So many questions to answer next season.
3. Juliana killed a man.
Juliana is not the smartest rebel — probably because she’s never been one before. After arriving in the Neutral Zone, she immediately fell for the ruse of the Origami Man, a secret Nazi operative who pretended to be her inside contact. When Juliana met him on the bridge, he took the film and tried to murder her, only she pushed him off the bridge, killing him. While it was in self defense, this affected Juliana throughout the rest of the season. She was more careful not to trust people, while also recognizing that she was responsible for ending another person’s life.
4. Frank’s got a lot of reasons to hate the Japanese.
After Juliana left to try and follow her sister Trudy’s path to the Neutral Zone, Frank was left to take the blow. He was apprehended by the Japanese and tortured for information on her whereabouts. They went as far as killing his sister and her children, even though in the end it didn’t matter because they let him go. Frank carried a lot of resentment toward the Japanese government after this, which motivated his actions throughout the rest of the season.
5. Frank is hiding his Jewish ancestry.
Everyone has secrets in this show, and one of Frank’s is that he is Jewish. We saw Frank secretly meet with a man and his family after the stranger murmured the phrase “to life,” which is the English translation of the Jewish celebration toast “l’chaim.” In one of the most touching moments of the season, Frank broke down while participating in a prayer for his murdered sister and her children. It was a rare moment of vulnerability for a character who spent most of the season shutting people out.
6. The Nazis tried to kill the Crown Prince of Japan.
Throughout the first season, Frank was trying to find a way to murder the Crown Prince of Japan. He manufactured a real gun at his replica weaponry factory, then went to an antiques dealer to procure bullets, which are forbidden for non-Japanese people to own. However, when faced with the opportunity to kill the prince, he didn’t go through with it. But the prince was still shot. Turns out, Nazi official Reinhard Heydrich orchestrated the assassination attempt, because that would be considered an act of war. In the end, a Japanese officer secretly killed the Nazi assassin instead of bringing him into custody, so they could avoid going to war with Germany.
7. War is on the horizon.
In case the assassination attempt wasn’t enough of a sign, Nazi Germany wants to go to war with Japan. Over the course of the season, Nazi officials expressed displeasure that they had to share the American territory with the Japanese, and they didn’t have any interest in sharing world dominance anymore. This is something we’re really going to see continue into next season, as threats of a third world war loom. Speaking of which…
8. The Nazis have a nuclear bomb.
Japanese official Tagomi and Nazi insider Rudolph Wegener tried to get covert data into the hands of Japanese leaders during the Crown Prince’s speech in San Francisco. It looked like the insider was trying to share plans for a bomb capable of massive destruction, most likely a nuclear bomb, which explains why next season will have a cold war brewing between the two countries. Juliana also saw some footage of the nuclear bomb on one of the reels, so it isn’t a technology that’s been removed or made obsolete in this alternate reality.
9. Hitler is dying.
The biggest threat to the Nazi balance of power is Adolf Hitler’s health. The German leader was rumored to be dying, and spent most of his time in his castle watching reels that his forces had accumulated (hence early suspicion that he was the titular Man in the High Castle, which he is not). There was even an attempt to speed up the process, as Heydrich sent the apprehended Wegener to Germany with the sole mission to assassinate the leader of Nazi Germany. He ended up shooting himself instead.
10. There’s Nazi infighting for power.
The assassination attempt on Hitler’s life was one of the many moments of infighting that went on during this season. A lot of it could be traced back to Heydrich, who was trying to take over as the next leader of Nazi Germany. Heydrich organized an assassination attempt on John Smith, under the guise that it was members of the Rebellion. Once John Smith discovered this, he killed the Nazi who led the attack and made it look like a suicide. Then, at the end of the season, Heydrich tried to get John Smith to join his side, only to find out his attempt to kill Hitler failed, and he was arrested as a traitor. Still, that’s surely not going to be the only case of infighting on the series, as power continues to change hands.
11. The Japanese are surveilling everybody.
Both Germany and Japan are going to extreme lengths to keep control on the American population, and it looks like one of Japan’s biggest weapons is its surveillance system. While working covertly inside the Japanese government, Julianna came across a massive surveillance room where people keep records of just about everything locals say, write and share. It turns out the surveillance program was being led by Julianna’s stepfather, who did it so he could protect the family.
