Top critical review
Good Acting, Photography, but Missing Logic
Reviewed in the United States on December 5, 2015
First a disclaimer: I have not read the Phillip K. Dick novel so this review is based solely on the ten-episode Season One of HIGH CASTLE. What I liked: beautiful photography though the early episodes stressed a dark mood where even in daylight there was little sun. The acting was the strongest point and I was surprised to learn that some of the "American" actors are in fact British. Some complained that the pacing was boring but I disagree. The pacing was deliberate and a relief from the technique where the editing requires a change of shot every five seconds. This frantic editing suggests to me that the filmmakers believe the viewers have an attention spam of a five year-old so if they don't keep things hopping constantly they will lose their audience. So my wife and I watched all ten episodes mainly thanks to these qualities.
Now what I disliked: though the novel may clarify some story points, a film adaptation should stand on its own without the need for viewers to reference the novel to find out what's going on. I can accept the premise of the Axis Powers winning WWII for storytelling purpose, but we are left on our own to figure out how. In passing we hear that the atomic bomb was dropped on Washington, D.C. and that FDR was assassinated. I am willing to "suspend my disbelief" in the cause of fiction but the Germans were never at a point where such things were even on the drawing boards. It is well established that Hitler had no trans-oceanic ambitions, i.e., invading America, during his lifetime. But OK, I will happily suspend my disbelief for entertainment's sake. All I ask is that the tale proceed logically. It is this failure in logical storytelling that is HIGH CASTLE's biggest failure and the reason why I give it two stars.
When an author needs to get his characters from one situation into another but doesn't know how to make this transition logically, he cheats. In other words, he just does it and leaves it to the reader or viewer to figure out how it happened. Without giving away any story points, I will just say that HIGH CASTLE has several such "cheats" and none worse than in the final scenes of episode 10. We see what happens but we don't know how or why it happens. Come on producers, you want us to watch and to suspend our disbelief. OK, fair enough. But don't insult your viewers by cheating in your storytelling because you can't figure out how to transition your characters to where you need them to be. I hesitate to spen dtime watching Season Two, if there is a Season Two.