Review: Bates Motel ‘Unbreak-able’

Picking up where we left off last week with Norma (Vera Farmiga) recouping from witnessing the death of missing woman Annika Johnson. When Norman (Freddie Highmore) comes outside unexpectedly, he looms over Annika’s body in a near catatonic state, repeatedly asking Norma if he’d killed Annika. Norma spends a great deal of time convincing Norman and Sheriff Romero that he had nothing to do with her death.

The next morning, Norman has little memory of the night, particularly when “Mother” told him to drown himself in the bathtub. As Norma cooks him breakfast, Norman asks if she still likes him. They share a slight, quiet moment. Norma convinces him that nothing has changed, yet she seems unconvinced herself. Later, Norma confides openly (for the first time, I believe) in her broken trust with Norman and the ensuing loneliness she feels. It’s hard to understand what threatens her more – his murderous tendencies or his manufactured romance with Emma.

The latest episode of Bates Motel vastly improves upon recent episodes by starting to tie characters closer together. This week, the writers have fully integrated the Bates mythology into the main characters, challenging family bonds and further deepening Bates family wounds as it pushes Norman Bates further into insanity. THIS, folks, is the show I’ve been looking for and have glimpsed only a handful of times.

Before dying of a gunshot wound, Annika drove to the Bates Motel in a car previously owned by the dead girl found floating in the marsh a few episodes back, Sheriff Romero discovers. What he doesn’t know is that she handed Norma an encrypted flash drive. The lightest moment of the episode occurs when Norma takes to the local coffee shop to find a local teen to hack into the flash drive. Because all teens in coffee shops are really just hackers. Especially the Asian ones (Norma’s choice, not mine people!). Unfortunately, the encryption program is too good even for casual hackers. Gosh, I wonder if the password has anything to do with The Arcanum Club?

Back at the house, Norman further taunts Norma by preparing for his upcoming romantic picnic with Emma. He is jealous of her growing relationship and trust in Dylan, she of his growing relationship with Emma. In a telling moment, Norma tells Norman that having sex with Emma will kill her, thanks to her disease. If that doesn’t screw a kid up, nothing will. She practically stands over him screaming, “SEX IS DEATH!!!” Slightly, “Mother” and Norma nearly become one for a moment. When Norma confides in Dylan about the flash drive, he advises her not to tell anyone, and Norman overhears her saying she’s hiding it from Norman. Suddently, I start to worry about Dylan’s safety. If Norman is truly jealous…

Norman and Emma’s picnic lunch ends in an abandoned cabin in the woods. After laying with her next to a burning fire, Norman and Emma start to make out. Just before things get serious, Norman pulls back, relaying his mother’s warnings of “SEX IS DEATH!!!” Infuriated, Emma retorts by owning her sexuality as much as she owns her disease and storms out of the cabin, telling Norman that she didn’t realize his mother was on their date. Just as well… I’m not so sure it was Norma that caused the interrupted coitus. I’m not convinced Norman would have been able to perform at this point.

In a subplot that finally starts bringing Dylan and Uncle Father closer to the main story, Uncle Father falls from the greenhouse they’re building together and cuts his hand badly. In a drunken (and probably concussive) stupor, he tells Dylan that all he wants out of life is to apologize to Norma. I don’t believe it, but Dylan absolutely wants a sense of family harmony. Back at the motel, he runs into some heavies presumably from the Arcanum Club who are presumably looking for the flash drive. Despite Dylan’s advice, Norma refuses to call the police. Constantly hiding, that one is.

When he tells her “I don’t want anything to happen to you,” she hugs him deeply. The look in Dylan’s eyes tells us everything – he desperately wants a reconstituted family. Now, would that include Uncle Father? Creepy brother Norman? The entangled family tree here will make that highly unlikely, I’m afraid.

The episode ends with Norman uncovering Dylan’s secret – that he’s been housing Uncle Father. Pleading with Norman to keep the secret, Dylan confesses that he’s afraid of losing the relationship he’s rebuilt with Norma. His cries fall on Norman’s sick and twisted deaf ears. This is exactly what Norman needs to drive a permanent wedge between Norma and Dylan. Norman may be the need in most need of therapy, but Dylan’s emotional outburst makes him the character we’re starting to root for the most. The shift has gradually occurred through all three seasons, setting up an extremely intriguing dynamic that will undoubtedly carry us through the remainder of the season.

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