Category: Bates Motel TV series


batesseason2finaleThe Immutable Truth – Season 2, Episode 10 – original air date 5/5/2014

So Sheriff Romero is driving down the road, and who should he see coming out of a field towards the road, but Dylan?  And what does Dylan tell him?  “Nick Ford is dead.  I killed him.  They have Norman.”  Romero quickly processes these 10 words, and all they entail, and simply says “get in.”  Just another typical day in White Pine Bay for the most badass sheriff West of the Pecos.

Of course Dylan and Romero free Norman (we knew he wasn’t going to linger in the box until season three), and then there is the aftermath to deal with.  Anytime Norman tries to talk openly and honestly with Norma about his blackouts, she immediately suppresses him.   Only Norma could respond to what is essentially a confession of murder with “Eat your pot roast before it gets cold.”

It is very nice to see Norman confide in Emma, to a point, even if it was only done to try and get her to stay at the Motel.  Norman is making a list and checking it twice;  the last entry on that list is “Mother.”  Certainly the writers don’t expect us to believe that Norman is going to take her out?

Romero and Dylan continue their partnership, to take care of the inevitable.  It was definitely wish fulfillment to see that Sheriff Romero is a “man of his word”, although it was kind of sad to see Jodi become collateral damage, even if that seemed inevitable too.

Dylan’s embrace of Norman, after Norman is pulled from the box, may be the most touching moment in this show’s 2 season run.  Although Norma telling Dylan that he is a miracle was pretty damn cool too.  Dylan is really the moral center of the family, a magnet that pulls the others in the right direction.

And the finale is the lie-detector test, which has been set up for a couple weeks, the results of which are no surprise at all.

So:  no big cliffhangers, no mind-boggling revelations, yet a very satisfying, and at times sweet, finale.  Almost a clean slate going into season three, certainly from a standpoint of character development.   Not your typical season finale episode.  Bravo for that!

 

The Box – Season 2, Episodebatesmotelthebox 9 – original air date 4/28/2014

It’s kinda funny to see Norma tiptoeing in the house, like a teenager sneaking home after a night with her boyfriend.  Here she is, worried that she will disturb Norman.  Little does she know that there is no Norman to disturb.

Of course we knew who took Norman.  That was no surprise.   This was set up well in the last couple episodes.  It’s also no surprise that Norma would freak out, and immediately go to Dylan.  How about that look on Norma’s face, when Dylan tells her what Nick Ford wants him to do.  Obviously she was expecting something a little less violent, but to watch her face, as she goes from shock, to horror, to acceptance and resolve, all in a few seconds, is frightening.    It is one thing to be willing to kill for your son.  It’s another to ask one son to kill to save another.

And let’s not forget that Norma is the one that really got Norman into this mess.  She is the one who got in deep with Nick Ford.  Granted, she didn’t know who and what he was, at first, but for her to blame Dylan for Norman’s abduction is pretty sad.  But even worse than that is the way Norma so icily dismisses Emma, rather than confide in her.   Emma embodies everything that the Bates family is missing, and needs to find in themselves.

The outcome of the Dylan/Nick Ford meeting was not a big surprise, but it was pleasing; I was beginning to worry that Dylan might not make it to season three.    This doesn’t change the fact that Zane really needs to go.

It makes sense that Norman’s confinement in the box would lead to an amplification of his mental problems.  And the big reveal finally confirms what we figured was the truth.  All in all, a very good episode.

Vera Farmiga deserves an Emmy nomination for her excellent work this season, don’t ya think?

 

 

Meltdown – Seabatesmotelmeltdownson 2, Episode 8 – original air date 4/21/2014

You really have to feel for the Bates family.  (I would consider Dylan a Bates family member, even though he has a different last name.)  Any time it looks like things might be going well for one of them, you can be sure that disaster is waiting around the corner.

The writers have done a good job of building tension over the last couple of episodes, as the finale of season two draws closer.  This may be the best episode of the second season to date.

First off, Nick Ford is one serious dude.  There is no doubt that he means what he says.  Norma must be regretting that she ever struck up a conversation with him.  He wants Zane dead.  Who doesn’t?  It seems like even Zane’s own sister is tacitly signing off on getting rid of him.  So why in hell did she put him in charge in the first place?  She had to know what an idiot and a hothead he is.  So it would seem that there is a simple resolution here:  Dylan kills Zane, everyone is happy.  Of course nothing will resolve itself that easily on this show.

