Tying up the loose ends, Emad El-Din Aysha wraps up his series on the television adaptation of The Man in the High Castle.
The closing episode of Man in the High Castle, aptly titled A Way Out, is about as emotionally harrowing as you can get. It's not true to the text of Philip K. Dick's original novel, but is true to the soul and spirit of the text. Dick was never very concerned with plots - he wanted to push his characters into harrowing situations where they always made the right moral choices, even if this meant making personal sacrifices. That's precisely what happens here. The plus side here is that many of the lesser characters are given more personal background and more to do – the characters not in the novel are a positive treat themselves.
Baynes – a.k.a Rudolph Wegener (Carsten Norgaard) - is given the task of having to assassinate Adolf Hitler, in exchange for saving his family, so that Reinhard Heydrich can take over and launch a nuclear war against Japan, leading to total global domination by the Nazis and Aryan master race. Here we discover that Wegener is in an estranged relationship with his wife but loves her nonetheless, and would do anything to save her and his adorable children. Fortunately, when he gets to the Fuhrer's luxurious mountain residence/fortress, he finds Hitler himself watching the Man in the High Castle tapes. Wegener learns the moral lessons of the alternate timelines and makes the right choice, sacrificing himself to save both the world and his family (a hint at suicide terrorism in the present world).
In the meantime, Juliana is asked to pull Joe into a trap so the resistance can bump him off. She and Frank saw one of the alternate timelines and discovered that Joe is a Nazi agent. Frank watches himself being executed by Joe. When Joe owns up to his work for the SS and tells Juliana about the film he saw - a completely different timeline - she can’t go through with it. She trusts that he's changed and wants to put his past life as a collaborator behind him.
Charm offensive: Reinhard Heydrich's plotting and scheming doesn't stop him having a sense of humour!
We don’t have complete total freedom to do as we wish and choices have consequences - dire consequence - but we can ultimately take fate into our own hands if we push ourselves hard enough. Frank has to do this himself. He was originally going to make a break for it with Juliana, but sacrifices himself after his friend, Ed McCarthy (DJ Qualls), gets caught and takes a fall for him. Smith is also faced with the choice of going along with Heydrich and the new order, or remaining loyal to the Fuhrer. Heydrich originally wanted him dead, but after discovering what a formidable opponent Smith is, he wants him onboard managing the American Reich in the planned war against Japan.
The Japanese characters are forced to make harrowing choices themselves. Tagomi is a moral character to begin with, but you discover the soft side of Inspector Kido (Joel de la Fuente) in the process. He's planning to kill himself, Samurai style, for failing to apprehend Frank. In reality, he knows that Frank isn't the real assassin – what emerges in the previous episodes – but he can’t reveal this or else it will be war.
With the help of the Yakuza, he apprehends the Nazi sniper who shot the Crown Prince and kills him as part of a cover-up to avoid the war. This is a hint at the Kennedy assassination, with Frank as the 'patsy,' if you ask me; and there are an awful lot of rifles in the last two episodes. Nonetheless, he insists on killing himself to save face and to keep the secret under wraps. Ed McCarthy's arrest is the only thing that saves his life.
Kido isn’t a nice guy – having gassed Frank's sister and nephews to death – but he has his own twisted moral code that he lives by, and is willing to die by, so you have to respect him. He's much like the Obergruppenführer John Smith. Joel de la Fuente's performance is very sincere and moving, as is the direction of the sequence where he gets ready to slice his guts out in full imperial uniform.
Compare and contrast: Tagomi's waking up to see the moral headlines is a wakeup call for us all!
Tagomi is the moral vice of the series. He confesses his helplessness to his assistant Kotomichi (Arnold Chun) - how he can’t stop the impending nuclear confrontation happening, and questions his own beliefs and whether his reliance on the I Ching can actually change anything. His assistant tells him it can, and that he should never lose faith. In PKD's novel, the I Ching is what allows the alternate timeline to be charted out. Tagomi engages in meditation at the end of the final episode while holding Juliana's locket – shortly after Wegener is confronting Hitler, and confronting himself for all the crimes he's commitment for Hitler – and when he opens his eyes, he find's himself 'in' the alternate timeline!
Tender moments: Meeting those you love, and hate, is like looking at yourself in the mirror!
He sees the world as it should have been - our world in the 1960s, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, in fact. A few good men in 1962 saved the world from nuclear war and the same holds true of the world in The Man in the High Castle. The last part of Tagomi's world that you see has a banner talking about national unity, probably a hidden message to post-9/11 America about persecuting Muslims who are loyal American citizens. It's also a condemnation of the arrogance of the empire and the corrupt interests that feed it, and a call to arms for people in the US to stand up and turn the clock back, as it were, to before 9/11.
The ending is very satisfying, but it leaves you with a multitude of loose ends: Will this Cuban Missile Crisis timeline continue or will Tagomi return to his unenviable world? Will Frank be executed or not? Will John Smith be forced to put his son to sleep per Nazi codes or not? Is Joe completely out of the picture forever? What about the Man in the High Castle himself, the guy who makes the films? Who is he and how can he see these alternate worlds?
These unanswered questions and cliffhangers demand a second series, however brief. There's supposed to be one in the works. PKD himself wrote the novel as open-ended and was planning a sequel, so there's nothing wrong with expanding on his ideas as the series makers have done here. Personally, I'd rather not wait two lifetimes for a new series to come out!