BATES MOTEL Recap: “Caleb”

     March 18, 2014


After cleaning house to start the season, Bates Motel began building up some new tensions and difficulties for Norma and Norman, as well as expanding the scope of White Pine Bay.  What makes Bates Motel more than just a sequel to Psycho is how it has cribbed enough Twin Peaks-like atmosphere to create its own shadowy story, suggesting that the boundaries of the motel are only one part of this much larger tale.  But as Norma and Norman venture out into the town and begin meeting more new characters, the show has stayed true to its twisted heart, never leaving things with the Bates quiet for long.  Hit the jump for more.

bates-motel-season-2-poster“Caleb” was a great mix of setup and payoff, and continued to illustrate the show’s tight writing and narrative complexity.  Extracting the Bates’ family issues, “Caleb” was still full of forward motion.  Thanks to her brazen (and beautiful) audition, Norma was befriended by former casting director Christine (Rebecca Creskoff), who takes to her immediately.  Any new character should immediately be marked with suspicion, and the fact that Christine is pretending to be a rebel, yet throws extravagant garden parties for the Who’s Who of the town, shows that she has two sides Norma should be careful of.  But, the introduction of her brother George (Michael Vartan) to Norma sets up a potential romantic interest, and perhaps even an ally when things inevitably go south.

But Norma herself is finding rebels to befriend, including Nick Ford, Blair’s father (a connection Norma doesn’t yet know). His applauding her for standing up to the White Pine Bay powers galvanizers her that there may be others she can get on her side.  The way the show plays out local politics among the powerful — who are sustained by a dark underbelly — is great, but also endless in its narrative possibilities.  It’s permeated everything in the show so far, usually through the character of Romero, and sets a great stage for both the drama with Norma and with Dylan.

Dylan, like Norma, is both tough and naive.  He has learned how to speak up, but also to know his place when it comes to the drug organization.  Though Remo goads him to do something about Zane, he wisely lays low until a solution presents itself.  Last season, he proved an almost limitless resourcefulness, which has carried over here (in his helping Bradley and Norman).  He is always looking to help, which makes him so endearing.  But his immediate connection with Caleb (Kenny Johnson) was filled with red flags, not only because of their resemblance (great casting work there), but also because the family connection seemed to wipe away his judgement.  Family or not, it’s probably unwise to hand over $11.5k in cash to someone you just met who swears there’s a thriving Costa Rican resort waiting for them, if they can just invest.  Dylan has grown up fast and knows a lot, but he still needs wisdom and guidance from someone — Norma isn’t giving it to him, so how about a father-figure?  How about a father?

bates-motel-caleb-freddie-highmoreThe revelation that Dylan is Caleb’s son came as little surprise, though it didn’t diminish the drama.  Aside from the resemblance, it also explains why Norma always seemed to hate Dylan so much and was so cold towards him.  And while on the subject of Bates family incest, Norman’s fugue state was triggered again by Norma’s screams about Caleb having raped her, and Dylan shouting back that he didn’t believe her (a really intense moment with huge implications, but he is not wrong to assume Norma is lying, even though the fact that it was the truth made his disbelief all the harder to bear).  Norman’s attack looks like it will be glossed over in the face of the bigger revelation, but it’s good to see the show still incorporating it in here and there as a reminder.

As for Norman, with Bradley (and Blair) out of the picture, he’s in need of more female interaction (besides Emma).  Cody (Paloma Kwiatkowski) is an interesting place to start.  She’s the opposite of Bradley in that she’s tough and on the fringe, but she also seems to have some family issues going on.  Nothing in White Pine Bay is as it seems, of course, and every smiling face hides something dark.  But the beach “party” was another opportunity for the series to flex its strength when it comes to writing teenage characters — something that’s very hard to do believably — and also showed that Bates Motel is fine taking its time when it comes to exploring more of the town, which is a good thing for longevity.

Episode Rating: A

Musings and Miscellanea:

— Norman knows that Bradley’s suicide was a set-up, right?  I was hoping it wouldn’t cause an unnecessary rift between him and Dylan because of the misunderstanding, but he seemed fine about it so he must have guessed.  I also like how he touched the note in his pocket when Emma gave him the news, as if to steady himself.

bates-motel-caleb-vera-farmiga-1— “Make bad choices with me” – Emma (who pukes in the rain). It may seem simple, but if you watch enough television series about or including teenagers, Bates Motel‘s dialogue comes off as pretty refreshing (it helps that one of the EP’s is from Friday Night Lights).

— I like that Cody is helping to bring up the topic of sex again, something Norman is so totally uncomfortable with.  The fact that everyone thought he was gay “or something” makes him want to be macho for a moment (“are your parents home?”) but it’s not time yet for another murder!

— “It’s a zero sum game” – Dylan.

— Did anyone else barely recognize Michael Vartan?

— Cody: “You don’t have to take everything is seriously.”  Norman: “I don’t have to, I want to.”

— “A lot of things seem like fate and they’re not” – Caleb.