The Swiss-German drama series “New Heights,” or “Neumatt” in Swiss, is a tale of family, love, and all the difficult choices involved with the same. With the protagonist, Michi Wyss, the series also brings to the fore a fairly common dilemma among newer generations in farming families—whether to carry forward the family business or to pursue one’s professional aspirations as an individual. The show’s plot and treatment ultimately are not at all perfect and idealistic, which truly gives it a sense of believability, and overall, it is a decently good watch for anyone interested in family drama.
‘New Heights’ Season 1: Plot Summary – What is the series about?
Michi Wyss is a rich and successful financial consultant in a Zurich firm who chooses to stay in the city away from his rural family home. Back in his village home, the entire farming and cattle-rearing business rests on his father, Kurt’s shoulders, who is helped around only by his youngest son, Lorenz. The aged grandmother, Trudi, and the mother, Katharina, are not people whom Kurt can put much faith in, as he is perhaps aware of his wife’s adulterous relationship and his mother’s growing age. In Zurich, Michi’s firm takes up a project with a dairy-product company called Berno, and Michi gets heavily involved in it both from a professional aspect as well as for his immediate interest in his new colleague, Joel Bachmann, who has been brought in from Hamburg strictly for the specific project. One evening, while out on dinner with his team, Michi receives a call from his father, who asks him to help Lorenz with fixing their barn’s roof the next time that he visits. As the young man has already been away for some time and also due to an unpleasant history between them, Michi does not take his father’s words very seriously, and instead arrogantly boasts about the money he earns in the city. He then quickly gets back to the party and spends a night of intense lovemaking with Joel.
The next day, though, Michi wakes up to a call from his mother informing him that his father has been found dead in the barn. The man somehow hurriedly attends an important meeting at work with the owner of Berno and then drives back to his country home, Neumatt. Michi’s sister, Sarah, who runs a gym and fitness center nearby, is contacted too, and the woman, who also did not keep in much touch with her family, rushes down to the farm. When the siblings ask their mother about how it all happened, Katharina reports that Kurt had gone into the barn the previous night and was working on a faulty ladder when he slipped and fell to his death. Despite Lorenz being the one first to discover their father’s body, the youngest brother remains silently and grieves by himself. Lorenz is the only successor in the family who wants to carry forward the business with a genuine interest in farming and a love for the cows, but his still not having completed high school means that he will not be getting government grants and support needed for farming. With no potential successor and quite some heavy debt in its name, local municipal leader Ursula Halter suggests that Neumatt be sold off to a buyer who is already very interested. Sarah and Michi, at least partially, are convinced by this too, but Katharina, Trudi, and Lorenz totally disagree. At Kurt’s funeral, though, all familial ties are broken loose when Lorenz cannot help but tell her sister about the real reason for their father’s death, and in response, Sarah slaps her mother in public. Kurt had actually hanged himself to death out of depression from the heavy debts and financial losses in his name, but Katharina had tried to hide it by making the scene look otherwise.
How does Michi try to save the family farm?
Ever since returning home after his father’s death, till the very end, Michi faces an internal conflict of interest about what he should be doing. On the one hand, he finds himself best-suited in his city job as a financial consultant, but on the other, he does feel bad about having been absent from his family and farm all this while. Michi’s original reason for having moved away was perhaps his uneasy relationship with Kurt, who had once walked upon Michi getting intimate with a boy on their farm and had never spoken about it, or anything too significant, ever since then with his son. Now, with his chance to reconcile with his father lost, the young man probably realizes what it means to be around family. Or rather, he wants to understand what it actually is. Although convinced by Sarah at first to sell off their farm, Michi soon turns around on the decision and wants to keep the farm running till his younger brother clears his exams and can take over. His decision to do so is formed, of course, by his late father’s last note to him in which Kurt asked Michi to do the same, and also perhaps from a very professional angle, as Michi, in the role of a consultant, is one who always jumps up on new challenges and enjoys conquering them. He immediately calls upon his office team’s help to first find out the exact amount that the business owes to various people and organizations and then sets about to find solutions regarding it. At first, his plan is to ask the bank that already owes money to Neumatt to give them one more loan, which he would reinvest into the business and pay back with proper interest at the right time, but he is unaware that his sister Sarah has decided to join forces with Ursula and is trying to sell off the farm. Ursula pulls her strings at the bank, and the institution denies any more loans to Michi’s farm. A bit confused and helpless, Michi then decides to invest his own money into the business and restructure it to use modern equipment and make use of technology. Selling off his expensive watch collection, the man now starts to live on the farm and help around in the physical aspects of farming as well.
