Though every episode of Bates Motel features a certain amount of damp and gloom, “Meltdown” was a particularly dark hour. White Pine Bay seems to be in the midst of a very rainy week, and that darkness (the interior of Dylan’s office, the Bates’ home, characters only seeming to move around at night) was an integral part of of “Meltdown’s” tone, and a reflection of the inner lives of those on screen. Things are at a low point, and to steal a line from Game of Thrones: “the night is dark and full of terrors.” Hit the jump for why “everything has changed.”
“Meltdown” was a good bridge between last week’s water-treading “Presumed Innocent” and next week’s intense penultimate episode “The Box.” The hour was filled with plot points, primarily moving Dylan into a position where both Jody (the Morgan Family boss) and Nick Ford (the Ford Family boss) want him to “deal” with Zane, before an all-out drug war slaughters the city. What Dylan only just learned though is that Norma is involved as well, and as the promo for “The Box” indicated, Norman is about to get pulled into it all, too.
Norman, of course, presents another issue. While his disappearance is going to make Norma completely insane, the twist they don’t know is that Norman had sex with — and possibly killed (or at least, took mementos from) — Blair Ford. Her father’s insistence several times over this hour about the importance of family bonds between children and their parents reinforces the idea that if he’s made aware of Norman’s intimate and possibly criminal involvement with his daughter, things might really blow up. (The show was smart about making it emotional and not necessarily a legal issue, though, since someone else was convicted for the crime).
Bates Motel has always created decent stakes for a show whose ending we know. It’s not afraid to kill off or lose characters. Since nothing fatal will happen to Norman or Norma (at least, not yet), it’s not a question of whether Nick Ford will kill Norman. It’s about what Dylan and Norma will do — how far they will go — to protect Norman, and the impact his imprisonment and his fallout with Norma will have on him.
“Meltdown” did an excellent job of giving a new dimension to Norma and Norman’s relationship, through Norman’s behavior and “being a dick.” He was angry, then apathetic, pushing Norma away because of his hurt over her not revealing his blackouts to him. Norma played all of the cards from her emotional deck, as Norman can now see (much like Dylan does). But Norma’s feelings are real, complicated, and a little creepy. Mentions of mother/son dates, her wearing a low-cut dress and goading him about her staying out late with George, their later confrontation about loving each other more than anyone ever could … all of these things had weird, sexual overtones, especially when Norma fled George’s because she was so upset about Norman, but later returned to seduce him.
The most anxiety now should be given over to Romero, who often tries to prevent himself from knowing the truth about anything so that he can survive in the town. Him pressing Norman about having sex with Blair was a touchy moment, and one that led Norman to (for the second time in the hour) retreat to his dark room and give a blank stare into the void. Bates Motel has carefully built Romero up to an enigmatic but likable figure, and it would be a shame to lose him. Then again, perhaps once the drug war is neutralized and his allegiances made clear, he’ll be an even bigger part of the Bates’ life, particularly in protecting Norman (which is what he does best — selective justice).
“Meltdown” was an hour devoted to moving pieces into place, but also had important emotional ramifications. It also provided an excellent cliffhanger. Though this episode was devoted to a darkening world, next week, the darkness finally seems to take over.
Episode Rating: B+
Musings and Miscellanea:
— I’m thinking that the deputy is going to keep causing problems for Romero. I wonder who she’ll spill the beans about Norman to. (Or if she’ll get Romero fired).
— “And you know what we could do is prosecute Blair Watson for having sex with a minor … oh, shit, she’s dead” – Romero.
— “You don’t start a drug war unless you are prepared for a slaughter until the last man standing” – Nick.
— Things might be more complicated if they didn’t make Zane such a one-dimensional insane villain. And why doesn’t Jody do something about it? I’d like to think she’s been manipulating Dylan all along emotionally, but I’m not sure. She seems kind of useless if not.
— Do so many woman on the show have to have a reputation for sleeping around? Blair, Jody …
— “That’s the great thing about taxidermy, it goes with everything” – Norman.
— Once again, the show belonged to Vera Farmiga and her meltdown about Norman (and her later seduction of George — those panties came off fast!) I also loved her being impressed by Dylan’s office, but worrying about workplace safety!
— “You are beholden to me” – Nick.
— At least Emma got a car ride out of this episode. Sheesh.