(Spoilers ahead for the ending of “The Man in the High Castle” season 4, which is also the ending of the entire series. You have been warned.)
“The Man in the High Castle” is not the most straightforward book, and naturally the TV show that Amazon has turned that book into is likewise not straightforward. On the one hand you’ve got the standard narrative in the form of the alternate history in which the Axis powers won World War II, and on the other the whole thing about parallel universes, which has always served a more metaphorical function. And the ending of this series, the final scene of season 4, can be a bit confusing for folks because it’s more in that metaphorical territory.
So as we arrive at that final scene, things are looking up in the, ah, Prime Earth of this story. The Japanese have abandoned North America, and the Black Communist Rebellion is setting up a new, presumably much better government. The east coast has autonomy from Germany, and is now being run by a guy who clearly wants the Nazis gone. John Smith (Rufus Sewell), perpetrator of so many crimes against humanity, is finally dead and gone. These are all good things.
But after all that happened, there was still one last scene for “The Man in the High Castle.” The final scene takes us to the portal the Nazis built so they could travel to alternate universes. Something weird has been going on there all season, with the portal turning itself on a couple times and giving Juliana (Alexa Davalos) weird feelings that something is about to happen with it.
So in this scene, the American resistance has taken the facility where the portal is located from the Nazis, and we’ve got Juliana, Hawthorne (Stephen Root), Wyatt (Jason O’Mara) and a bunch of others hanging out in the portal room as it fires itself up. And once the portal stabilizes, out walks a whole bunch of people. These folks just stroll right through the room, not really acknowledging the people who were already present. And Hawthorne, the Man in the High Castle himself, walks through the crown and into the portal.
It was a very moving moment for me to watch, even though I honestly do not understand what it means. Juliani says these people are coming from “everywhere” but that’s obviously very vague. Was this some kind of metaphor, with the souls of those killed in the past two decades of atrocities around the world returning? Or was it really, literally happening?
“The Man in the High Castle” doesn’t really provide anything in the way of setup for this turn of events, either way. It never established firm details about the travelers who had been bringing those alternate universe films to this version of Earth, and those films came from many more Earths than just the one the Nazis had been using the portal to travel to.
Was there some kind of parallel universe organization affecting events in this world the way the Nazis had been interfering in that other world they kept visiting? And they decided that now was the time to pay it a visit? Or maybe these were refugees who had fled this reality and were now returning?
Over at Entertainment Weekly, showrunner David Scarpa said the scene was intentionally ambiguous. “Part of the intention was to invite the audience to have their own interpretation of what they’re seeing on screen.” Though he does offer a tantalizing detail. “The portal is, essentially, open and it is going to remain open. In effect, what that means is two worlds have become one. There’s a doorway from one world into the next, and now people can move freely between them.”
Since the show is over now, that might be a detail I didn’t need confirmed, because it might keep me up at night as I try to figure out what that means. But since the show is over now, we’re probably never going to get a more real or informative answer than that. But even though I don’t get it, I like the scene a lot anyway. I like the vibe of it.
It feels like victory.