12. Ed is a major sucker.
The moment Ed came on screen, it was obvious he was going to either be killed or captured. His loyalty to Frank was rarely called into question, even when it made absolutely no sense for Ed to be helping him. The only time he doubted Frank was when he held him at gunpoint to prevent him from killing the Crown Prince, but he screwed it up by firing the gun. Sure, they were friends, but he seemed more like a dumbass than a willing participant in Frank’s shenanigans. The final straw was when Ed tried to melt Frank’s real gun after saying he was done helping him and Juliana. That’s what led to his arrest at the hands of the Japanese, and really, everyone saw it coming.
13. The Resistance is kind of mean.
The Resistance had its reasons to be skeptical of outsiders, but for everything Julianna sacrificed, they took advantage of her quite a bit. When she agreed to hand over the film to the Man in the High Castle directly, the rebels tricked her and stole the film so she couldn’t meet The Man himself. They also coaxed her into applying for a job with the Japanese government that would involve her being sexually abused, without letting her know that was something she would likely have to do. True, rebellions have to cover their tracks, but Julianna sacrificed her entire life and future for them, and they didn’t exactly give her a warm welcome. Then again…
14. Juliana betrayed the Resistance for Joe.
When push came to shove, Juliana chose Joe over the Resistance. Rebel leaders tasked her with killing Joe to retrieve the film, because they knew he was a Nazi agent. But after saving Joe from being murdered by Heydrich’s forces, she sacrificed her chances at freedom and put Joe on the boat meant for her and Frank. It’s not clear whether he has the film on him, but it’s more than likely that he does, meaning she just let a Nazi get away with one of the reels.
15. No one knows Joe’s real motivation.
It’s not clear even Joe knows what the hell he’s doing. Throughout the season, Joe teetered back and forth between Nazi loyalty and rebel inquisitiveness. He kept John Smith informed of his whereabouts, even telling him that he could have the chance to meet the Man in the High Castle himself. But then later on, he snuck into John Smith’s office to try and find a classified report about the reels. A lot of his actions were dictated by his feelings for Juliana, but it’s later revealed that he might have a wife and child, so even that’s muddled by his constant lies.
16. Joe’s father is a big deal.
All throughout the first season of The Man in the High Castle, Joe’s father was a constant presence in his life, even if he was never on screen. According to those around him, Joe’s father was a “high-ranking officer,” and that awarded Joe a lot of advantages in life. Of course, that meant speculation that Joe was the bastard son of Hitler, but (again) that’s not true. As we’ll find out next season, Joe’s father is a man named Martin Hausmann, played by Sebastian Roché.
17. John Smith’s son has a disease.
John Smith was one of the most fascinating characters of the first season. He was a ruthless Nazi officer, but he was also a doting husband and father who had barbecues with the neighbors. One of his most telling moments was when he was informed that his son, Thomas Smith, has a degenerative disease that would render him paralyzed in a few months. In this alternate reality, anyone with a mental or physical disability was immediately killed, but John Smith ordered the doctor to keep it a secret. This goes against everything John Smith values, and it could lead to ramifications next season, especially since it looks like audiences will be seeing more of Thomas’s school and home life next season.
18. That final Tagomi scene.
There is so much to unpack in that moment. At the end of the first season, Tagomi meditated until he found himself in an alternate 1960s, a world in which the United States won WWII. While some believed he was merely having a dream, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, the actor who plays Tagomi, said he did travel to our reality, and that’s going to profoundly affect his character development next season. What does someone do with that kind of information, knowing a separate world exists that changes the entire world he knows? It’s a lot to unpack, and it will surely take several episodes to do.
19. Tagomi still has Juliana’s locket.
The locket is more than just something Tagomi found on the ground after Frank dropped it at the Crown Prince’s gathering. Tagomi held onto it for the rest of the season, and it’s connected to a lot of the decisions he makes. He ran into Juliana after she fled with her job application, necklace in hand. Afterward, Tagomi hired her. Also, Tagomi was holding the necklace when he traveled to the alternate reality. Juliana herself was wearing the necklace when she saw the first reel. The two of them are now connected, and that’s partially through the necklace.
20. The Marshal is the worst character ever.
Can everyone just agree that The Marshal pretty much ruined several episodes of the season? The so-called bounty hunter completely killed the pace of the show, and by the end there was no dramatic climax to justify it. He was there, and then he wasn’t, and the show was much better off after he was gone.
The Man in the High Castle returns for Season 2 on December 16, with 10 new episodes.