The Man in the High Castle: Final Episode Discussion (SPOILERS)

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Jun 5, 2010
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Indianapolis Metro Area
Hi folks,

Warning, spoilers below, if you haven't already watched the final episode stop reading NOW.

I'm an avid fan of the Amazon series "The Man in the High Castle" that wrapped up a four season run with the latest episodes that dropped last month. It took me a while to watch them all due to family and work demands. I was also savoring them and spreading it out.

My enthusiasm for the series wasn't enough to carry me through the final minutes of the last episode without shaking my head in disappointment.

For a bit of background, I'm a lover of dystopic fiction. I have recently read Phillip K Dick's novel of the same name, which introduced the idea of the Allies losing WWII based on an alternate series of events following a successful assassination of FDR. US enters the war late, no development of the atomic bomb on our side, Germans do develop it, we lose. The book and the series agree on that much, and share characters such as Childan and Juliana. The book is typical for PKD in that he puts a lot of points out there and leaves connecting them as an exercise for the reader. The series is much richer because of the extended format that even a single season can give, and the screenplay writers did a great job of building on the basic vision PKD put forward. In particular the introduction of the central John Smith character not present in the book.

An early episode in season 4 broke my heart, where John Smith takes up the Nazi armband, and he turns his back on his Jewish friend now captured by the Nazis. John being who he is, I see how he did this: once he put that armband on, he felt honor bound to be the best Nazi he could be. It's in character. Later in the season we see true remorse when he meets up with the alternate world version of his friend, and that plus his interactions with his alternate son bring a lot of things crashing down.

OK, so the last episode. He has secured "full autonomy" from the Reich to run America on his own, yet inexplicably the war machine is carrying on with plans to implement final solutions on the West Coast, formerly PSA states. There's no understanding why he, now remorseful and in full control of America, with a second in command who clearly supports dumping Nazi ideology by the wayside, doesn't just call it off. He is clearly troubled, but there's no clue what's going on in his mind.

Then, the train scene where his version of Helen is killed. He staggers off, and we later see him moping, ARMBAND OFF, and he eats a bullet. This was just wrong. The John Smith we know (and love/hate) wouldn't have committed suicide. He would have found a way through the portal to hook up with his alternate wife and son, and come up with a scheme to fetch the girls.

Meanwhile his second in command, now in charge, makes one phone call and calls off the west coast pacification after ripping off his Nazi medals. If it was so easy, why didn't John do it?

Then, the final scene, where the portal we all knew was going to activate does. I was expecting some big threat, worse than the Nazis, to come rolling through, perhaps causing a joining of forces across that version of our world. Highly technological birdlike dinosaur descendants? Alien life forms? Something. I was still reeling from prior events. But a horde of apparent Woolworth shoppers or whatever they were, not speaking or interacting with the people on our side of the portal at all? Why the hell did they come over to Nazi-occupied America, bedecked in their afternoon frocks and pink handbags? Completely inexplicable. I think they won't have a good time there, even given the resistance holding the portal.

And, why did Goertzmann make the deal in the first place to give up the whole of the Americas? He did most of the work removing all the folks under Himmler... He didn't need John for much. And he would never give up the Portal which would seem to be the single most important installation in the Reich, to say nothing of the >120 nuclear weapons on the American continent.

There were just so many holes and logical errors in the episode that it really soured me.

I'm interested to hear other thoughts.


Lorenzo von Matterhorn
Jan 31, 2009
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Not reading anything here because I didn't even know season 4 was out! Thanks for making me aware that it is.


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Nov 22, 2013
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Now that I read your synopsis I have a different outlook on it. I think in the end John eating the bullet while sitting on the cliff overlooking the portal seeing it being overtaken by rebel control and knowing everything is crashing down was meant to mirror true history of Hitler essentially doing the same. I think the portal scene at the end was to keep you guessing, to do what you said PKD does so well, to let the reader (viewer in this case) decide for themselves what the significance of that scene is. My take, since the same people can not exist is both realms it was all the people who had been killed coming back.