A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Man in the High Castle is a dystopian science-fiction thriller with a dark tone; its premise is that the Axis powers won WWII, and the world is very different as a result. Characters operate under the constant threat of detection, arrest, torture, and death and engage in activities likely to get them into trouble. Sudden deaths, usually by gunfire by sometimes by bludgeoning, occur on-screen, as does torture; there's no intense gore, but viewers do hear graphic noises. Settings are frequently shadowy and dark, and military uniform-clad villains are given absolute power. Nazi and World War II iconography, including swastikas, appears frequently. Cursing includes four-letter words ("f--k," "s--t") and racial language ("Jap"). Expect flirting, dating, and kissing; scenes take place in bars with characters drinking. An overall air of despair predominates; the subject matter and tone is too mature and frightening for younger viewers.
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What's the story?
What if the Axis powers had won World War II? That's the premise behind THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE, a bleak dystopian thriller based on the Philip K. Dick novel of the same name. In this alternate reality, Nazis have taken control of the East Coast of the United States, Japanese powers own the western Pacific States of America, and in between there's a neutral buffer zone. But with the impending death of Adolf Hitler in 1962, this is but a fragile peace. Japanese official Nobusuke Tagomi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) realizes that with Hitler gone, his successor will use the Reich's nuclear weapons to drive Japan out of America. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, Juliana Crane (Alexa Davalos) is suddenly handed a film that seems to depict a different future, one in which the Allied forces won WWII. In her journey to uncover what this film means and the identity of its maker, the legendary Man in the High Castle, she soon encounters Joe Blake (Luke Kleintank), a new recruit to the underground American resistance who has secrets of his own. Together, Blake and Crane are on a collision course toward an uncertain future. Because the present can't be changed. Right?
Is it any good?
Stylishly bleak and intriguing, this drama about an occupied America takes its time telling its story, a thrill for viewers who appreciate atmosphere over action and mystery over easy comprehension. The tension mounts steadily, but understanding what's going on, and fathoming the weight of the subtle developments shown on-screen, requires a mature and patient viewer. This drama's color scheme is overwhelmingly drab (blues, blacks, grays), its settings crumbling, its American people bowed by war and occupation by enemy forces, a type of sci-fi threat that has nothing to do with spaceships.
Yet as the lead American characters come to grips with the idea that the reality under which they live is only one way the story could have ended, in the real world political events threaten their very existence. Fans of twisty, moody sci-fi will eat this up with a spoon, but this is only whole-family watching for teens and up -- younger viewers will be alternately bored and terrified.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the premise of this show. Is it realistic? How would an Allied victory have changed America? What evidence do you see on-screen of how this drama's version of an occupied America has been affected?
Read The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick. How is this series different from the novel? What characters or scenes were added or taken away? What is the reason for these additions or deletions?
The world of The Man in the High Castle is a bleak one. How does the show depict this? Consider visuals (costumes, settings, colors used in shots) along with plot and dialogue.