Sheriff Romero tries to get Norman to talk about what happened at Miss Watson’s house the night she died.  Norman’s shock about having sex with Miss Watson is not feigned, because of course he blacked out that night.   When will all the truths of that night be revealed?  Hopefully we will not have to wait until season three.

And let’s not forget that Norma’s crazy comes back with a vengeance.  Norma leaves her dinner date with George, partly because she feels so out of place, but also because she feels bad for Norman.  Then, when Norman coolly brushes her off, she becomes enraged, ultimately flying back to George’s arms, and barely managing to keep her panties on until she gets in the door.  What would a psychologist say about her behavior?  How much blame do we lay at Norma’s door for Norman’s condition today?  Did she trigger it?  She certainly exacerbates it.  And what of her own mental state?  The next two episodes should be good.  Here is hoping for some resolution.  Don’t leave us hanging for a year!

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Presumed Innocent – Season 2, Episode 7 – original air date 4/14/2014

This episode briefly becomes a police procedural, as Norman is taken in for questioning, photographed, and swabbed for DNA.  Considering how many people did in this quaint seaside town, one would  think the police would be rather blase at this point.   Cody’s dad was just killed by falling down a flight of stairs.  It’s not like he was set on fire, or shot in the head,  etc.  But of course our Norman is connected with this death.  Norman feels guilty.  If he had not confronted Cody, her dad would still be alive.   That is certainly a true statement, but Cody’s father was set up to fall.  He was mentioned off screen at first, then heard off screen in another episode, and is only seen for the first time when he is about to die.  By the time we see him, we know he’s a jerk.

Most of this episode deals with Norman’s time in jail, as he is questioned by Sheriff Romero.  How do the people in Norman’s circle react?  Well of course Norma is on the scene, and won’t leave.  Yet what are Norma’s motives?  Obviously Norma loves her son, and wants to protect him from harm.  But is keeping his blackouts a secret really helping him?  Is pressuring other people not to mention them helping him?  Emma is the only character who fully supports Norman in his predicament, with no motives of her own.   There is much tension between mother and son when they go home from the police station, as would be expected.  Cody and Norman say their farewells, as she goes off to live with the obligatory aunt in a faraway state.

Zane demonstrates that he may be a little bit smarter than suspected.  Not much, but a little.  He confronts Dylan, who then has to make a choice.  His choice may be his downfall.  How about a quick mention of Remo (Ian Tracey), Dylan’s partner in the drug business.  He has quietly made the most of his limited screentime.  If you are going to work in the illicit drug trade, you could certainly do worse in the coworker department.

There are only three episodes left in this season, and we can maybe see how the threads are coming together.  There is the drug war, with the Bates family having a connection with each side of the warring faction.  There is Norman’s blackouts,  and the consequences of them.  And there is the big reveal at the end of this episode, as Sheriff Romero learns the results of Norman’s DNA test and where his bodily fluids were found.  Not a surprise really, but I’m still not convinced that this particular aspect of the story is as clear cut as it seems.  The biggest question at this point is…how on earth will they stretch this out for another season?

Plunge – Seasbatesmotelplunge2on 2, Episode 6 – original air date 4/7/2014

Poor Norman.  There he is, sitting behind the wheel of the family car, about to take his driver’s test, a significant rite of passage, when up storms his mom and rats him out to the driving instructor.  Says that he has been blacking out.  Under the circumstances, Norma is doing the right thing, but the timing of it makes it seem like a major betrayal.  But what led up to this moment?

Norman blacks out a second time in Cody’s presence.  Then they take a trip to the “swimming hole.”  While they are making out, Emma shows up with her pot-slinging boyfriend, and at Cody’s insistence they decide to hang out together.  First Emma’s guy jumps in the water on the rope swing, then Norman follows, and finally Emma.   The end results here were so predictable that I was really hoping the storyline would go in a different direction.  Emma has a scare in the water, Norman overreacts.  It is obvious that Norman has feelings for Emma, but are they romantic feelings?  It feels like any opportunity they had to become a couple has long since passed.  Like they are both above and beyond that kind of relationship.  Perhaps not.   When Cody shares with Emma that Norman has been blacking out, and we see the conflicted look on Emma’s face, there is no doubt that she is going to tell Norma.

