TV review: "The Man in the High Castle" is Amazon's most exciting new pilot

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

It was quite an interesting experiment by Amazon to release all the pilots it ordered on its Prime streaming service a few years ago. By allowing subscribers to vote and comment on these pilots, Amazon was supposedly allowing viewers to be a part of the production process. In reality, Amazon is going to order the pilots it likes to series, regardless of how people vote, but at least it’s a new approach.

Unfortunately this year’s crop of pilots is mostly lackluster — with the one exception being “The Man in the High Castle.” Adapted from Phillip K. Dick’s novel of the same name, “The Man in the High Castle” is an alternative history tale where the Axis powers won World War II.

Alternate history approaches can be interesting, and Dick’s work has been adapted a lot — into movies like “Blade Runner” and “A Scanner Darkly.”

Where the TV series “The Man in the High Castle” is most intriguing is in the world-building of the pilot episode. The setting (1962) and stakes are quickly established, as the United States is now under the control of Japan (west of the Rocky Mountains) and Germany (east of the Rockies), with the mountain region acting as a neutral zone. It’s both frightening and captivating to see San Francisco looking like Tokyo or New York City covered in swastikas and German signs.

This sets up the interesting dynamic of Germany and Japan essentially taking part in a Cold War, akin to the United States and the USSR. There’s also some groundwork laid about a “revolution” against the Axis overlords, but much of that remains vague in the pilot.

Amazon would be wise to order “The Man in the High Castle” to series, as there’s endless storytelling available. It’s truly an exciting premise for a series — especially one that could be binged — and makes up for the subpar elements (mainly the meh cast) of the pilot.

[photo courtesy of Amazon]

"The Man in the High Castle"

Streaming on Amazon Prime

3 stars