The Man In The High Castle’s Series Finale Fails To Deliver “Fire From The Gods”

Credit: Liane Hentscher/Amazon Prime


Once again, the portal activates suddenly but without the Reich controlling it. No one appears to walk in or out of it. Via TV, John Smith addresses America as its new Reichsfuhrer. He blandly mentions mourning the death of Himmler and teases his plan to reunite the nation. After the cameras are off, Helen asks for a moment in private. It’s here that John can assure her neither Hoover or Berlin is a danger to them anymore. She attempts to remind him that they’d once promised each other they would act differently if they had the chance but they’re interrupted by Party members ready for a meeting.

Laid out on the table are phases 1-4 of a western invasion plan. John invites Helen to join him on the train to the portal tomorrow morning, then sends her out. She sees someone carrying “phase 5” plans into the room. 

Wyatt is badly injured but slowly recovering. The Resistance is ready to make their move on the portal but Juliana isn’t so sure they should destroy it. She senses something big coming and thinks if they controlled it, they might be able to do something good. 

The BCR is preparing for the Reich’s invasion and air raids. Lem arrives with Nazi deserters, Americans who believe they can reclaim their old country, looking to help. Mallory reluctantly agrees to put them to work. Lem also found an original American flag, which he thinks could unite people against the Reich but Mallory and Elijah object. That flag never stood for their freedom.

Kido Commits

Kido’s would-be lynchers are committed to their cause. They knock out his guard, find the valves for the poison gas, and turn them on. Knowing what’s coming, Kido sits down to prepare… but the tanks are empty. The men decide to hang him, as originally intended, but when one enters the room, Kido overpowers him and takes his gun. The others flee. 

The Yakuza’s business is still booming. They’re selling travel permits for a price and there’s a line of buyers, including Childan. He offers the keys to his shop and all his merchandise. His transaction is interrupted by Kido, who shows up with a machine gun looking for his son. But Okami holds firm; he wants Kido in exchange for Toru. Although his son protests, Kido agrees. He bows to Okami as his superior and accepts the position of supreme advisor. Childan gets his permit and scurries off before Kido cuts off his own pinky finger as a sign of submission to the Yakuza.

At the docks, Kido puts Toru on a boat but not before telling his son that he has failed him and reaffirming that Toru will always be his son. Toru asks his father to come home too but Kido believes he has a chance to atone for his sins in the West by staying. How is he going to do that while working for the Yakuza? Unclear.

The Last Choice

During Reich TV, the BCR break in to talk about the camps that murdered so many of their friends and family. Mallory says they are free now but everyone still in the American Reich is still a slave to a massive lie. She calls them all citizens of this new nation the BCR has forged and urges everyone listening to resist in any way they can. Then the broadcast is cut off. 

Helen and her daughters hear and see it all. Amy is quickly sent to bed but Jenny rounds on Helen. She accuses her parents of killing every person sent to those camps and Helen admits they were complicit. “It was a decision that we made for one day that led to 20 years,” she says. She even says she believed everything they were told. “I didn’t even think about those people… until we became those people,” she confesses. Jenny yells at her about Thomas and asks if John is going to do all of these same horrible things all over again in the West. “Everything we have was bought with other people’s lives,” Jenny says. 

Helen is deeply shaken. She goes into John’s office and finds the phase 5 plans. It’s for the “pacification and purification” of the West. Inside are detailed plans to exterminate a total of 13.6 million “non-Aryans and undesirables.” There are diagrams of the train cars to hold 100 people at a time and blueprints for gas chambers. 

While dressing Wyatt’s wounds, Juliana gets a call. It’s Helen. She asks for her and the girls to be taken to safety at Hank’s in the Neutral Zone. Juliana promises to do so. Then Helen tells her when John will be on the train tomorrow. But the next morning, John insists Helen join him on the train. She has no choice but to agree. 

On the train, John asks her if she’s ever been contacted by the Resistance. She says yes. She tells him everything about Juliana at the store and the films. While John calls Juliana a terrorist, he admits the films are real. In fact, that’s why he’s invited Helen today. He wants to show her the portal and have her meet Thomas herself. “He’s not our Thomas,” she protests but John is adamant they can save him by bringing him to their world. Helen breaks at that. They’ve lost all of their children, either to death, the state, or because their choices have pushed them away. 

