Why You Should Be Watching Amazon's 'The Man In The High Castle'

Why You Should Be Watching Amazon's 'The Man In The High Castle'

The new season of Amazon's original series brings out the human side in history's most ruthless and notorious.

When I first heard of the new season of the Amazon Prime original series “The Man in the High Castle” that premiered earlier this month, I was somewhat curious. I had watched the first two episodes of the first season last year in November when they were both free. “Maybe the first episode of this season will also be free?” I thought. A joyous surprise came though when I logged onto Amazon to see when the season premier was… and saw that somehow, almost magically, I had acquired Amazon Prime! I asked my dad about this later (we share the same Amazon account), but he said he didn’t recall purchasing Prime. I don’t recall purchasing it either, but regardless, I was ecstatic and binge watched the first season during the wee hours of the weekday morning when I should have been sleeping, studying, or doing homework. After the final credits for the first season finale rolled past, I waited eagerly for season two to arrive.

For those unfamiliar with the series, which I do heartedly recommend, “The Man in the High Castle” is a loose adaptation of the original 1962 novel by late science fiction author Philip K. Dick. The novel imagines life in an alternate reality where the Axis powers won WWII and now rule the world. The United States is divided in half, with the Greater Nazi Reich occupying the East coast and the Japanese empire occupying the West coast. Between the two lies the Neutral Zone (formed by the Rocky Mountains), an area that serves as a buffer zone between the two world powers, as Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan are currently engaged in a decades-long Cold War. Unlike the Cold War in our universe, it is a bit one sided, as Nazi Germany has possessed nuclear weapons since at least 1945, while Japan has yet to built their first.

Needless to say, the Amazon series has a rather dark tone; seriously, how can life under global rule by the Axis powers possibly be cheery? However, the premier of season two came at a rather peculiar time, even if the release date was decided upon rather long ago. The recent election of Donald J. Trump as the next President of the United States meant that Google and all the entertainment coverage websites were flooded with mentions of how the series is now a little more unnerving in the wake of Trump’s victory. The rotten reviews on Rotten Tomatoes even explicitly called out the bad timing as a major reason for the reviewers’ disappointment in the season.

Of course, this is all very subjective and politically influenced. Half the nation was utterly joyful and filled with hope when Trump claimed victory early last month. That half of the nation, though, is generally not the type to fill the Internet with reviews of the latest movies and TV shows. In a year that already saw the release of a positively reviewed film detailing Barack Obama’s early romance with Michelle (“South Side with You”), it seemed rather odd to me, if not outright partisan and biased, to suddenly let politics influence one’s opinion on a work of fiction. While there was a moment or two while I watched season two where I got a brief chill at the parallels between the series and America in December of 2016, overall the series did little to evoke any sense of political emotion, and I advise everyone to watch it knowing full well that it is an adaptation of a Cold War era novel, filmed months ago, and nothing more. While the supposed rise of white nationalism (or at least its prominence) in this country is a bit unnerving, I remain fairly confident that it will not bloom into more anytime soon. Trump himself merely farmed the white nationalists’ interest for votes and now wants nothing more to do with them. Whether or not they will try to use him as a “useful idiot” remains to be seen however.

Season two encountered some weird quandaries during production: the series showrunner left around halfway through season production / filming, and the series concluded production without ever finding a new replacement. Also, past the first episode, the series effectively covered all the plotlines from the original source material. Everything from that point onwards Amazon had to create for themselves. Unfortunately, this sudden need to craft their own narrative shows pretty well during the second season. The series now was rather struggling (if it wasn’t before) to find what kind of show exactly that it wanted to be and what direction that it wanted to head in. The end result is a bit convoluted and heavy-handed.

WARNING: Spoilers ahead! Skip ahead if you’ve yet to watch “The Man in the High Castle” season finale!

By the end of the season finale, I got the impression that Amazon ultimately decided that this season would merely be a transition season for whatever Amazon has in store for the future. The sudden reappearance of Juliana Crain’s sister Trudy Walker, alive, and Japanese trade minister Nobusuke Tagomi’s strange voyage through our world’s 1962 hints at more universe hopping in the series future. If that is the case, I find this a somewhat worrying change of theme and focus and can only hope that Amazon navigates this transition well.

A major difference between seasons one and two is the amount of interaction between the main characters. While in season one, the show’s protagonists and “antagonists” all shared story threads that ultimately tied together pretty well, season two sees most of its characters all going their separate ways, never physically sharing the same place at the same time, though Tagomi’s encounter with our universe’s Juliana Crain could count as an exception. Joe Blake is in Berlin throughout most of the season, hence the series spawning in two new characters (his dad and Nicole) is flesh out his storyline. Miss Crain spends most of her time in the Greater Nazi Reich with Obergruppenfuehrer John Smith. Frank Frink undergoes a somewhat contrived character metamorphosis as he joins the Resistance in the Pacific States, while also helping out Ed and Childan on the side. Chief Inspector Kido largely is involved with his own work in the Pacific States, and Tagomi is off in another universe entirely!


