In a typical show, the show runner sets the tone and creates the arc for the season. However, Amazon’s Emmy-winning series The Man in the High Castle has no longer has a showrunner. Frank Spotnitz departed during the production of Season 2, and has not been replaced. The sci-fi alternate universe show has not collapsed — in fact, it’s become a republic of sorts.
At New York Comic Con, Rufus Sewell (Obergruppenführer John Smith), Alexa Davalos (Juliana Crane), DJ Qualls (Ed McCarthy), and Brennan Brown (Robert Childan) and producer David W. Zucker answered fan questions and showed us some new clips from the upcoming season, like Julianna defecting to the Reich, Ed being tortured in prison, and Frank and Childan dealing with the Yakuza. The biggest theme was that now that the show runner had gone, the actors were getting in on the creative process by advocating for storylines and plot points. While not every idea makes it onto the page or the screen, the process of having cast input has worked out surprisingly well, according to Qualls, who discussed the progress during the panel.
We were lucky enough to sit down with the cast and discuss the latest season and the characters. Rufus Sewell was particularly adamant about his character, in that it was important to him that viewers did not demonize his character as just another Nazi but rather to look at the complex life he led. It was clear the actor had done a lot of research for the role and was invested in the complexity of his character. More than once was it brought up that Ed was going to be the heart of season 2, in the sense that his story line would be the most heartbreaking, continuing to sacrifice himself for the people he loves.
We learned some semi-spoilery things, like Season 2 will also cover the span of about 2 weeks like the previous one, Julianna will be accepted into the Greater Third Reich by none other than John Smith himself, and we will get to see Berlin as well as other locations, building the world further. We also got a bit of intel on the show’s history — originally it was going to be a 4 part BBC mini-series, which was then transfers to Syfy before ultimately being picked up by Amazon, meaning that this show had quite a lot of interest even before its creation. Still, the cast were tight-lipped and adamant that they wanted to keep the experience for the viewers intact by revealing as little as possible.
There was a discussion about the difficulties and challenges faced by both cast and crew working without a showrunner, but it ultimately came down to finding a model that worked in order to keep the show going. While the show is not sticking as closely to the book anymore, Brennan Brown described it as moving forward shoulder to shoulder with the original narrative. Perhaps this is because Amazon is not interested in the demographic breakdowns of whose watching the show, providing a team with a liberty to try things they feel will work to tell good stories.
Will season 2 be as strong as the first? Will this republic make the show better balanced? Will they ever address the cliffhanger ending of Season 1? And will we find out who The Man in the High Castle is? The new season will premiere December 16. 2016, so until then, we’ll just have to wait.