“Underwater” was an interesting but fragmented penultimate episode for Bates Motel‘s first season, especially after that shocker last week. This may have been my least favorite episode of the season, because though it set up a final showdown really well, I don’t feel all that invested with the Abernathy situation yet. We know he’s an uber villain who was Shelby and Keith Summers boss, but his vague threats to Norma seemed to reflect more of her own craziness than his. Norman hardly had anything to do this week, and Bradley continues to successfully manipulate everyone in town. Hit the jump for why crazy people keep gravitating towards Norma (hint: she’s crazy!)
As suspected, the local economy of White Pine Bay revolves around pot, something that sends Norma right over the edge and ready to take off to Hawaii. Norman explodes at her over her decisions, unleashing that burning fury inside him. But it’s Norma who really takes the crazy cake this week (not the be confused with the pot brownie), as she becomes riddled with anxiety over Abernathy’s return. The thing about Norma’s “crazy” though is that a lot of it is justified at its core: yes, there’s a creepy man who has made veiled threats, yes it was wrong of the realtor to not disclose the highway situation, yes Norma is within her rights to ban pot at her motel. It’s just the way it comes out though that makes it so bizarre. She’s so wrapped up in her own understanding of things, she can’t fathom why people don’t see it as she does, a prime example being when she called the Sheriff’s office and said “tell him that that man sent me flowers!”
On the whole though, “Underwater” stalled out the momentum that has been steadily building this season, and hinged entirely on “where’s my money?” Norma is frantic to get her investment back on the motel so she can whisk Norman away to an island (it’s safe because island!), Gil discourages a discussion about Jerry Martin with Dylan because of the $100k he lost in the fire. And of course there is the big showdown next week that revolves around Abernathy getting his $150k from Norma (who has it?)
Though I like Dylan, the plots about his workplace have never been my favorites, and to combine that with Bradley’s obvious flirtatious machinations was a bit of a drag. Unlike Norman, Dylan does into the situation with eyes wide open, but still lets her get away with what she wanted. She found love letters and was upset, and I’m sure we’ll find out soon who “B” was. For now though, it’s just an affair between two people we didn’t know, and a new mystery at a weird place in the season. The men hate Jerry Martin for losing them money because of the fire, but we don’t know enough yet to understand what that really means in any kind of context.
Outside of the money plot, Norman meanwhile is having murder fantasies about Bradley, and admits them cheerily to Dylan. I didn’t understand how Dylan could even ask the question “you don’t really want to hurt anybody … do you?” Dylan, your brother tried to brain you with a meat cleaver. You should know by now that he’s capable of pretty much anything. Whether Dylan is stupid enough to get physically involved with Bradley remains to be seen, but just them hanging out together could send Norman over the edge. After all, there is a man burning inside him!
There was a lot of setup in “Underwater,” but not enough action to keep things particularly interesting. Norman gets somewhat creepy praise and individual attention from Miss Watson regarding his burning man story, but she doesn’t seem to connect that it’s Norman’s own crazy coming up to choke him (even though she knows he’s “disturbed”). I’m sure there will be something to come out of that, but for now, Miss Watson does what everyone does and encouraged Norman to get away from Norma (or at least, not let her completely run his life). But the end of the episode showed her crawling into bed with him which could potentially be justified in some way, although the history with these two leaves it suspect.
The major redeeming factor was Emma and Gunner, and Emma consuming the pot brownie. As I’ve said in the past, Bates Motel has done a great job at building up the side characters so that they are able to have interesting plots of their own, so while Emma spent most of the episode by herself, it was actually more engaging that most of the other action (even though it didn’t really serve a purpose, it was still a nice interlude).
Next week I have a feeling that some bombshells will be dropped, but that there will still be plenty of mystery left for Season Two. Most of all, I’m hoping that the Chinese girl who ran off into the woods comes back and wreaks some havoc!
Episode Rating: B-
Musings and Miscellanea:
— Though many of us speculated Romero might be in on everything, I’m really not so sure. I think it could go one of two ways: either he’s completely clueless, or he’s some kind of extremely high-up boss. He seems reluctant to help Norman because, well, she’s crazy (and I loved the awkward pause after she says she doesn’t understand why those kinds of people are drawn to her), but he does actually help her (and himself) when it comes down to it.
— RIP (again) Zach Shelby
— Dylan: “this is just setting fire to $600!” Norman: “Do you want to sleep where a dead body was?” Dylan: “That’s why Lysol’s for!”
— “I heard it was fun but I’m not having any fun, when does the fun start?” – High, paranoid Emma and her walking stick.
— Every time Dylan and Remo seem to turn a corner … nope!
— Juno’s home! “That’s just weird, dude.”
— Why wouldn’t Norma like the short story? And why did that revelation occur after she slept in his bed? Eesh.
— “Funny you went into the service industry, because you don’t seem to want to serve anybody.” – Romero
— Norma assaulting the realtor was hilarious.