If the last episode of The Man in the High Castle was about spilling secrets then this episode, “The New Normal,” is about blowblack. Not everything turns out alright for the ones seeking the truth nor the ones wanting to do what’s right. In fact, not a whole lot turns out well for anybody in this episode.
Call it karma or simply bad luck, but Frank Frink (Rupert Evans) really gets screwed in this episode. For all that tough talk in the last episode about getting revenge on Japan by shooting the crown prince, he chickens out when the moment of truth finally arrives. In a twist of fate, someone else shoots first and Frank is set up to be blamed for it. He ends up escaping and hiding the murder weapon, but it’s evident that there will be a lot of people after him very soon.
To make things worse for Frank, Juliana (Alexa Davalos) returns and both of them have to confront the tension that’d been building in their relationship up till this point. The scenes between them are so awkward as to be painful as Frank tries to reconcile the anger he feels for her with past love. Juliana finally learned what her departure to Canon City did to Frank and and she is wracked with guilt over it. Both of them try and deal with it the same way — to try and go back to their normal lives.
The attempts make it painfully obvious that this is impossible, particularly for Juliana. She heads to her old Aikido dojo only to be sent away because the Kompeitei were looking for her. A visit to her parents fairs no better as they ask about what happened to Trudy and the whole truth about what happened to Frank comes out. This proves to be the breaking point for her as she is finally forced to come to terms with everything that happens. It leads her to pay Inspector Kido (Joel de la Fuente) a visit to finally explain her absence. She somehow manages to talk her way through the situation without any trouble, but the entire experience drives home that fact that nothing is as it was anymore. Her only recourse is to solve the mystery of the Man in the High Castle and find some meaning in what she’s gone through
While Juliana is speaking with the inspector, Joe Blake (Luke Kleintank) meets with Obergruppenführer John Smith (Rufus Sewell) in New York. He’s forced to explain a lot whether it be the missing films, his failure to find the man in the high castle and Juliana. His punishment felt oddly lenient given how ruthless Smith had been up until this point as he gets off with just a reprimand. Then the real shocker comes when Obergruppenführer invites Joe to his home to celebrate VA day and there’s a sense that Smith has something else in mind for him.
The storyline involving Trade Minister Nobusuke Tagomi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) and German Intelligence agent Rudolph Wegener (Carsten Norgaard) is so much more interesting after the assassination attempt. Wegener fails to pass on the atomic bomb plans to the Science Minister and it’s only a matter of time before it’s discovered that his credentials are faked. Wegener is prepared to put his life on the life to pass on such information, but Tagomi refuses to let him do that and arranges for his departure from the Pacific States. Tagomi’s insistence on protecting Wegener puts him at odds with Inspector Kido, who already has his own life on the line in trying to find the assassins.
“The New Normal” is our first step in a new direction for the show as every single character seems to be under some kind of pressure. For as much as the previous episode revealed, this one creates more conflicts that need to be resolved. This is about the point in the series where watching one episode is not enough because the show has such momentum by the end that it’s difficult to stop watching.