BATES MOTEL Episode Recap: “Nice Town You Picked, Norma”

     March 25, 2013

This week, Bates Motel was a lot more low-key than last, but it was no less strange.  I gave most of the kudos to Vera Farmiga for her wacky, totally creepy performance as Norma, but already Freddie Highmore is really starting to find his own inner creep, from his nascent violent tendencies to his obsession with snuff manga.  In fact, there are very few things about White Pine Bay that aren’t creepy, and this is where the Twin Peaks comparisons start to gain traction (ever so slightly, or did I confuse that with Top of the Lake? So many creeper shows on right now).  The town is described by Deputy Shelby as being fake (how could people without real jobs have such fancy homes and drive such fancy cars?) with a vigilante underground.  Will the Bates fit in, or will they be targeted?  Hit the jump for why “I’m your mother, it’s not like it’s weird or anything.”

bates-motel-season-1-episode-2I didn’t realize until this week how well Bates Motel had done in the pilot of establishing the world and main characters enough that already in the second episode we could expand on that (more Emma, meeting Dylan, the development of Deputy Shelby’s crush on Norma) without a ton of exposition.  The town is opening up in a way that makes it more than just the story of How Norman Became A Killer, which is certainly good news for the show.  While it does, presumably, have to end up in a certain place, it also is finding a way to make itself more than just a prequel homage.

After only being mentioned last week in passing, Norma’s other son Dylan — Norman’s half brother — shows up looking for shelter and money after having lost his job.  It’s clear Dylan doesn’t get along with the family, but it’s not very typical that the prodigal son returns looking better than the ones he ran off from.  Norma and Norman react to Dylan’s advent with open hostility, which Dylan returns by called his mother “Norma” and berating Norman for letting her “run him” (and ruin him in the process).

Though Dylan immediately gets himself drawn up in the seedy side of White Pine Bay, his descent helps illustrate this dark undercurrent that Deputy Shelby suggests to Norma.  It also looks like that will tie in to whatever it was happened to Bradley’s dad (burning seems to be a popular way to deal with problems in the town), and I liked that that didn’t get wrapped up all in one episodes.

In fact, the episode was already a building block, setting up the fact that the manga is seemingly real (when Norman and Emma find the shed), and that the pot fields and other illegal goings on are just beneath the surface.  The town seems to have a dark energy to it that also propels Norman into some unsavory directions, from peeping on his mom (and liking it, just a little!) to trying to kill his brother.  In fact, compared to his mother and brother, Dylan may well be awarded citizen of the month.

bates-motel-nice-town-you-picked-normaAlso, since he called Norma out on the “accidental” death of Norman’s father Sam and the subsequent insurance payout (which answers a lot of questions I had from the pilot), Norma seems like she will reluctantly let Dylan stay.  Let him do so at his own peril, for somewhere in the house Norman lurks with a meat cleaver …

What seemed to set Norman off, for the record, was the idea that his mother is a whore — a callback to the film.  Norman may not fully understand, accept or recognize his sexual jealousy but it’s getting pretty apparent already.  Though he has a crush on Bradley and cavorts with Emma (who plays the “I’m perfect for you and I’m RIGHT HERE you idiot!” girl), nothing riles him up like the idea that his mother isn’t who he thinks she is.  That’s the innocent interpretation, anyway, but there wasn’t much innocence when it came to him raising that meat cleaver.  Braining someone is a pretty strong reaction to something, particularly if it’s your brother joking about your shared parent.

Bates Motel is a weird show that begs us to keep watching — it’s not a procedural, and it’s not just a drama.  Anyone could die, by anyone’s hand.  Jeepers creepers …

Episode Rating: A-

Musings and Miscellanea:

  • The Deputy made a move on Norma pretty quickly, but it wasn’t out of nowhere.  He did always give her the eye when Sheriff Romero wasn’t looking.
  • Romero is one hostile dude.  But, as Shelby mentioned, it’s probably because of his friendship with Summers, who I’m sure boasted about how he was going to get that woman who bought his property.
  • I did not expect there to be a fried corpse driving that car.  Nice, weird touch.  Also didn’t expect someone to have been Mussolini’d on the town docks, either, but there you go.  Welcome to White Pine Bay!
  • The side-story of the Chinese sex slaves is actually a really intriguing one, and I’ll be interested to see where that goes and how it ties in.  I like how casual Emma was about the manga too, saying also “I’m into much steamier stuff.”
  • Apparently Emma lives in the Little Shop of Horrors: Taxidermy edition.  Hmmm, taxidermy … where might that come in handy …