Michi does not stop his work at the city firm, though, as he and his team continue to help Berno out of their financial distress by trying to find Chinese dairy companies to sell off their business in the Asian market. Joel, who has by now established a romantic relationship with Michi, helps him to juggle between his two endeavors but genuinely advises him against it. But the man can not help but feel a strong connection to his family business, and he helps Lorenz boost their milk business by selling off the old cattle and replacing them with high-yield cows. Soon he helps Berno get rid of its liabilities too, but a real crisis hits when farmers in his village get wind of his exact employment. As part of Berno’s loss-cutting new setup, a decision to decrease the price paid to local farmers for the milk that was acquired from them was passed. This had immensely angered all the cattle farmers, as a decrease in their income would make their lives extremely difficult. Michi had never told anyone about his involvement with Berno except for Sarah, and the sister had now used this information to somehow stop Neumatt from making a comeback. The village farmers soon confront Michi regarding this, and they pressurize the local milk distributor to stop buying from the farm. Business falls until Lorenz steps up and convinces them of his role as a true farmer, and they are allowed to sell their milk again.
Meanwhile, Michi has a fallout at his office and is released from his job, only to be recalled after a few days. Now he comes in with a fresh perspective of what Berno’s actions would mean for small-scale cattle-farmers, but he ultimately decides to side with his company, as he firmly believes in the numbers that suggest that the farmers would make big profits in the long run. He storms the office in the middle of a Berno meeting along with all the other farmers of his village, and then switches sides to convince the farmers to agree with Berno’s demands.
All this while, Michi had also been struggling with personal issues regarding his old lover and also a terrible cocaine addiction. When Michi returns home for his father’s funeral, the sight of the village vet, Dome, brings back old memories, as it was with Dome that his father had caught Michi. Despite his homosexuality, Dome has married a woman in order to fit in with rural society better, and the two also have a young son. But Michi and Dome soon get intimate multiple times as well, despite Michi also being in a relationship with Joel. Michi was initially seen taking cocaine occasionally as he struggled with an intense professional life, but since taking over Neumatt and the downfalls that followed, his addiction has reached the level of substance abuse. The fallout that he has at work is also because of this, as he punches a colleague in the office. Michi soon starts hallucinating his dead father and also loses composure as he tries to get intimate with Dome over and over again. Finally, it is Joel who urges him to stop his drug abuse completely, as he asks Michi to choose between him or cocaine. Ultimately, Michi does get over his addiction, but a very unfortunate effect of it has been left on Dome. The man had been turned away by his wife and family after his acts with Michi had become public, and by the end, there was no resolution to it. Dome now turns almost insane and maniacally urges Michi to indulge in intimacy, while a now sober Michi just walks away.
What do the other members of the family want and why?
The other members of Michi’s family are equally important in New Height’s drama, and the dysfunctionality and individual-ness that exist among them gets gradually clearer as the characters are explored. To begin with, although Katharina is initially shocked and saddened by her husband’s unusual passing, she does find herself back on her feet soon. After all, their marital relationship looked way past its prime, and the woman had also once had a casual night-out with a man named Martin Halter. Martin, who also happened to be Ursula Halter’s husband as well as the local dairy distributor, pursues Katharina only a few days after her husband’s death, but the woman turns down his approach. But the realization of her own self gradually sets into Katharina’s mind, as she recalls her youth and realizes that she had been part of the Neumatt farm only because it was already her husband’s property when she had married him. It is only now that she has a real choice of whether to stick on with the farm or abandon it, and so despite objecting to selling the farm off at first, she now gradually turns over to the other side and wants the farm gone, which would then set her free. She also gradually starts a romantic relationship with Martin and does not keep any secret about it, especially from her mother-in-law, who has always been very controlling and dominating over her. With time, Katharina discovers herself and becomes a changed woman, as she very much feared society’s judgments earlier in life. It was primarily to hide society’s judgment on her husband that she had covered up Kurt’s suicide, and also on herself, as people would hold her responsible for not taking enough care of her husband (her mother-in-law does exactly this). Katharina is also not without flaws, though, as is later found out.
