Tag Archives: The Man in the High Castle

Ranking the Show That I Watch – 2015 Edition: 58-55

14 Mar

Four hour longs start us off, two CW, one Netflix, and one Amazon.

Intro here.

58. House of Cards – 2014: 42

House of Cards

I probably wouldn’t have watched this past season of House of Cards if I didn’t traditionally marathon it with friends. No show benefits from that binge watching more than House of Cards. It’s a fun activity as a group, but the more you think about the show, the more it all falls apart, and the dumber it is. The show makes so little sense that the best way to watch it is to finish it because you can think. The ridiculousness can be fun, and it legitimately was in the first season; the binge-watching advice was as much backhanded compliment as insult. Now it’s just, well, very bad. On top of the mess that the show is, there’s a sense that the show believe it’s more meaningful than it is which eats away at whatever fun the show has left. Whether I watch again this season will depend on whether my friends and I put aside a rainy day and beers for it; otherwise it’s probably not going to happen.

57. Arrow – 2014: Not Eligible

Arrow

Arrow is the darker and more dour companion to the happier-go-luckier The Flash, which we’ll see in a minute, and I have fairly similar thoughts on both shows.  The Flash’s first season was better than Arrow’s downer of a third season, but Arrow’s fourth season so far has been better than Flash’s second, half of the episodes of which seem like back door pilots for new series (mostly CW’s upcoming Legends of Tomorrow.) These shows aren’t necessarily and are only enjoyable on and off. They lean in super hard to obvious tropes and are incredibly predictable, and because there are 22 of them a year, have some of the worst pacing and are incredibly repetitive. More than almost any other show, I’ve watched I feel like I can read or fade in and out and not really miss much from these shows, and while that’s been useful when binging to catch up with these shows, that’s not a compliment. There are charms; the actors are generally competent, and there are good fight sequences and moments of clever snappy dialogue. Still, it’s not quite enough; I’d watch a couple of hour season recap of each if someone made it, but I’m not sure I can justify devoting the amount of time required to watch this show and the following one moving forward.

56. Flash – 2014: Not Eligible

Flash

I’d rather not write separate pieces for this and Arrow, but here we go. The Flash can be fun, and relative to Arrow, it’s lighter, and it’s best when it stays that way. There’s a lot of emo, a lot of angst, a season long big bad, but and it stays fun when it’s just on the right side of mediocre. The Flash and Arrow don’t crossover a lot but they almost crossover just enough and there’s not enough difference in quality that I want to watch one without the other, and that means that it’s 44 or so episodes a year, or zero, which is a big commitment for a pair of shows that would be somewhat more compelling with a small one. Great shows are for everyone; Flash (and Arrow) are only for relative comic fans.

55. The Man in the High Castle – 2014: Not Eligible

The Man in the High Castle

I really wanted to like The Man in the High Castle. It’s an alternate history, which is a genre unseen on TV; as a history buff, I was definitely interested and it’s based on a Philip K. Dick book which I have shamefully not read but is well-regarded by my friends who have. It’s one of the classic alternate history premises; what if the Nazis had won World War II? In this world, the Germans control the eastern half of the US and the Japanese the West, but there are resistance groups working deep underground, which our unknowing protagonists are introduced to within the run of the show. There’s so much I want to explore within this premise, and so many interesting questions which could be asked and presented. The problem, however, is that the characters aren’t great or really even good. It’s hard to feel anything for the protagonists and the world building and plot doesn’t come fast enough to make up for the lousy characters. I’d be interested in coming back to it if the next season got glowing notices, but I’m saddened by how hesitant I am to return.

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Spring 2015 Review: The Man in the High Castle

30 Jan

The Man in the High Castle

 The problem with super high-concept pilots, and Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle is certainly one of those, is that they often get bogged down so heavily in exposition that whether you’re interested in going forward with the show is determined solely by how intrigued you are by the premise rather than by the quality of the characters or the writing. This is because there’s no time to develop either of those in the effort to build the general world and explain what’s going on in the future/past/alternate reality in an hour or less.

The Man in the High Castle clearly suffers from these issues. Based on the work of legendary sci-fi writer and movie-inspirer Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle takes place in the early ‘60s in an alternate reality where the Axis powers won World War II. Japan and Germany have split the U.S. Japan controls the western half and Germany the eastern half, with a relatively small neutral buffer zone in the middle known as the Neutral States. The Nazis seem the crueler of the two powers; they of course don’t allow non-whites to live and they burn cripples and the old, but the Japanese are no softies either. Naturally, a resistance movement has emerged, but it appears small and not particularly well-organized. A key organizer in New York entrusts a crucial mission to a young man he’s never met before without any indicator of trustworthiness other than his word, which appears to be a testament to just how desperate the resistance is.

 An elderly Hitler is on his last legs, and everyone is speculating who will take over, with Himmler, Goebbels, and Goring the key contenders, and many expect the new chancellor, whoever it is, to take on Japan in an epic clash once and for all, ensuring complete racial purity for the Aryan race.

The young new recruit alluded to earlier in the resistance is taking some top secret cargo to the Neutral States, where he’ll meet someone he doesn’t know to deliver what he doesn’t know he has. A woman, who is given a treasonous film that poses a world in which the Allies won by her sister right before her sister is caught by the Japanese authorities and killed, takes a bus to that same location in the Neutral States, where she’ll be looking for someone she doesn’t know. Her boyfriend, who didn’t even know where she had gone, is arrested due to her sister’s crimes. For all that world building, that’s about all we know about our characters going forward. Calling the back stories for the characters thin would be generous. It’s almost shocking the writers couldn’t get more plot out of the hour-long first episode – two characters are meeting, and that’s about it.

It’s hard to recommend The Man in the High Castle based on what I’ve seen because there just isn’t a lot. It’s best viewed as a draft-and-follow; if you’re into the concept check it out, otherwise sit back and see if it manages to get more interesting or less over the first episodes, with the latter the more likely scenario, just based on the odds.

Of course, as I say this, I’m always the person who gets intrigued easily by these high concept premises and watches a few episodes only to see the show start to fall apart because the more fundamental aspects a show needs to succeed – characters and writing were lost beneath the high concept premise. I get fooled again and again – Revolution and Under the Dome are two recent examples, but I continue to come back for more.

Will I watch it again? Of course I will. I’m a sucker for exactly these types of high concepts. Will it deliver though, and will I be watching through more than three or four episodes, I’m less sure.