This gift-buying time of year leads many people to give Amazon Prime a try, if not for the Black Friday-type deals, then for free, fast shipping.
But Amazon Prime also gives you access to the online retailer’s growing library of streaming movies and TV shows, including a new original series based on Philip K. Dick’s “The Man in the High Castle.” The 10 one-hour episodes in Season 1 are worth the $99-a-year cost of Prime membership.
The story is the ultimate American and Jewish alt-history nightmare: It’s a world where the Axis won World War II (basically, the Germans developed the atomic bomb first). It’s 1962, and the Nazis, still led by Hitler, rule the eastern half of what was the United States while the Japanese control the Pacific coast. The Rocky Mountain states serve as a neutral zone between the wartime allies and current rivals for world dominance.
It’s a world where being Jewish or having any Jewish blood can earn you a death sentence. That is a problem for hero Frank Frink, who had a Jewish grandfather, putting him in peril even in Japanese-ruled San Francisco.
Any such alternative version of 20th-century history has the potential to be interesting, particularly when we see how Jewish families survive. One man expresses faith that Jews will outlast the Nazis just as we survived so many others intent on our destruction.
What elevates “The Man in the High Castle” is a variation on the twist Dick presented in his novel: the inexplicable appearance of newsreels that show a different world, our world. Is it possible to change the timeline? What’s the alt-history, and what’s the true history?
Don’t expect a fast pace. The show spends time to build its world and develop its characters. It’s an alternative to so much mindless television in our world; it’s a series for thinking.