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Despite its premise, ‘Man in the High Castle’ disappoints

Rufus Sewell in Amazon’s “The Man in the High Castle.”Liane Hentscher/Courtesy of Amazon Studios

On Friday, Amazon is releasing season two of “The Man in the High Castle.” And that ought to be great news.

The drama, based on the 1962 novel by Philip K. Dick, has a fascinating setup: It envisions what the United States would be like if the Axis powers had won World War II. The East Coast and some of the Midwest form the “Greater Nazi Reich,” the West Coast is the “Japanese Pacific States,” and between them is a lawless neutral zone known as the “Rocky Mountain States.”

A resistance is fighting underground against the occupation, but most people have just accepted it. Life goes on, we must learn to compromise, the new new normal is here — resignation and acquiescence seem to have seeped into the souls of the majority.


But as much as the premise is a powerful exercise in imagination, as well as an opportunity to visualize what could happen in this country, the show just doesn’t take off. The plots are overly elaborate, the supernatural element is distracting, and, worst of all, the acting isn’t very good. Indeed, much of the acting — with Rufus Sewell an exception — is painfully amateurish.

I stuck with the show for the first season, but by episode three of the new batch I was ready to let go. A perfect opportunity for timely, mind-bending TV squandered.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.