Sarah lived as a single mother, struggling to run her studio gym and manage her teenage daughter Angelina’s education. From the beginning, it is clear that the gym is what Sarah sees as her own, and she invests in it unintelligently in the hope of getting better returns. When she hears first of the amount of money that they would receive if Neumatt was sold off, Sarah thinks of investing that money into her gym and turning her own business around. When this does not happen, she goes about trying to sabotage Michi and Lorenz’s plan to run the farm. She provides all the necessary details to Ursula, and then injects antibiotics into the farm’s cow’s milk, which is not just deemed unsellable but also results in Michi having to pay a heavy fine for it. Finally, Ursula then gives her an ultimatum of fifteen days, and seeing no other alternative, Sarah goes even further in her plan of sabotage and leaks information about her brother working for Berno. Although Angelina does provide support to her mother, she herself has unanswered questions about her missing father, who had apparently died in a bike accident, as her mother has always told her. Then her great-grandmother spills the real truth: that her father was alive and that he had never returned home after her birth. Angelina forces her mother to tell her the truth, and Sarah reveals that she had been forced upon by a man one night which then resulted in her pregnancy with Angelina. The daughter looks more into it, going through documents at her grandmother’s house, and stumbles upon an even graver secret: Katharina had actually accepted money from the rapist’s family to stay quiet about the case instead of helping her daughter with justice. Katharina explains that they had no other option but to do it, as the offender’s family was influential, and she had then also invested that money into Sarah’s gym, but the already strained relationship between her and Sarah is now completely lost. Sarah does finally meet a young man around her age who provides support to her, and she ultimately starts a relationship with him.
Although Lorenz seems to be the most innocent and harmless of all his family members, he too is no less self-centered, for he keeps obsessively insisting on the idea of running the farm and is almost blind to the financial troubles of his siblings. But there is enough innocence and likeability in Lorenz, though, as the boy struggles with social anxiety in school and then often meddles between expressing love to his cows and expressing the same to his friend and crush, Jessie. He is at times supported by his grandmother, Trudi, who is perhaps the most stubborn and, in a way, self-centered of all her family. Trudi is perhaps the least likable character (at least in my opinion). She is the typical matriarch who refuses to change any of her beliefs or thoughts, even slightly. She always finds faults in her daughter-in-law, sees only good in her son, and tries to keep everyone else in control, which simply does not work. Trudi firmly states that she would not ever support the selling of Neumatt, but this takes a heavy blow when Lorenz ultimately messes up his exam. He failed the test for the third year in a row, meaning that he would not be allowed to take the exam anymore, and so could not also be a professional farmer.
‘New Heights’ season 1: ending explained – What does Michi finally decide?
With Lorenz having failed his exam, Michi now runs out of ways to help his brother and finally agrees to his mother and sister’s demands of selling off Neumatt. He instead focuses on his professional endeavors and decides to move to Hamburg in search of a better prospect along with Joel. Katharina chooses to continue her relationship with Martin and sees a new apartment in the city where she intends to settle down with Lorenz. But the boy rejects staying in an apartment after taking a look at it, and instead prepares to think about his future with Jessie, who shows enough interest in him and also kisses him. Michi visits his sister to mend their relationship, but it is now revealed that the man who had sexually assaulted Sarah was his friend from school. Michi admits that he had no idea about this, and had always believed her lie that her boyfriend had died in a bike accident. These thoughts and her dismissal of his superficial statement of always being there for his family keep spinning inside his head as he rides in a taxi with Joel towards the airport.
Much to the surprise and disappointment of his confused lover, Michi finally makes the decision to stick with the farm. He calls up Katharina, who had already gone over to the administrative office for the official sale of the property. Although his mother does not approve of it, Michi refuses his signature on the form, saying that being the eldest son, it is his judgment to decide whether to run the business or sell it off. He then rushes to the office, expecting his mother to welcome him with open arms, but Katharina expresses her anger with a slap on his face. Katharina now announces that she is going to leave the village anyway, and settle down in the city on her own. This surprises Martin, and the man is seen to walk away with disappointment, perhaps realizing that Katharina is now liberated irrespective of his presence in her life, and therefore shuns her like the rest of his patriarchal society. As Sarah finds peace with her new lover, Michi rides back to Neumatt along with the cows that had been taken away before the sale. He has now taken complete responsibility for running the farm, and is helped by a delighted Lorenz. After hearing of the decision to sell her husband and son’s farm, Trudi had decided never to leave the place and so consumed sleeping pills right before any of this happened, giving up her life before Michi could get there. Although Michi very emotionally states that he has finally taken a stand for his family, ‘New Heights’ ending suggests that there is hardly a family left for him to take care of. No matter what decision he would have taken, it was impossible to please all the Wyss family members, and by the end, Michi decides to side with his brother Lorenz, perhaps losing relations with his mother forever.
“New Heights” is a 2022 Drama Series created by Marianne Wendt.