Norma meanwhile has severed her ties with Nick Ford, after the councilman that she called a dick conveniently dies in a car accident.  Then Norma pursues the council seat for herself!  Hard to believe that would sit well with Nick Ford, but it would appear that he had something to do with her getting the council seat.  Norma has another encounter with George (Michael Vartan), and one has to believe a potential hookup is in the near future.  But the writers are also building the potential for a relationship with Romero and Norma.

Of course the writers had to throw in another one of those awkward hugs, that is just a little to affectionate for a son of Norman’s age to be having with his mother.  We seem to get one of these obligatory cringe-worthy moments every other episode.   It’s also cool to see Norman stuffing a crow.  In the movie Psycho, the room behind the office was filled with birds.

And Dylan is hooking up with the boss lady (Kathleen Robertson.)  Nothing good ever comes from that, does it?

batesmotelplunge1And the episode ends with a moment of violence that seems to have Norman in hot water again.  How will this situation resolve itself?  Congrats to the show being renewed for a third season.  The ratings took a small dive but are now holding steady at around 2.25 million a week.  Not too shabby.

 

batesseason2epi5The Escape Artist – Season 2, Episode 5 – original air date 3/31/2014

This episode follows the separate narrative threads of several different characters, something we have seen in past episodes.   The narrative structure works better here than it did in the first season, simply because the characters are all more fully developed.  So, strand one involves Norman getting closer to his new friend Cody (Paloma Kwiatkowski.)  When Norman tells her “you’re not like any girl I’ve ever met”, I had the feeling he had used those exact same words before with Bradley and Emma, which simply means that Norman hadn’t really met any girls before, except of course for momma.  This relationship actually seems to make sense, because both have troubles at home, so they can relate to each other.

Norma meets up with Nick Ford (Michael O’Neill), about stopping the bypass, and he seems eager to support Norma, but only behind the scenes.  Meanwhile Sheriff Romero has taken up residence at the Bates Motel, since his house was torched.  Norma and Romero are very tentative in their scenes here, for two people who have such a shared history.  After all, Romero shot and killed Abernathy, potentially saving Norma’s life, and binding them together in a secret.  There is a hint in this new episode that there may be a potential attraction.   In the episode’s best scene, Romero confronts Zane (Michael Eklund), and wallops the crap out of him.  Moments like this I really love Sheriff Romero.

Dylan, still reeling frobatesseason2epi5twom the news about his uncle daddy, comes off of a massive bender, only to be invited to lunch with Zane.  He then proceeds to save Zane’s life when there is a drive-by shooting attempt.  He should have let him die.  The big reveal at the end of the episode is who the real kingpin is in the drug operation.   And let’s not forget Emma, who is important enough now to have her own narrative thread away from the Bates’ family problems.  She hooks up for the first time, with the dude staying at the motel.  It remains to be seen what the ramifications of that will be.  Good for Emma anyway, for pursuing her own happiness.

 

 

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Check-Out – Season 2, Episode 4 – Original air date 3/24/2014

This week’s episode opens, refreshingly, with a shot of Emma.  Granted, she is an ancillary character, but she is just so darned sweet, and provides a bit of a break from the Bates family drama.  Emma’s eyes are asking the same question that we are:  did she sleep with the stoner dude, who happens to be lying next to her?  Knowing Emma as we do, we know the answer to that question.

The real core of the story this week is the Bates family coming to terms with the shocker about Norma’s brother.   Dylan is understandably having a tough time with this one, and he confronts Caleb, only to get a slightly different, and evasive, version of events.  He also gets his money back.  So just what the hell did Caleb go to White Pine Bay for?  What did he hope to accomplish by visiting his sister?  Did he really think that all would be forgiven?   Dylan and Norma have a heartbreaking scene at the end,  and it seems as if Dylan realizes Norma is telling the truth, but it’s all too much for him, and he storms away, saying that he is moving out.

Sheriff Romero gives Major Douche (Zane) a polite warning to stay in line.  Is there anyone who thinks Zane will survive to the end of the season?  Is there anyone who wants him to?

And then there is Norman.  First of all, we have a very creepy scene where Norman lies down next to his mother on her bed to comfort her.  What makes it truly unsettling is a long, lingering close-up on Norman’s face, which displays emotions that are not exactly what one expects to see on a child’s face.  Norma goes on a date with George, (the guy she met in the last episode), at the insistence of his sister, who all but drags Norma out the door.  We probably haven’t seen the last of George.

