The Man in the High Castle is a dystopian alternative history television series based loosely on Philip K. Dick’s 1962 novel that goes by the same name. The series captures an altered reality, one in which the Axis powers — Germany, Italy, and Japan — won World War II. As a consequence, America has been partitioned into three sections: the Japanese puppet state Japanese Pacific States, the Nazi puppet state The Greater Nazi Reich, and the Neutral Zone, which serves as a buffer between the two.

The pilot, titled “The New World,” takes place in an altered 1962, where things such as the Bible and Blues music are banned. It aired on January 15, 2015, and claimed Amazon’s title of “most-watched since the original series development program began.” The series was subsequently picked up for its first 10-episode season.

Season one, produced by Frank Spotniz, was effectively unnerving. David Bianculli of NPR touted it as “the best new drama of this 2015 crop, and a show well worth supporting.”  Todd VanDerWerff of Vox proclaimed, “Former X-Files producer Frank Spotnitz is just the guy to take on Phillip K. Dick’s novel of Nazis and the Japanese splitting up the U.S. after winning World War II.” Eerie and gloomy, this altered America is aptly reflected by its pledge of allegiance. The pledge reads: “I pledge allegiance to the flag, of the axis powers of America. And to The Republic, for which it stands, one nation, under rule, divided and for liberty and justice for none.” Chillingly disturbing, the first season was a hit, impressing critics and audiences alike, landing a score of 95% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Season two, released on December 16, 2016, however, doesn’t live up to its predecessor.  Season two is altered from the first season, not unlike the altered America (though perhaps in a less malevolent manner). Audiences get a taste of this when the new pledge of allegiance is recited. A class full of students chant: “I swear, I will observe the law, conscientiously, fulfill my duties at home and school, be faithful and obedient, and pledge absolute allegiance until death, to the leader of the Nazi empire, Adolf Hitler.”

Critic VanDerWerff once again opines, this time negatively, stating that the show “abandoned everything fascinating about its first season in favor of… reality-hopping characters and a bunch of caricature Nazi bad guys.” Perhaps this change in tone and theme has something to do with the change in executive producer. Season one was produced by Spotniz, director of The X-Files and Emmy nominee for Outstanding Drama Series. The role for season two has been replaced by David Percival, who is also not without prestige — he is the recipient of the BAFTA award for independent director of film.

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