Juliana is back in San Francisco and uncovering more secrets while Joe attempts to conceal many of his own.
The Man in the High Castle‘s fifth episode, “The New Normal,” picks up in the immediate aftermath of the Crown Prince of Japan being shot while giving a speech in San Francisco. Chaos erupts, with some people fleeing the scene while others stand around in shock. Frank, of course, flees, hiding his gun in an alley even though he never used it. Probably a good idea considering his history with the Kempeitai.
All of the chaos means that the Japanese are locking down the area and looking for the shooter. Caught in this restrictive environment is “Barnes,” the Nazi agent working with Tagomi. The vial, which we learn later is actually a microfilm of some sort, is still in his possession after he was unable to get it to the Science Minster. When he’s about to be screened by the Japanese before they lead him away, he has to swallow the microfilm in order to keep its possession a secret.
Also lost in all the chaos is Juliana’s necklace, as Frank drops it when he turns to run away from the scene of the shooting. When everyone clears out later, Tagomi finds it on the ground and takes it. It’s unclear how the necklace could really be connected to Frank or Juliana, but we see it again at the end of the episode, and you know what they say about Chekhov’s gun.
Speaking of Juliana, she’s finally back home in San Francisco, and while she’s excited to see Frank, he’s not nearly as welcoming. After all, she just took off without giving him any notice and he was left to try and hold things together. That wasn’t easy, especially when the Kempeitai came looking for her.
With Frank being so cold, Juliana goes to visit her mom and step dad, both of whom have no idea about her trip to Canon City and remain in the dark about Trudy’s death. She’s only there for a short time because her mom begins to talk about how tragic it was that Frank lost his sister, niece, and nephew. The despair that falls across Juliana’s face is palpable, as this is the first she’s heard of their death, explaining Frank’s dire state.
She hurries home and embraces him, weeping into his shoulder and talking about how she regrets getting on the bus to Canon City. She feels responsible for everything that’s happened, including her changed relationship with Frank. When Frank goes back to work he recommends she goes to the dojo. She wonders if they can just go back to normal, but Frank says it’s impossible, and that for now he’s just trying to survive until the next day.
Unfortunately for Juliana though, she can’t even find comfort and familiarity at the dojo. When she shows up there she’s informed that the Kempeitai have come looking for her, and that her presence as a “wanted” person will disrupt the harmony of the dojo. Juliana may have only left for a few days, but her whole life has been turned upside down.
NEXT: Fight for something more
Meanwhile, Joe is back with the Nazis and being forced to recount his every move while he was on his mission in Canon City. He says that while taking the film with him to the potential meeting with the Man in the High Castle was a violation of a direct order, it was the only thing that could be done.
It’s an inconsistency in his story, though. Couple that with the fact that he continues to lie about Juliana’s role in the whole thing and suddenly Joe’s dual allegiances seem to be creating a lot of problems for him. At least the Obergruppenführer has invited him over to celebrate V.A. Day! I’m kidding; friendly Obergruppenführer is by far the scariest version of the Obergruppenführer, even if the dinner might give Joe an opportunity to sneak a peek at he “Grasshopper” file.
In San Francisco, Juliana is looking for more answers and clues to what the films mean and what the Resistance is after. She explores Randall’s abandoned residence but doesn’t find much. Another woman shows up though, a friend of Randall’s, and gives her some information. She says that the Resistance have been trading the films with the Man in the High Castle for information that will help them fight the government.
She also thinks that someone set up Randall and Trudy, and that it was likely someone within the Japanese government. She shows Juliana a visitor’s pass to the Japanese Authority Building that was in Randall’s apartment. The name on it, Sakura Iwazaru, means nothing to either of them, but it’s a clue nonetheless.
Thus, this woman has a suggestion for Juliana. If she’s looking for a purpose, for a way to fight back, the Japanese Authority Building often hires young women to work secretary and temp jobs. She could attempt to get a job there and work as a mole on the inside. It seems like a shaky plan, but it’s something.
Juliana might not be the only one in touch with someone from the Resistance. When Frank attends a memorial service for Laura and her kids, an old family friend named Mark Samson greets him afterwards. He doesn’t reveal that he’s part of the Resistance, but he tells Frank to come by any time if he wants to chat and then whispers “to life” in his ear when he leaves. It seems like an important connection as the story moves forward.
At the Authority Building, things don’t go exactly as planned for Juliana. When she is interviewed for a job she’s told that she’ll get it as long as she caters to her boss’ special needs and service. Because this is television in 2015, that means a scene of implied sexual violence follows, where the boss unbuckles his pants and asks if Juliana wants the job. Juliana runs out of the office and bumps into Tagomi. He drops the necklace that once belonged to her and she picks it up and gives it back before she dashes out of the building.
Despite all the twists and turns, “The New Normal” is still a meandering episode. While the scene where “Barnes” manages to transfer the microfilm to the pocket of the Science Minister is wonderfully tense, much of the episode just moves through the motions, stuck in place at the season’s halfway mark.