I just finished watching the whole (first) season of Man in the High Castle with my wife. A few quick thoughts:
Premise. The premise is awesome. It’s Philip K. Dick, so that is to be expected. But it’s an interesting notion that the Nazis won WWII and allied with the Japanese to take over and run the U.S. Chilling, horrifying, and not too distant from possible reality.
Acting. The acting is almost universally bad. Luke Kleintak (Joe) is bad, but you can bear it. Alexa Davalos (Juliana) is too bad to bear. Her delievery is patchy but the real frustration is that she only has one move (the head down look) and one emotional note (earnest concern). It’s not just her, though: the side characters, extras – almost everybody acts poorly. This is my first Netflix show so I must assume that the blame belongs to the director, writers, and the budget. Gladly, some actors are great. The biggest exception to the bad acting is Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (the Trade Minister). He graces every scene he is in with real humanity, empathy, intensity, and gravity. Other exceptions include Rufus Sewell (John Smith, “Obergruppenführer”) who makes even his bad lines fair and his good lines great. He is evil, but still relatable.
Story. The story is fun. I found episodes 1-5 very intriguing, while Joe’s allegiance was uncertain. Then there was a dead space in there for a few episodes when Joe’s allegiance seemed obvious. By episodes 8,9 and the finale, I was hooked again. For example, the subplot with Juliana’s parents and Frank’s vengeance subplot were just as good as the A-Plot. The Trade Minister’s shenanigans are just as interesting as the A-Plot. Just at the moment when we were wondering what is in those films (as viewers and characters), they showed us some of the film. It didn’t disappoint.
Now that season 2 is coming out, I’ll watch it to see how everything plays out – but all the while holding my nose at the acting.
If you’re interested in philosophical analysis of the show, check out the forthcoming volume: Man in the High Castle and Philosophy