John doesn’t understand why Helen doesn’t want to see Thomas again but she “wouldn’t want him to see what we have become.” Their conversation is interrupted for a moment while John gives the order to begin an airborne invasion in the West. Then Helen reveals she saw the plans for the camps. “How did we get here?” she asks and he looks as dumbfounded as her. John admits he doesn’t know how to stop himself.

The Resistance has set up explosives under the train line. As the train nears, it begins firing at them and they fire back. Hearing it, Helen knows what’s coming. She tells John she did this and she made arrangements for the girls. The bombs go off and the train violently derails. John somehow survives and pulls Helen’s lifeless body from the wreckage. His officers swarm around him as the Resistance fires at them. Juliana chases him when he runs off alone. 

The Resistance takes control of the entire portal facility. Tracking John alone, Juliana sees Tagomi’s message from her meditations on a rock. Nearby, she finds John sitting on a ledge unarmed. He’s removed his Nazi armband. They share a burden, he tells her. They both have seen other lives they could have lived. It’s unbearable, he says. “To be able to look through that door and glimpse all the people you could’ve been… And to know that out of all of them, this is the one you became.” John Smith shoots himself right then. 

And the portal suddenly activates. The BCR is in position as the planes fly in. The Reich finds John’s body and reports to Bill. He calls off the invasion and removes his swastika. Juliana walks towards the portal as we see flashes of her other lives. She embraces Abendson in front of the glowing portal. A steady mass of people come walking through but we can’t make out any of their faces. Juliana says they’re coming from everywhere, every other world. All of the portals are open now. Abendson walks in. The screen fades to black. 

Stray Observations:

  • Three and a half seasons of setting up John Smith to ultimately be a good guy or do something that aided the end of the Reich and instead he very nearly exterminated 13.6 million people. We were robbed. What was the point of his alt-world self or his relationship with Juliana? It seemed like John would end up sacrificing himself for Juliana just like his alt-world self did but no. And why did we learn about his Jewish friend Danny who he didn’t save when he could have? How did KIDO end up having a better redemption arc??
  • So Tagomi was really just dead the whole time? A major character that was essential in all three previous seasons and he died off-screen and we never saw him this season (Juliana’s meditation doesn’t count because he never turned around). That’s a massive injustice.
  • Other things that weren’t explained:
    • The purpose of Juliana’s meditations. How exactly did Tagomi’s message help in any way?
    • Why Bill suddenly defected from the Reich and what that means. Wouldn’t someone else just take John’s place? Was this a plan they’d come up with? Maybe if John had left instructions, say in that safe he mentioned before going to Berlin, and we saw Bill with those instructions, Bill’s actions would’ve had a plot-driven purpose.
    • When was there ever an emphasis on opening all the portals and why is this a good thing? 
    • Can people now enter a world where another version of themselves exists?
    • Why did Juliana see flashbacks to her other lives in this episode?
    • Why would anyone want to come to a world where the Nazis control Germany and have only VERY RECENTLY, like 5 minutes ago, stopped running America?
  • Other things that weren’t resolved:
    • Did Childan reunite with Yukiko? We spent a lot of time with them this season for their story to end completely ambiguously.
    • So Toru got to go home but what about his major PTSD and substance abuse problem?
    • How is Kido atoning for anything by working for the Japanese mafia?
    • The German Reich still exists, is horrible, and is very powerful. How does anything in this last episode address that?
    • Amy is completely brainwashed. How does she ever recover, especially when she and her sister are now orphans and they disagree on a fundamental ideological level?
Stephanie Coats
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One comment

  1. I mean, they spent a lot of time on Juliana and her “meditation” travels and her picking up clues to solve what? how to save her world??? And a Chinese philosophy Hexagram 64 is carved in the rocks by the tunnel??? hows that happen and why invest our time in this if it wasn’t necessary???
    I will answer one of your unresolved questions and that’s that Bill mentioned earlier they had control of 105 (fuzzy on the exact number actually) nukes so I see that as a deterrent against nazi germany .

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