As with season one, season two again follows characters from both the Axis and (former) Allied powers. This leads to an exorbitant amount of moral ambiguity and grayness. Chief Inspector Kido and Obergruppenfuehrer Smith might very well be considered monsters by some. Indeed, they commit acts that are more typical among movie villains than series “protagonists.” Both men though are merely products of their place in society. They are both fathers and military veterans, and the show points this out poignantly. Would they not be doing their heinous deeds were it not for the job titles that they hold? Perhaps season three will tell. Either way, to feel sympathy for a Nazi and a Kempeitai officer is not to be looked down upon when looking deeper into their lives as mere mortal men. Their ambiguous morality, along with that of the shady American Resistance members, only seeks to highlight that people in real life are rarely one-dimensional. We are all only human and subject to be products of our environment, whatever that shall entail.

Cover Image Credit: Amazon Studios

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10 Essentials For A Writer-Friendly Coffee Shop

The best and most inspiring coffee shops all have a story.

Living in 2018 is pretty great. Not for the technology (although, it’s nice as well), not for the politics (ha ha ha), and not for the possibility of self-driving cars in the near future (honestly terrifying). No, I’m happy to live in 2018 because of a single trend: coffee shops.

Coffee shops are the THING now! And in the small college town I live in, there’s one on literally every corner. My absolutely ideal afternoon is one spent in a coffee shop. I love coffee and I love cozy spaces, so they’re pretty much perfect. As a writer, coffee shops have played a large role in my productivity as well. After visiting many different coffee shops, I’ve compiled a list of what makes one the most optimally writer-friendly.

1. Fascinating characters

Some of my best dialogue has come from overheard coffee shop conversations, no joke. I’m not sure what it is about them, but sitting in coffee shops makes people talk like they’re in a private living room. What does this mean? Intimate dialogue perfect for insertion in your latest story.

2. Trustworthy baristas

You know those baristas I’m talking about. The ones who remember your regular order, suggest new and adventurous drinks or give you an extra shot of espresso for free. Once you find them, stick with ‘em.

3. Good music

At my hometown coffee shop, Groundhouse, I can always tell which baristas are on duty if I listen to the music. ‘80s rock playlist? It’s the high school guy's shift! Soft indie? It’s my friend Eden! Acoustic covers? Groundhouse’s owner! Some of my favorite music has been discovered in coffee shops as well. I’m constantly lifting my phone to my mouth and discreetly asking Siri “what song is this?”

4. Insta-worthy aesthetics

Because if it’s not on Instagram, did you really drink coffee? (no. the answer is no.)

5. Big coffee mugs

If you’re spending $3.50 on a latte, it better be worth it. You’re not here to play around.

6. Comfy chairs

Because you’re going to be at the coffee shop for a while, writing thousands of words and getting chapters slammed out. Trust me, I know from experience it’s better to sit in a comfy chair during those thousands of words.

7. A background story

So the best and most inspiring coffee shops all have a story. Maybe they were started by a starving college student 10 years ago. Maybe it’s a family business. Maybe it’s owned by two brothers who wear beanies. Whatever the story, it’s gotta have a good one.

8. A favorite drink

(Chai tea latte, always and forever!)

9. Outlets

If you’re there for hours, the electronics will need juice.

10. Good tea

For the British-inspired days.

What else do you look for in a writer-friendly coffee shop?

*read this post and more written by young authors on the Project Canvas blog!* Project Canvas is a book of writing advice and motivation | 60 contributors from 9 countries... learn more!

Cover Image Credit: Olivia Rogers

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Saying Farewell to "The Fosters"

Thank you for giving representation to those who feel voiceless.

"The Fosters" first aired in 2013 on Freeform, back when the channel was still called ABC Family. Five years and 100 episodes later, it's time to say goodbye.

For months fans of this hit television show took to Twitter circulating the hashtag #RenewTheFosters trying to give the show one more season. Sadly, in January it was announced that the show would end this summer with a "three episode finale."

In short, "The Fosters" revolves around a family of many kids (many who have been adopted) and their moms, Lena and Steph. Each episode follows the family and various struggles that are currently taking place within society; recently, part of the show's plot focused on immigration and the flaws within the system.

From day one, "The Fosters" has represented unconditional love and diversity, something that the fan base has cherished. Various ethnic backgrounds, gender identities, and personal struggles have been brought to the forefront during this show's five year run.

Even though the Farewell Season has begun, it's been announced that there will be a spin-off show following Mariana and Callie, two of the main characters.

"The Fosters" will truly be missed as it gave representation to those who feel most voiceless. The show has made a lasting impact on its viewers and the television industry; from this, hopefully other shows will take the initiative to incorporate more diversity into their cast and characters.

Tune in on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. EST on Freeform to watch the Farewell Season.

Cover Image Credit: TV Guide

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