First of all: AHHHHH! Second of all, for anyone who thought Bates Motel would just be a pale imitator to Psycho, as we finish up this first season its been very apparent that there are plenty of places and ways for it to develop that both establish a background to the canon naturally (Norman’s “episodes,” Norma’s control, the taxidermy, the hotel itself), while flourishing in its own new plots. As I mentioned last week, the wrapping up of the Shelby storyline felt final, but one of the main tenents of the series is that nothing is ever really dead. How they bring back these stories and incorporate them with new ones (like the Man in Number 9), has been spellbinding to watch unfold. Hit the jump for more on why you should never handle anything, Norma.
I have to start with Zach Shelby’s corpse because Odin’s beard that was gross and awesome and terrifying. I can’t imagine there was a single person who didn’t think Norma would something (or someone) unpleasant at the top of the stairs, but I thought it might be Abernathy himself, or the Chinese girl. But he’s much too subtle for that — his creepiness emanates from him, and he would never expose himself by attacking her outright like Keith Summers or even Shelby did. He says that Summers was the bottom rung of the ladder and that he was the top — are we to presume then that he is the boss-boss? Gil’s boss who Dylan’s surly partner alluded to? Abernathy had a deal with Norma to bring his “business associates” there on a schedule where they were not to be disturbed — his advent occurred at the same time as the trimmers that Dylan had been sent to fetch. Were these actually Abernathy’s guests? In which case Norma didn’t “handle” anything at all (no surprise there) since Dylan subverted her attempts unknowingly.
Shelby’s body was a two-fold message from Abernathy: “I know you ‘knew’ Zach Shelby,” and “don’t mess with me, lady.” Of course it might be too late for Norma to backtrack now (it looks like Abernathy is coming for her), and she certainly won’t get any help from the Sheriff’s office. Though trying to get some agency in her life by making a power play with Abernathy, she loses, because she has no power. Her seduction techniques certainly won’t work on him, not that she would dare try, but they also didn’t work on Romero, who could not have been blanker or colder with her in his office. Her control on Norman is waning as well, even though she can’t hide her own crazy to the therapist when she continually interjected during Norman’s session.
Only Dylan consistently does the right thing and establishes a tiny bit of power from it, proving why he is Remo’s boss because he actually does posses “leadership skills.” He’s quiet and fair, but harsh when he needs to be. He didn’t back down when the loudmouth hippie was suitably humbled by Dylan’s gun, but used him as an example. He also didn’t judge him based solely on Remo’s dislike of him, but allowed him to dig his own grave before handling him. Unfortunately, Dylan is excelling in a business he hoped to not be in for long, but as Remo tells him, “you can’t quit.” You can get fired, but … it’s better not to think about what that means.
Still rumbling along is the teenager drama, where Emma confronted the mean girls (which was badass) and Norman ran off from school, still holding a candle for Bradley, who wants nothing to do with him. It was always weird that Norman was accepted by that group so quickly and easily, but then again, new kids are always cool for a little while. Now Norman is back in his place in the normal social strata, that being at the bottom with the “freaks” like Emma. I’m surprised Emma hasn’t said anything else to Norman about the Chinese girl or the death of Shelby at the Motel, but then again, those kinds of things seem pretty normal in White Pine Bay. The only thing that anyone can focus on is making sure they have just enough power to stay alive.
Episode Rating: A-
— I can’t pinpoint what it is exactly, but there’s something kinda off about Norman’s concerned teacher.
— One thing that this show does exceptionally well is trick us with music. When Norman is around Abernathy there are sinister strings in the background, illustrating her anxiety. Though he never makes a move and just more or less stands or sits there, it sets us on the edge of anticipation. Meanwhile, when Norma and Dylan bonded and she bounded up the stairs to a whimsical soundtrack, there was a corpse. Gotcha!
— Ahhh that ole “two alphas have to fight to establish order, and then become friends after bashing each other’s face in.” Although I wouldn’t say Remo and Dylan are friends, but I think that it established further respect from Remo.
— Romero putting Norma in her place was both sad and great.
— The therapy session had me laughing — it reminded me of an early scene in Mad Men when Betty takes Sally for therapy and the psychiatrist suggests that she needs it more than her daughter.
— Norma’s look when Norman said he was learning taxidermy slayed me, especially the other little touches too like her brandishing that feather duster and him twirling in the chair. Also Norma backtracking on calling Emma’s dad a freak was classic Norma.
— “I felt it was dishonorable to put her in the ground” – Norman. Hmmm …