It is finally here!
(I am excited. Can’t you tell?)
I’ve had a long wait since the pilot episode aired as part of Amazon Studios’ “Pilot Season” in January 2015. “Pilot Season” features single episodes of proposed original series for online streaming on Amazon. These single pilot or first episodes are then rated by viewers and the most enjoyed are green-lit for production of a full season. The Man in the High Castle is the most watched offering to date for Amazon Studios and is slated for a ten episode season. Last weekend, Amazon played the second episode as a teaser for the series debut of its normal run on November 20, 2015.
Adapted by Frank Spotnitz (The X Files, Transporter: The Series, and Millennium), and executive produced by Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Alien, The Martian), the series is based upon Phillip K Dick’s alternative history novel of the same name.
It is 1962, fifteen years after the ending of WWII. Japan now governs the western states of the USA while the Nazis govern the eastern states. Along the mountain range of the Rockies lies a neutral buffer zone known as the Rocky Mountain States. The Amazon series includes the ‘story within a story’ of the novel. This interior story, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy is of an alternative reality in which WWII ended differently with Japan and Germany losing to the Allies. The author, Hawthorne Abendsen, is known as “the man in the high castle”. Both the Japanese and Nazi governments want all copies of it suppressed and destroyed. The difference in this adaptation is The Grasshopper Lies Heavy is a film, and not a novel.
Juliana Crain is trained in Aikido and happily living in the Pacific States of America under Japanese control when a copy of the film crosses her path via her half-sister’s murder. After seeing the film, she decides to complete her sister’s mission in transporting the film to the neutral Rocky Mountain States. There she meets a double agent for the Nazis, Joe Blake as well as a mysterious origami making man who urges her to buy a bible. Origami man is also a double agent for the Nazis.
Back in the Pacific States, Juliana’s former fiance Frank Frink is being interrogated for his knowledge of the films. His sister and her children are used as leverage as well as threats of execution for his Jewish background. He is released when the Japanese authorities determine that he knows nothing of value, but not in time to save his sister and children from being gassed.
And so the quest begins to find the truth of The Grasshopper Lies Heavy. In a world where slavery is legal, Jews hide, and Japan and Germany occupy most of the United States one woman defies the truth she’s known most of her life. From the novel: Julianna thinks, “Truth, she thought. As terrible as death. But harder to find.”
Phillip K Dick’s The Man is the High Castle established him as an author of vision and garnered a Hugo Award in 1963. It is considered by many to be a defining work in the alternative history genre. Out of the 45 novels he wrote, 11 have been adapted to the screen. While Blade Runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep) is probably the best known film adaptation, others include Total Recall, Minority Report, A Scanner Darkly, and Adjustment Bureau. His works focus on psychological struggles and alternative realities, issues that reflect his real life experience with drug use, hallucinations, and emotional illness.
Dick’s work focuses on the nature of reality and illusion and the multiplicity of both. “All of his work starts with the basic assumption that there cannot be one, single, objective reality”, writes science fiction author Charles Platt. “Everything is a matter of perception. The ground is liable to shift under your feet. A protagonist may find himself living out another person’s dream, or he may enter a drug-induced state that actually makes better sense than the real world, or he may cross into a different universe completely.”
The Man in the High Castle will be available on Amazon on November 20th in its entirety. Cast includes Rufus Sewell (John Adams), Luke Kleintank (Pretty Little Liars), and Alexa Davalos (Mob City). The first two episodes are currently available for Amazon Prime viewing addiction pleasure.