The Man in the High Castle postmortem: Episode 5, 'The New Normal'
Why Juliana and Frank's relationship had to crumble (and how it affected the rest of the show), according to creator Frank Spotnitz
The Man in the High Castle has arrived on Amazon, and if you’re binge-watching the series, EW has you covered with postmortems for each episode. Creator Frank Spotnitz, who adapted Philip K. Dick’s original novel for the small screen, answers burning questions and talks in-depth about the major story beats. Read on for his thoughts on episode 5, “The New Normal.”
Back in San Francisco, Juliana (Alexa Davalos) attempts to reconcile with a devastated Frank (Rupert Evans), while also picking up connections at the Japanese government building, where she runs into Tagomi (Cary Hiroyuki-Tagawa). Joe (Luke Kleintank) is reprimanded for not carrying out his mission for John (Rufus Sewell).
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Tagomi and Juliana’s necklace. What is going on with that moment, and why is it significant? (Especially for those who haven’t the novel …)
FRANK SPOTNITZ: In episode 4, Frank doesn’t shoot the crown prince and somebody else does, and that results in Wegener’s failure to pass the atomic secrets to the science minister. I think it’s a very Philip K. Dick kind of idea that there are all of these random acts that influence each other without intention or design, right? And this is another one of them, and it’s a really important one, that Frank drops Juliana’s necklace, which obviously he made out of love for her, and now Tagomi becomes the possessor.
As the series goes forward, we’re gonna see that he develops a relationship with Juliana and that necklace becomes an important talisman to him. There’s the idea of hidden connections between people and events, but don’t necessarily have been by design or purpose, but nonetheless are real and change the paths of one’s life.
We finally saw the interior of the Nippon Building. Why was it important to introduce the inner workings of the Japanese government at this point?
We were really hungry to understand more of the way that day-to-day life worked in San Francisco. A show like this, you’re always balancing espionage and intrigue and things like that with the desire just to see the day-to-day stuff, so this was our chance to put Juliana in a “normal” imperial Japanese workplace and see what the dynamic was there, and, you know, women are subservient, and that’s what the Mr. Eto character was about.
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Joe, meanwhile, returns and meets with John Smith, and John tells him he failed. “You’re one component in a complex machine,” he tells him. So what’s running through John’s head right now? Does he fully consider Joe untrustworthy?
As you keep watching the show, it changes your understanding of what’s actually going on in episode 5. What’s delicious about Smith is that he is a bad guy, he’s a Nazi, but he is so smart and so good at what he does, and he’s manipulating Joe. One of the things you don’t know, even as the season ends, is how much of Smith’s relationship with Joe is pure calculation and how much is genuine. How much does he have genuine paternal feelings for this young man whose father seems to have rejected him?
But that speech you referred to about being a part of a complex machine is a very, kind of, acceptable way, I guess, of paraphrasing the classic Nazi defense at Nuremberg. It’s an example of something you can almost hear coming out of an American mouth. It’s very close to how a lot of people think in our culture, if you think about it, so is that the way we’re supposed to function? It’s another question we’re asking the audience.
For Juliana, what did you want viewers to question for her side of the story, as she tries to reconcile with Frank?
You know, this is interesting because this whole issue of Juliana’s culpability [in Frank’s suffering] was something that was really, endlessly debated by the producers and by the actors. I think there’s no question that Juliana’s devastated by this discovery. It’s interesting that Frank felt unable to tell her, and I think it is a wedge between them that just grows. It’s a tragedy between these two people. She was doing something she thought was good, but in this world, that meant innocent people were going to suffer, and I don’t know how you square that, I don’t know how you make right or wrong of that situation.
Were there any concerns from the producers and actors that changed the way you developed these scenes?
As a consequence of those discussions and arguments, I came to see that Juliana and Frank were not going to be able to reconcile for long, that this really was an event that was going to keep them apart, maybe sooner than I’d originally imagined. It did affect how the rest of the season unfolded.
The Man in the High Castle is available for streaming on Amazon.