And now, without further ado, I present how the last half of The Man in High Castle pilot episode proves to be even more stupid than the first. In order to delve into how contrived the plot is, I have to really lay it out to show all of the pieces and how they fit together.
When we left off, Jules had decided she would join the resistance and take over where Trudy left off. There’s a meeting place and time with the film she took, so she goes there first to meet with a contact from the resistance. The meeting place is in a train station that’s manned by Japanese guards, around noon.
This scene really makes me laugh. I could say that maybe it was bad acting, but I feel like it might be more on the director. She has sensitive contraband that she could be killed for, yet in all the scenes after this, Jules looks like the definition of suspicious. Her eyes keep darting around, her shoulders are hunched and she just looks terrified. If you have to meet in public, I feel like playing it cool would just be common sense; try not to draw attention to yourself, act natural, try not to be suspicious. But she ends up looking like the exact thing that the Japanese would be looking for, a younger looking woman running around nervously carrying something suspicious that she was guarding very closely. It was like the director said something like, “Okay, in this scene you have the film and you’re trying to not get caught. Look like you don’t want to get caught.” Which makes her look like the kind of person that would be immediately caught. It’s hilarious, I promise.
The contact tells her she needs to go to the neutral zone in Colorado to meet up with the other resistance members. She takes the next bus heading east to get to Canon City. She grabs the bus, sits with her stuff, still looking like an escaped convict. She talks with a woman who sits by her for a little bit about what the neutral zone is like(Essentially the American Midwest. There’s really nothing out there I can totally see why neither the Japanese or Germany really wanted it). Turns out, she falls asleep, and wouldn’t you know it, that nice woman that she was having a conversation with steals all of her shit.
There’s no indication that she’s going to do this. Suddenly she’s running to another car from the bus with Jules’s bag. They hop into the car and drive off before Jules can get off, and literally no one helps. No one tries to get out of the way and I’m pretty sure the bus driver just tells her to fuck off or something. Just because it’s a Nazi run world doesn’t mean people are total assholes just because. I thought that was a little strange.
Oh, if you’re curious what Joe Blake is doing moving all of the contraband to Canon City(Illuminati confirmed), don’t worry. You’re not missing much. He drives, and maybe he’s about to get pulled over, but it’s nothing. Then he busts a tire. Oh great! Some tension at last. And a cop stops to help him. Which leads to nothing except the cop explaining that the ash they see coming down is from the crematorium where they still have a little Final Solution going on burning the nations undesirables.
That in itself is not so bad. In fact, that’s not bad world building. That is essentially what the Nazis planned on doing if they won the war, obviously they would just continue to cleanse the population. But it’s just a mention. That little factoid there is much more interesting to me than whatever the hell Joe Blake is doing in this show. Tell us more about that and forget this loser.
Jules makes it to Canon City hungry and tired. I used to think that this scene was a lot more stupid because it was shot poorly in my opinion. I had to watch it again to really catch what was happening. Jules calls back to Frank for some reason despite the fact that she up and left. I don’t know what she wanted to say, but it’s at the same time that the Japan guard show at his place and start searching around looking for Jules, now suspecting her of being in league with the resistance (she’s Trudy sister, and they know she’s a traitor, so I guess it makes sense they would look there, but it still seems convenient. We don’t get a scene of them looking at the parents house and they don’t mention it, so it seems like it’s just to raise tension because he’s Jewish or something). So the phone is ringing with Jules on the line as they’re searching the house, and by now I was yelling at my TV in the way that would embarrass sports fans during the Super Bowl. It’s such a cheap way to make dramatic tension, and what’s worse, he answers and she’s hung up by the time he gets there, so it still leads to nothing. They keep cutting themselves off, not daring to do anything actually interesting. And why was she calling in the first place? What was she going to say? “Hey just wanted to let you know I left you for the resistance, have a nice life.”
She gets something to eat at this place as Joe makes it to Canon City (hella convenient). Only when she’s done does she realize that her wallet must have been in the bags that got stolen (Still really fuckin convenient). She tells the bar tender she can’t pay, trying to diffuse the situation, but the dude is understandably pissed. That is, until Joe strides on into the bar to save the day, offering to pay her tab. Her response.
“I don’t need your money, thanks.”
Is this your way of trying to write a strong female character? Because you’re failing. I know that she’s trying to deny his help to appear strong, and I’m a flag waving, card carrying feminist. But surely her character must know that there is no other way to pay her tab. The bar tender looks like he’s going to take her out back and beat the shit out of her, and she can tell, and although he looks like a douchebag, Joecomes in to help her pay. If I was in her shoes, I would have been eternally grateful, just accepting help from someone when I needed it. But no, she has to try and be tough just to be tough. There are different ways that female characters can be strong. That was a stupid place to try and carve out how strong a woman she is.
What’s worse is that her attempt to be independent is undercut in just the next scene. He helps pay, and she responds, “I didn’t ask you to do that,” like a total ingrate. He says something witty(or something he thinks is witty), she leaves the bar and he follows with some sodas and offers her a drink. Now all of the sudden, she smirks and accepts his offer with a smile so they can start to chat.
What is wrong with you? Make up your mind.
And the thing that really gets me is how fake this all is. Everything had to happen just right for this plot to play out. The writers are sitting around thinking to themselves, “Okay, we want Joe and Jules to meet up somewhere so they can interact. How do we get them together?” They then proceed to lay out a ridiculous set of circumstances for them to meet and have this exact conversation. She has to meet in Canon City, and she can’t have any money so she can have this exchange that allows Joe to step in and play the hero. So some random lady steals her crap for no reason, or some reason that won’t be explained until later as a cheap ploy to make the audience watch more. Then she needs to be strong, but still want to talk with him outside, so she does this 180 flip in personality so they can have some cryptic conversation that I could barely listen to because I was having a conniption. The end of the episode is the Nazis dumping the body of the resistance member, Frank getting picked up by the Japanese and thrown in prison because reasons, and the final reveal, that Joe was a Nazi all along and is now friends with Jules.
It’s all really stupid, but the last bit always gets me. I watched the first few minutes of episode two before I had to stop. Because, just like I knew they would, Jules and Joe hook up for sex
Weren’t you in some kind of committed relationship, or was that just for show? Are you a Nazi too, Jules? You just left the boyfriends you were talking about having kids with, then twenty-four hours later here we are, picking up dudes at a bar in Colorado. And because he’s so cool, he can’t be there when she wakes up. Oh no, she wakes up and wraps some sheets around her and seems to just sense that he’s outside. She looks out the window to see him sitting on the hood of the truck, smoking a cigarette like a badass trying to contain just how James Dean cool he is.
I couldn’t keep watching after that, and I have no intention of watching any more. I haven’t read the book, but if it’s anything like that, I want no part of it. The worst kind of pain I feel is when a good idea has crappy execution, and this pushed literally all of my buttons. You really have to try to make a concept this interesting so boring. If I was making that show, I would have scrapped every piece of what they made for something entirely different. I don’t know what I would have made, but Heaven knows it wouldn’t have been that.
If you disagree with my assessment, I encourage you to watch the show somehow and draw your own conclusions. People are obviously free to like what they like, and I don’t think it says anything if you like the show where I don’t. If you think it’s compelling, that’s totally fine, feel free to enjoy it.
Otherwise, forget The Man in High Castle even exists. If we all forget about it, maybe we can get something else made that at least halfway better than this shitshow.