Bates Motel has reached a point this season where it’s teetering on the precipice. There are three episodes left now until the end of the season, but “Presumed Innocent” was too early to start the descent into what is sure to be the madness leading up to that finale. So instead, it had a touch of strange world building, and then spent a lot of time loitering around the jail while Norman and Cody were being questioned. Ultimately, even its final reveal didn’t reveal much. For a season that has basically been on fire since its start, “Presumed Innocent” felt like like little more than stalling. Hit the jump for what we did learn, and what it could mean.
Sometimes an episode where nothing much happens is a great opportunity for a show to slow down and focus on characterization, or just allow for some time spent in this world that’s been created. “Presumed Innocent” was not one of those times. Bates Motel is not a show that is controlled totally to its plot points, and it does spend an awful lot of time on characterization (which is one of the reasons it’s so great). “Presumed Innocent” didn’t really add anything to either of those aspects.
There are things on Bates Motel that aren’t always clear, but the death of Cody’s father wasn’t one of them. Norman wasn’t blacking out, he was acting in self-defense. But the blackouts were an important part of what happened, because of Norma’s fears both that it was potentially part of the violence, or at least, it could lead the police to look at other acts of violence (like against Blair Watson) and connect it to Norman, which is exactly what happened.
Bates Motel always allows for an out, though. Blair Watson had two semen samples inside her when the autopsy was performed, and now we know one was Norman’s. This doesn’t really come as much of a surprise — Norman was there, she attempted to seduce him, he blacked out, and later had her necklace in his possession. He felt guilt and remorse over her death even though he didn’t think he was necessarily involved (and even though there is strong evidence he was, it’s still not completely clear). The point is, now he’s been questioned in another murder (though accidental). As we know, the Bates have had several deaths and disappearances occur on their property and nearby since they arrived. Things are about to get desperate if those dots get connected by someone other than Romero.
But, they aren’t there yet, and they wouldn’t be if it weren’t for a zealous deputy who only just appeared in this episode. Another sudden addition is the show’s expansion of White Pine Bay from a sleepy coastal town to a millionaire’s haven with a bustling city hall that’s stocked with workers. This is the same thing Friday Night Lights did with its setting of Dillon, Texas, which would suddenly grow new appendages as it suited the plot moving forward, but made no sense in how the story was originally set up. (In that show’s case, Dillon was a poor, rural town that ended up having, out of nowhere, a huge population of McMansions, and also a “black south side” that was never even alluded to in earlier seasons). Bates Motel has plenty to explore just in the mythology of the small White Pine Bay community it created in the first season — it doesn’t need to suddenly become a metropolis the size of Portland.
The escalation of the drug war between the Fords and Zane also doesn’t resonate much, because no one is connected to it anymore aside from Dylan, who is currently on the very fringe of the story. And, since Zane knocked him out and he missed the hailstorm of gunfire at the warehouse (does Zane not have any more people to add to his army to take down a warehouse? Surely it’s better fortified than that?), it looks like he’ll escape unscathed and, per the previews, potentially become an agent for Nick Ford. So be it; there’s almost nothing invested in how any of these outfits operate, and we don’t know within the town who is on whose side. Until that point, this “war” doesn’t have a lot of relevance.
“Presumed Innocent” kept most relationships status quo: Norma and George grow closer, Norman becomes more hostile, Romero is caught between a budding affection for Norma and his responsibilities for justice, Dylan is caught in a battle of wills with Zane, and Emma has absolutely nothing to do. This season has been about consequences, and this episode didn’t fit into that mould. The revelation of Norman’s sexual relationship with Blair will surely connect a lot of these threads (including the drug plot, once Nick finds out about Norman’s involvement with his daughter), but for now, the show is just treading water.
Musings and Miscellanea:
— Once again, Norma was the saving grace of the show. There was a lot of physical comedy with her hauling her materials from City Hall around, and also an excellent overhead shot of her running up to the house and calling for Norman to proclaim his innocence.
— “You’re going to patronize me over this? I’ve done your laundry” – Norma to Romero.
— There was a fantastic emotional transition when Norma broke down in tears, after Norman confronted her about his blackouts, to her bucking up and shutting him down about it (that he will never mention it again). Stunning acting.
— “She has five cats so her place probably smells like cat pee instead of cigarette smoke. Man, I can’t wait until I’m 18 so I can choose how my place smells” – Cody. Bye Cody!
— I really need Emma to have more of a plot. She’s such a wasted character this season.
— “I wish I had a mother and a brother I could treat like shit!” – Emma.
— I love how it’s just a casual point of conversation that everyone knows Zane’s sister Jody, i.e. the Boss, sleeps around indiscriminately. Not helping the female power vacuum on the show.
— Norman wearing that apron … great shot that initially made him look like his mother.
— “Based on the 23 years I’ve worked for this family, […] I’m kinda Kojak-ing what happened” – Remo.