And at the end Norman confronts Caleb, a man he doesn’t even know, and finally we see the first glimpse of the specific mental condition which plagues the Norman Bates of Hitchcock’s Psycho.   It is a frightening moment to watch, as well as being a bit of an “aha!” moment for fans of the movie.

The second season has almost reached the halfway point, (4 episodes down, 5 to go), and up to this point it is on par with the first season.  Will the show be renewed for a third season?  The first episode of season 2 had an audience of over 3 million, more than any episode of the first season.  That was down to 1.84 million by episode 3.  Fans of the show can only keep watching, and hope that they are not left hanging mid-story line.

 

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Caleb – Season Two, episode 3 – original air date 3/17/2014

The third episode of Bates Motel is very solid overall, and the writers deserve a shout out.  However, it must be said up front:  when Norma’s brother  Caleb (played by Kenny Johnson) arrived at the motel, and he and Dylan approached each other awkwardly, and stood talking, was there anyone who did not immediately realize that Caleb was Dylan’s daddy?   It was rather obvious from the first moment, apparently to everybody except Dylan.  I thought maybe even he might have had a suspicion, but it was clear from the look of shock on his face in the last scene that he did not.   So that last-minute reveal was no reveal at all, and now this series has taken a left turn into Chinatown.  He’s your uncle.  He’s your father.  He’s your uncle and your father.    Holy crap!  Poor Norma; it is amazing the amount of shit she has had to deal with, and the way she continually tries to find a way to provide a “normal” life for her children is admirable, as is the performance of Vera Farmiga.  She simply couldn’t be better.

This episode focuses on several characters meeting new people, creating new relationships.  And the episode is bookended by the reminders of the past, in Norma’s brother Caleb, the past that she just can’t seem to outrun.    Of course Norma did not get the lead in the play, as a matter of fact she got no part at all.   That’s small town politics for you.  Especially this small town.  The play’s director Christine (Rebecca Creskoff) quits in protest, and befriends Norma.   When she invites Norma to her garden party, we are worried for Norma.  Dear God, how is her crazy going to manifest itself this time?   But that is not the case.  Norma is very nervous, but handles herself well.  She is engaging, charming, and funny.  She even hits it off with Christine’s brother, George.  We almost certainly haven’t seen the last of him.

Meanwhile Norman befriends a girl named Cody, that we first saw as a grocery store cashier in this season’s first episode.  She is working as a tech on the play, and convinces Norman to join as well.  It is clear that there is some mutual attraction here, and Norman handles himself with a confidence that we have not yet seen.   It would appear that Emma is tired of waiting for Norman to notice her, for she cozies up to the guy that her gave her the pot-laced cupcakes in season one.   Emma is just feeling guilty over Bradley’s “death”, which we know was faked.  Emma’s honesty is disarming, as she admits that she feels guilt because she still doesn’t like Bradley even though she is dead.  We probably haven’t seen the last of Bradley either.

And Dylan is bonding with his Uncle Daddy, foolishly giving him all of his saved cash.   Dylan is probably the most balanced member of the Bates family, and considering he is the result of rape and incest, that is saying something.  He has a good heart, and a sharp wit.  When Major Douche (aka Zane) asks him what his next move would be in the escalating drug war, he takes the time to think about it, and then gives the perfect response.  He would do nothing.  It is a zero-sum game.  Bravo.

Just when things seemed to be going so well for all of the Bates, everything collapses in the final scene, and now they have another mess to face.  Norma seems equipped to deal with anything.  Bring it on.

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Shadow of a Doubt – Season Two, Episode Two – original air date 3/10/2014

Season Two of Bates Motel got off to a pretty good start in the first episode of the new season, picking up right where season one left off.  The story lines are intriguing, the characters interesting.   I wonder now, just as I wondered when this show began, just how long will this show be able to sustain any intensity, and a dramatic arc, when we already know there is no happy ending in store for anyone in the Bates family.   I thought about this a lot during this newest episode of season two, which was far less satisfying to me than the first episode.

As far as storylines go, there are several threads at work.  Bradley is hiding in the basement, having killed the drug kingpin Gil, who she believes is responsible for her father’s death.   Norman buys Bradley a bus ticket, and is going to drive her to the bus station in an adjacent town.  Just where Bradley is planning to go and what she is planning to do is never made clear.   But she lays low, waiting for her time of departure.

