Monday, January 19, 2015

TV Review: The Man in the High Castle

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Bottom Line: The pilot can be muddled at times, but there is plenty of potential here if this one were to jump to an ongoing series.

Based on the Phillip K. Dick novel of the same name, The Man in the High Castle is one of the latest entries from Amazon's "Pilot Season" where viewers can watch it for free online (at this link) and vote whether they want it to continue as a series.  The story takes place in an alternate version of 1950's where the Axis powers won World War II and ended up dividing the United States between them with Germany getting the eastern states and Japan getting the western side with a "neutral zone" in between.  In the pilot, we learn that an aging Hitler is in failing health and a power struggle amongst the German leadership is expected to follow once he dies with the repercussions that will impact the political divisions in the United States.  San Francisco resident Juliana Crain is pulled into the resistance movement by her sister and she watches film footage that shows the Allies winning the war, cluing her in to an alternate reality.  In search of further answers, she heads to the neutral zone where she then encounters a member of the resistance from the west.

The pilot episode runs about an hour and does a good job of setting up the premise and establishing the look and feel of this alternate American past.  Ridley Scott executive produced The Man in the High Castle, so the strong visual appeal is to be expected and it adds much to the experience.  The story itself tends to be rather muddled and confusing at times, but that appears to be more about trying to cram as much as possible into the show's first hour to set up the story.  Surprisingly, though, despite delivering a packed episode, it can be slow at times.  Still, I never found it boring and it stays mostly on track as its sets up a concept with plenty of potential.  I have never read the book it was based on, so I can't speak to how faithful it is to the source material (I would expect that it takes many liberties as most Philip K. Dick adaptations do), but I would definitely like to see more from this one.  X-Files veteran Frank Spotnitz wrote the pilot and is onboard as showrunner, and I believe that he could do a good job with this as a series.  I will be giving this one a thumbs up in Amazon's Pilot Season ballot and I believe that it has a good chance of getting the greenlight if enough sci fi fans show their support.  So give it a look and cast your vote, as this time around it is us and not the network executives making the decisions on what sci fi we want to watch. 

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