Bates Motel‘s “Check-Out” was an episode about consequence. The series has done a great job of weaving everything together, so that every action has a repercussion somewhere in the causal web of White Pine Bay. It makes for tight narratives, but it could also lead to the problem of an over-reliance on coincidence and convenience. Instead, Bates Motel embraces that and turns it into a motif, where every “coincidence” seems manifested from the sinister atmosphere of the location. And instead of being a convenience, it’s a horror. Hit the jump for why you can check-out, but you can never leave …
Though most of the characters are actively hiding secrets (though as Emma points out, maybe there’s a difference between hiding and not wanting to be seen), even when they are revealed, they can be half-truths or mired in confusion. “Check-Out” found Dylan bandied about between Norma and Caleb’s memories and realities. Was he Caleb’s son or Norma’s high-school boyfriend’s? Was he a consequence, or an opportunity? Was Norma raped, or was she consenting? But “Check-Out” didn’t draw these questions out for too long. The search for truth pushed everything off kilter for the hour, but ultimately it seemed like Caleb had definitely abused Norma, and she did use Dylan as an out (while still resenting him and all men in her life, except Norman, from there on out).
Norma’s ability to seduce is a lynchpin of the series, but even it is complicated to consider. Most of the time she doesn’t seem aware of her power, and other times, she tries to play it up (which is less successful). Her manipulations of Norman are somewhere in between. She tries to protect him and keep him from attacking and harming sometimes, but she also seems to goad him into doing something about Caleb. Her asking-but-not-asking doesn’t quite do the trick though, and Norman stops himself when he’s with Cody (“Take me away from here” suggests too that he recognizes he needs a minder). But he can never resist Norma’s cries for help, and after hearing her break down to Dylan, he goes into one of his states to seek revenge.
Even in the strange and nightmarish world of White Pine Bay, there’s nothing quite so disturbing as seeing Norman embody his mother. His voice changed as he confronted Caleb about “raping me, your younger sister.” Caleb rightfully considers him to be certifiably nuts, and Norman didn’t get any justice there as Caleb easily threw him down and neutralized him. But it was the most overt call-out to Psycho that the show has portrayed. Blair Watson’s death was a first, unseen clue. For Norman to go full-out into Norma mode — not just hearing her voice, but embodying her — is a new step. Him being thwarted in his killing of Caleb though showed narrative restraint. One thing at a time. He has to grow into his role of monster.
“Check-Out” was full of confrontations and consequences, and outside of the Bates family, that also included Emma and her drunken non-hook-up, as well as Romero’s threatening of Zane to stop rocking the White Pine boat (and getting his house is burned down as thanks for that warning). What the situation is with Christine’s interest in Norma, as well as her brother George’s role in their lives is still uncertain, but it was a nice mirror of (seemingly) functional siblings versus Norman and Caleb. Once again, there’s a comfort and a frightening implication in the way everything connects. Norman, for instance, didn’t seem very happy to interact with “the other man.” And we know what happened to the last one …
Episode Rating: A
Musings and Miscellanea:
— I’m increasingly convinced that the creators of Bates Motel used the Eagles’ “Hotel California” as a template for the show.
— We haven’t seen Emma’s dad (Ian Hart) in awhile. Maybe because he’s been featured in so many other shows recently (Klondike, My Mad Fat Diary). Too bad, he’s a great actor!
— I think that Emma is one of the most naturally-written characters on the show, and all of her scenes these week were great (her dialogue, as I’ve mentioned in the past, is some of the best). Her saying that this opportunity for her to have sex could be her first and last though was sad.
— “Check-Out” was the first time we’ve seen some of that beautiful Oregon scenery in awhile (at the docks).
— Poor Dylan. But I like the way he hinted at Norman’s own issues and Norma covering it up, which later played into Norman’s quasi-awareness of the violence he’s capable of.
— Cody is at least another female character for Norman to interact with, but it would be nice for them to use Emma more in that capacity again. Also, Cody is a rough as a corn cob.
— Was Norman listening to Katy Perry, or was that Emma who had it on?
— “I’m a consequence. I can’t put this behind me, it’s me. How can I put me behind me?” – Dylan.
— Norman’s voice when he said, “I’ve been silenced long enough.” Eeesh!
— Motherboy cuddle time!