The Man in the High Castle series finale recap: Fire From the Gods

Photo: The Man in the High Castle: Season 4.. Image Courtesy Liane Hentscher/Amazon Studios
Photo: The Man in the High Castle: Season 4.. Image Courtesy Liane Hentscher/Amazon Studios /

As history threatens to repeat itself and with the fate of the world at stake, disparate factions are brought together for a final showdown on The Man in the High Castle.

The new Reichsfuhrer of North America, John Smith, makes a public address to the country, mourning the loss of Himmler but promising that with it brings the opportunity to unite a divided nation. It sounds ominous, and when Helen has a chance to talk to Smith in private, she notices plans for invasion laid out on his conference table. It is clear she wants to persuade him to go a different way, but there’s no time to discuss things in-depth. There are plans to make. Smith invites Helen to join him on his trip to the Poconos, where he promises to explain everything on The Man in the High Castle.

Juliana and Wyatt hide out and wait to hear from Helen. Juliana can sense there’s something coming, but what it is she’s not sure. All they can do now is hope that Helen has a change of heart.

Meanwhile, the white vigilantes just won’t give up until they get Kido. They disarm his guard and then try to gas him in his own cell. Kido seems at peace with this poetic justice, but it turns out the gas tanks are empty. They decide to lynch him instead, but Kido takes the opportunity to jump them and take a gun. They’re not so tough now. Kido walks out without even killing anyone.

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Kido finally has the freedom to meet with Okami. He’s holding Toru’s debts over his head and his life in his hands. As compensation for his son’s life, Okami presses Kido into service as his supreme advisor for the Yakuza. Childan sees all this happen as he trades his shop for passage to Japan on a Yakuza trawler. Kido sends his son home to Japan, apologizing for never showing his true affection to him and failing him as a father.

The BCR has a lot of organizing to do to hold down their new territory. Lem brings volunteers, Nazi deserters from the Wehrmacht. Obviously there is a lot of suspicion surrounding them, but at least they can be used for manual labor and menial tasks. Lem also brings in an original US flag. They need something to unite under, but the old America didn’t exactly do the black community any favors. They need to make a statement, but it won’t be under that flag.

So they hack into the Reich’s broadcast band and make a statement on television, promising a free world for anyone who wants to join and revealing the truth about the Nazi death camps. Apparently its been a well-kept secret from the younger generations that millions of people were killed in those camps.

Jennifer Smith saw the broadcast and finally demands the truth from Helen. Faced with her part in the exterminations, simply by being a member of the Party, Helen is obviously deeply ashamed. She admits that she believed in what they were doing, that she was told it was necessary and never questioned why. She never even thought about those people until she and her family became those people: the people who were considered undesirable and marked for extermination. She did it to protect her children, but it was the Reich who finally killed Thomas. And now its all going to happen again, only Smith will be in charge.

With this in mind, Helen searches Smith’s papers and discovers extensive plans for concentration camps all over the country – including statistics for undesirable population groups and maximum holding capacity in train cars, gas chambers, and incinerators. Smith has the chance to run the country a different way, to either renounce Nazism or change what it means, but he’s decided to keep being a Nazi.

Helen calls Juliana and tells her that Smith will be on the train tomorrow at 11 AM. Juliana promises that the Resistance will get her family to safety. Helen tries to get out of the trip, but her excuses don’t hold up and Smith insists she accompanies him on the train. Smith reveals everything to her about the portal and Thomas, but she can see what Smith can’t. That it’s not their Thomas, and Smith’s plan to kidnap him and bring him to their world is insane and terrible.

She says that if there’s a better version of her out there somewhere, then she wants that version to have her son. Helen says that she and Smith don’t deserve to have a child – that they had three chances and wasted them all – and that she wouldn’t want Thomas to see what they have become. After all that, Smith still gives the order to launch the air assault on the west coast. Helen says that what they have been a part of – the Reich, the camps, everything – has been a crime, but Smith doesn’t know how to stop.

Meanwhile, the Resistance have set explosives on the line. Before the train is derailed, Helen reveals that she’s made arrangements for the girls and that it was her who gave Smith up. But when the train crashes, Helen is killed and Smith somehow survives. He runs off into the forest and Juliana follows him like a hunter tracking down a wounded animal. When she finally finds him, he’s sitting atop a rocky cliff. He tells her its unbearable to look through the door to another world and glimpse all the people he could have been and to know that out of all of them, this is the one he became. He shoots himself in the head.

News of Smith’s death gets to General Whitcroft and he decides to cancel the assault on the west coast. Juliana meets the rest of the Resistance at the portal. She has a touching reunion with Hawthorne as the portal activates and hundreds of people begin walking out of it. The portal is open and people are coming from everywhere. Hawthorne walks through the oncoming crowd and into the portal, perhaps to find the lost love of his life.

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Who are all these people anyway and why are they coming through? It’s left purposefully ambiguous, but everyone is very moved by it. Maybe these are the alternates of people who died on this side – in camps, in war, in resistance, in persecution. Maybe Tagomi’s message, “not yet complete,” referred to the coming of this moment. Now that the portal is open, everyone is together and the world is complete. Who knows? It’s a weird ending to a pretty rushed and messy season with a lot of loose ends. But I guess that just means that the story continues, whether we get to see it or not. After all, nothing is perfect and nothing ever truly has closure.

What did you think of the finale for The Man in the High Castle? Did you want it to end differently? Be sure to tell us in the comment section below!