BATES MOTEL Recap: “What’s Wrong With Norman?”

     April 1, 2013


After about forty minutes of leisurely pacing and giving time over to exposition (not that that is a bad thing for a show just starting out to do), things got real on Bates Motel in the final, bizarre minutes.  White Pines Bay has plenty of secrets, and even the cleanest of citizens are part of its dirty underground.  But it is Norman this week who makes the strangest turns, on a clear trajectory from his unsettling violence last week to ever-increasing weirdness.  And, apparently, the past is not well-buried in White Pines for anyone.  Hit the jump for more on what exactly is wrong with Norman.

I actually can’t believe this is only the third episode of the series, because I already feel entrenched in White Pines.  The show has not introduced us to too many characters too quickly, and has established the ones we do know very well.  Still, they have the ability the surprise, like in that twist ending regarding Deputy Shelby.

bates motel freddie highmoreI’d been curious about how the story with the captive Chinese girls would turn out, but I didn’t expect it to be much more than a kind of Sherlock, Jr. adventure for Norman and Emma to bond over.  Emma is still haunted by the men who chased after them in the pot fields (who, it turns out, are just on a security shift getting paid $300 a day to eat pheasant and talk about their families … where do I sign up?), and she continues to be obsessed over the story of the Chinese girls, especially not that it looks like the story is real.

Norman is obsessed with the story too, but for different reasons.  Whereas Emma finds meaning and compassion and a sense of duty to find out what happened, Norman seems more sexually intrigued.  He imagines his teacher bound and chained like the women in the drawings, becoming overwhelmed with his feelings and fainting.

Norman is already exhibiting erratic behavior, and when his brother Dylan comes back from his pot watching post and wants to bond with him, forgiving Norman for his behavior, Norman chuckles at Dylan’s recounting of the scenario.  “I forgive you for trying to kill me,” Dylan says as Norman says, “ok sure, I’m sure I really struck fear into your heart!”  It’s clear that it’s not just a put-on — Norman really doesn’t remember his homicidal impulses and actions, another form of blacking out.

freddie highmore bates motel whats wrong with normanLater in the episode he again goes into a trance, this time hallucinating his mother’s voice, telling him to go and acquire Summer’s belt from Shelby so that he will no longer have control over them like his father.  While I was starting to be sure Norma had killed the late Mr. Bates, it’s now looking like perhaps Norman was the one who acted out in a blind rage.  Or was this the first time he hallucinated?  Norman’s blackouts and split personalities are starting to manifest themselves, yet he’s not completely oblivious to them because he, emotionally, cries and wonders what’s wrong with him.

Good question — the boy ain’t right.  Who else might fall by Norman’s hand?  Shelby?  It seems that the Deputy, who seemed to acknowledge the weird tit-for-tat of the community pretty cavalierly is indeed part of it himself, keeping his own drugged up Chinese girl back deep in his basement.

Bates Motel has a haunting quality to it that doesn’t necessarily make me excited all day to watch it on Mondays, but I always end up getting into it sufficiently to want to skip ahead to the next hour, especially with an ending like this.  Still, the show will not be hurried, and had a languid pace for most of the hour, explaining Norma’s sketchy origins and Norman’s reactions to the demons bubbling up inside of him.  I’m not sure if I’ll keep covering Bates Motel, but I will definitely keep watching.  Even though we know where things will end up, I don’t think many can guess yet how it will get there.

Episode Rating: B+

Musings and Miscellanea:

whats wrong with norman bates motel whats wrong with norman freddie highmore vera farmiga— Bradley is interesting to me because I’m not sure if she’s actually interesting at all.  Her bonding and flirtations with Norman have always seemed a little off, and I’m not sure if it’s just the actress or the character herself but she’s very hesitant and spacey.

Vera Farmiga has such a familiar yet elusive take on Norma, and she’s so much fun to watch.  I loved how casual she was with Norman in the hospital discussing how the police raided the house and about the murder.

Freddie Highmore still gets too English when he gets emotional.  They should build that into one of Norman’s personalities, hah.

— Emma trusts Yahoo Answers?!

— Before I realized Shelby wasn’t home (lucky for Norman, did he even check?) I had Norman pegged for the worst / nosiest burglar ever.

— Norma never responds to things normally.  When the doctor asks her if Norman has ever blacked out before she answered “No! Why would you ask me that?!”  A pretty routine question, Norma …

— Norman: “I’m sorry I tried to kill you.”  Dylan: “It’s cool.”