Meanwhile, in the drug world, Gil’s replacement arrives, and this is a character that is designed to be disliked by everyone.  He screams “major douche”, from his hairstyle, to his dress, to his manner of speech.  It’s hard to believe a guy like this could have climbed to middle management in the drug world without being killed by someone.  So it turns out that White Pine Bay has not only one, but two families in the drug trade?  And Major Douche decides that the other family must have offed Gil, so he kidnaps someone from the other crew, and kills him, in front of Dylan.  Is this going to turn into a Hatfield v. McCoy standoff?  Seems a little far-fetched.  And I’m not sure if Sheriff Romero is intriguing and enigmatic, or just poorly written.  He was pretty badass when he took care of Abernathy in season one.  Now at times he seems to be a lackey for the druglords.   Hopefully there will be some resolution with his character.

And finally we have the mother/son relationship with Norma and Norman, by far the most interesting storyline in this episode.  Ultimately, this harkens back to what Psycho was all about.  It can be by turns creepy, humorous, and touching.  Who else but Norma Bates would ask her doctor about her son during a gynecological exam?  Norma also has one of her strongest moments in the series, when she sings “Maybe This Time” at an audition for the local community theater, pouring all of her emotions into her performance, and stunning everyone, Norman included.

The episode ends with Dylan taking Bradley to the bus stop, first asking her to compose a suicide note.  And the Bates family tree expands with the arrival of Norma’s brother.  I’m assuming this is the same brother that used to abuse her, so he probably won’t be welcomed with open arms.

 

 

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 Gone But Not Forgotten – Season Two, Episode 1 – original airdate 3/3/2014

My oh my, the time sure passes quickly.  It seems like it was just a few weeks ago that we  were watching the conclusion to season one of Bates Motel, which ended with Norman experiencing one of the most messed-up days in his messed-up life.

Remember that day?  Remember how his mom  told him that she had been raped by her brother when she was younger?  Remember Norman going to the dance with Emma, but staring at Bradley?  Remember Emma leaving, Norman getting punched in the face, walking home in the rain, being picked up by Miss Watson?  Oh yeah, Miss Watson…

Season Two picks up right where the first season left off, with the death of Miss Watson.  Norman is very distraught by her death, maybe a little too distraught?  And whose pearls are those he is toying with?

Meanwhile, Bradley is driving drunk, takes a dive off a bridge (if she wanted to kill herself, why did she swerve out of the way of the truck in the scene just before she jumped off the bridge?)  She survives the attempt, but spends a few months in a mental facility.  When she gets out, she is obsessed with finding out who killed her father.  And of course Norman is still obsessed with her, even though Emma is right there in front of him, wanting only to be loved.

Meanwhile, business is booming at the Bates Motel.  We see lots of happy customers, while a Haim song plays on the soundtrack (nice choice!)   But there is a big problem looming:  the highway bypass, which will divert all the traffic away from the motel.  Yes, this is the bypass, the one referenced in Hitchcock’s Psycho movie.  The bypass that will be the undoing of the Bates Motel.  Norma goes to a city council meeting, in an attempt to thwart the planned start of construction on the bypass, but she is treated rather rudely, and out comes her crazy.    We get these glimpses of the strong, successful woman Norma could have been, if life had treated her a little better.  She brings up the fact that the massive pot fields drive the towns’ economy, something that everyone knows but nobody wants to talk about.  Bravo!  But the deck is stacked against her in this battle.  Vera Farmiga sure is owning this role, at this point.

Every time we see Norma and Norman in a scene together now, there is a cringe-worthy element.  A simple driving lesson becomes very tense, and mother and son both explode.  Are they arguing about driving, or something more?  And in the tender moments, such as when Norma drapes her arm lovingly over Norman’s chest as she stands behind him, how can we not be creeped out by that?

Also,  Dylan reconnects with Bradley, and gives her some information that may help her find out what happened to Daddy, and it involves Gil, the head honcho of all the illegal goings on.  And the body count goes up.

Meanwhile Sheriff Romero and Norma both begin to suspect that Norman may have had something to do with Miss Watson’s death.  Finally Norman tells his mom that he was in her house, and that he blacked out.  Am I the only one who thinks its just a little too obvious that Norman killed Miss Watson?  We all know where Norman is headed;  he certainly is a killer.  And he has Miss Watson’s pearls.  Is there a slight possibility that someone else was involved in her death, or is it really that simple?

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