BATES MOTEL Recap: “Shadow of a Doubt”

     March 11, 2014


So far this season, Bates Motel has been sticking closely by its theme of “what lies beneath.  Nothing is as it seems.  But even aside from the quirks of the people and the place of White Pine Bay, the show’s causal web is also one that is full of surprises, because it’s so narratively dense.  This season, everyone is connected in a way we haven’t seen before, and the show’s expansion of the world has created a revolving door of characters: when one dies off, another one (who is somehow related) comes in to take their place (although the gender balance has gotten off).  Hit the jump for why “I haven’t been in the basement for days!”

bates-motel-season-2-posterIt seems that Bates Motel has graduated from the more personal storyline with Bradley, her father and Gil (as an introduction to the town’s dark underbelly) to a larger-scale one of a potential war between the drug faction in White Pine Bay and a group called The Ford Family.  But Bradley closing the circle, by killing Gil and leaving town, also has left a power void, which will affect Dylan as well as Sheriff Romero.  Though Dylan will need to bide his time until he finds a way to get rid of Zane (who Remo paints a damming portrait of), Romero seems ready to buck the tradition of hiding everything in the town that is unpleasant.

The revelation that the man at the graveyard (who Norman saw) was Blair’s father Nick also illustrates how every act is connected to every other.  Yet Norman and Norma continue to operate on the fringe, not accepted by the town, yet protected by it.  Namely, by Romero, who sheltered Norma from prosecution twice last year, and now seeks to exact some justice on some drug-dealing “shitheel” rather than continue to come up against dead ends in the Blair case.  With that “solved” at least, he can focus on what happened to Gil.  The irony is, of course, that the truth behind Blair’s death is far more interesting than Gil’s, but the decision causes Norman to live in freedom another day.

What makes Bates Motel continue to be so good though is simply Norma.  Her staccato dialogue, her hysteria, her blank-faced determinism to understand and protect Norman all make the show different from other shows about small towns and murder.  In her discussion with the OBGYN about the blackouts, picking up a stack of books about it at the library, and later finding the pearl necklace and confronting Norman about a truth that terrifies both of them, Norma exudes such childlike innocence and curiosity about some things, and such steely resolve about others.  Vera Farmiga continues to give such a strange performance that is at the same time so exciting to watch.  What is Norma going to do next?

bates-motel-cast-season-2With the arrest for Blair’s murder in the books and Bradley on the lam, the show should be making a big turn in the next few episodes towards the next big (likely murderous) event.  What will cause Norman to strike again?  No new women (except perhaps the cashier) have been introduced yet to seduce or interest Norman, but if the show is planning to wait awhile before another incident, it’s smart.  Then again, there is still some doubt that Norman even perpetrated the crime, and the series has been purposefully crafty about not making anything certain (after all, there was that other semen … could it be Norman’s??)

“Shadow of a Doubt” ended with the revelation that Norma’s brother is looking for her.  What new trouble might he bring?  (More questions of incest?)  As Norma and Norman (and Dylan) continue to get pulled deeper into the world of White Pine Bay, the connections will continue to get even more twisted.  Once again, Bates Motel has set up plenty of interesting things to come, while taking care of old business.

Episode Rating: A

Musings and Miscellanea:

— “We live together, we work together, we eat every meal together, we sleep six inches away from each other with a thin wall in between, isn’t that enough??” – Norman. His breakdown outside of the theater was great, because he really embodied that instability.  Yet it was Norma who won out, because of that fragile nature she so often projects.  Norma and Norman are both damaged, and both protect each other.

— “Eh, birth controls doesn’t matter, I’m not having sex” – a dejected-sounding Norma.

bates-motel-vera-farmiga— Emma sure is working late at the motel.

— Norma: “It’ll get you out of the basement.” Norman: “I haven’t been in the basement for days!” These dialogue exchanges just kill me.  They’re so, so weird both in context and outside of it.

— I really love Norma’s dresses.  They evoke that strange time period the show settles on that’s modern, yet calls back to an innocent, 50s vibe.

— That local production seemed really huge and professional, didn’t it?

— A nice exit for Bradley.  I don’t see her returning to the show (they seemed to close that up pretty well), but never say never!

— Norma playing Mr. Sandman and batting her eyelashes at Norman, and him responding with, “I don’t know what you’re doing” was hilarious.

— There are few things better than the way Norma asked out of the blue, “Norman … Do you want to do a musical?”