Last night’s episode of Bates Motel might as well have been called “Norman Bates Gets Laid.”
Oh sure, a few other things happened during the episode. Norman hallucinated, Norma criticized, Deputy Shelby smiled blandly while thinking evil thoughts, a disembodied hand turned up, Dylan learned the truth about the man that Norman and Norma murdered way back in the first episode, and finally, during the show’s final moments, Norma got arrested for that very murder.
But, for the most part, this episode will mostly be remembered as the episode where Norman Bates got laid.
As I’ve said in previous reviews, Bates Motel’s main struggle has always been to find anything new to tell us about the character of Norman Bates. The character is so iconic that even those poor souls who haven’t seen Psycho are aware that Norman Bates owned a motel, dressed up like his dead mother, and killed people. On Bates Motel, Freddie Highmore has done a good job bringing the teenage Norman Bates to life but it can still be difficult to emotionally connect with him because you know that eventually he’s going to grow up to be a peeping tom serial killer cross-dresser.
However, after four episodes, I think that actually might be Bates Motel’s greatest strength. Since we know what Norman’s eventually going to become, it’s oddly compelling to watch him do things that we usually wouldn’t give a second thought to if they were being done by any other character on television. For instance, any character on television could have ended up having sex with the oddly-named Bradley (Nicola Peltz). But, since the character here is Norman Bates, the viewers are now left wonder whether Bradley will survive the experience.
And that’s why, even if it’s occasionally a struggle to remain emotionally invested in the adolescence of Norman Bates, I’ll be back next week to see what happens.
- Of course, I’m assuming that Norman and Bradley actually had sex. The scene itself was filmed in such an over-the-top, romanticized manner — with Norman and Bradley making love under those crisp blue sheets and Bradley smiling beatifically — that I actually found myself wondering whether it was meant to be one of Norman’s hallucinations. With this show, it’s definitely possible.
- In case you were wondering, last week’s cliffhanger was resolved by having Dylan distract Shelby long enough for Norman to sneak back out of the basement. Norman told Norma about Shelby’s sex slave, which led to Norma checking for herself and finding no evidence of anyone being held prisoner in the basement. Though I know it’s a long shot, what if the woman in the basement turns to be another Norman hallucination? That would be a neat twist to the plot, no?
- In fact, what if the entire show is just a hallucination!? Okay, I need to stop before I blow my own mind…
- If anyone was born to play a femme fatale in a film noir, it’s Vera Farmiga. It’ll be a crime if she doesn’t, at the very least, receive an Emmy nomination for her performance here.
- Emma’s father (played by veteran British actor Ian Hart) seemed to be a bit creepy, didn’t he? I’m not sure if the character was actually supposed to be that menacing or if we were just supposed to be seeing him through Norman’s eyes. If nothing else, his overprotectiveness of Emma nicely parallels Norma’s attitude towards her youngest son.
- When he was first introduced, I was a little bit uncertain about the character of Dylan. I wasn’t sure whether or not his character was actually necessary. However, I think the character has developed quite nicely and I actually enjoy the scenes where Dylan’s mask slips and you see that he actually does care about his half-brother. Plus, it helps that Max Thierot couldn’t be unlikable if he tried.
- Speaking of good performances, I’m continuing to love the subtle menace that Mike Vogel brings to the role of Deputy Shelby. I loved the scene where he took Norman fishing.
- The most frequent complaint that I’ve heard about Bates Motel is that, despite the fact that a lot is happening, the show’s main story tends to proceed at such a deliberate pace that it’s occasionally difficult to remember what that story was supposed to be in the first place. Personally, I appreciate the fact that the show is taking its time. For horror to work on television, it’s important that the show’s atmosphere be just right. And a good atmosphere requires patience.
- Bates Motel, incidentally, has been renewed for a second season so, for now, it can take as much time as it wants.