Bates Motel Episode 2 Review and Recap
Nice Town You Picked, Norma
After an interesting season premiere with a considerably large audience, I was waiting to see what direction “Bates Motel” was going to take. This week, the second episode added on many more layers to the story as viewers got a much larger look into Norman Bates and the strange environment surrounding him.
“Nice Town You Picked, Norma” certainly maintained my interest with a plethora of character additions, story reveals and plot-building that kept me wondering as to exactly what kind of show this is supposed to be. My guess is that the ultimate purpose of the story is to get an audience to feel sympathetic towards a protagonist (Norman) who eventually becomes a sociopathic murderer. Throughout the past five years or so, there has been a shaking up of the television show formula by shows that make audiences feel sympathetic towards nearly irredeemable protagonists. Shows like “The Sopranos,” “Dexter” and the almighty “Breaking Bad” have worked this technique well in the past, and it appears as if this is the course “Bates Motel” is going to take.
This week’s episode opened up with Norman scoping out the drawings of the tortured women he stumbled across in the last episode, which continued the emphasis on his developing psychological problems. He is abruptly interrupted and clumsily hides the drawings between his mattresses. From there, we are introduced to Norman’s half-brother, Dylan.
In the next scene, Norman and Norma’s exchange brings to light their disdain for Dylan. Dylan interrupts them and is disrespectful and rude (he doesn’t even call her Norma mom). He tells both of them that he is simply there because he has no other place to go.
What I find interesting about Norman’s brother is that he is almost the complete opposite of him. Norman is reserved, Dylan is extroverted and expressive; Norman is dependent on his mother, Dylan is not dependent on anyone. Their exchanges put a whole new complexion on the Norman Bates character that may prove to be one of the stronger points of the show.
Norman then ventures to the bus stop where his crush, Bradley, invites him to study (play on, Norman). The scene is then interrupted by a speeding car that crashes into a ditch. Bradley realizes it’s her father’s car and races to the wreckage. Norman forces the door open to find her father burnt nearly to death. We find out from the Sheriff that the man was David Martin and somebody set fire to a warehouse he owned while he was trapped inside. While on the scene, one of the Sheriff’s deputies discovers Keith Summers’ truck (the man Norma murdered in the previous episode) parked in a field right next to the Bates’ property. Norma doesn’t handle questioning well and the Sheriff grows more suspicious of her.
Norman heads to the hospital and attempts to give Bradley a flower and her boyfriend cuts him off. He plays the jealous douche for a minute while Norman awkwardly tries to explain himself. The jealous boyfriend gives him a dirty look as Norman scurries off in a defeated shame-walk.
The following scene provided a moment of comedic relief with a man crying while throwing back a few drinks at a strip club. Dylan glances over at him and the man gets semi-hostile with him. Dylan looks away and the weeping man becomes apologetic. He explains that his boss was badly burnt in a terrible accident and probably won’t make it (obviously, it’s Bradley’s father from earlier on in the episode). Dylan offers his condolences and the man buys him a drink. Dylan then notices his fat stack of money and asks him where he can get that kind of money.
Dylan heads home and argues more with Norma. It is revealed that Dylan and Norman have different fathers and that Norma left Dylan’s father for Norman’s father, Sam. Things get heated, as there is some genuine resentment between both of them. Once again, the emphasis on Dylan being the polar opposite of Norman is being established.
The next scene contrasts the one preceding it as Norma and Norman are vigorously cleaning the kitchen to get rid of any evidence of the murder of Keith Summers. Norman’s new friend and study-partner (Emma) arrives and Norma enters control-mode and asks her a million questions (it got awkward when she stomped on boundaries by the asking about the her illness). It turns out the girl has CF (Cystic Fibrosis) and is hoping for a lung-transplant. Norma wishes Emma well, and then morbidly asks her life expectancy (which was 27).
Emma discovers Norman’s notebook of tortured women drawings. She finds them fascinating and asks him if she can borrow the notebook to which he agrees. Later on, the Sheriff comes to Norma’s house to interrogate her about Keith Summers. He tells her he has an eyewitness of an argument they were having. The two argue while she stand her ground and refuses to let them search her house without a warrant.
In the next scene, Norma flirts with the Sheriff’s deputy and gets him to ask her out for coffee. During their coffee date, the plot thickens, and she finds out that Sheriff Romero and Keith Summers were childhood friends (and that is why he is taking his disappearance so personally). The deputy then invites Norma to the town woodchuck festival.
The following scene was just chalk-full of weirdness between Norman and his mother. She is trying on dresses for her big date with the clueless deputy and Norman is obviously jealous. The Oedipal themes continued as she changed in front of Norman with Norman giving her some not-so-normal glances.
From there, Dylan finds out how the weeping strip club patron from earlier obtained that fast stack of dollar bills (he’s a gangster). He meets his gangster boss (I presume) whose opening question to Dylan was, “Do you know how to use a gun.”
There is a major conflict scene at the heart of this episode between Dylan and Norman when Dylan receives a phone call from someone listed as “The Whore” in his cellphone. When Norman finds out that it is the listing for his mother, he flips out and tries to attack him. After Dylan handles his little brother with ease and tells him to back off, Norman attempts to bludgeon him with a hammer while Dylan’s back is turned. He misses and Dylan knocks him out with a couple of solid shots to the face. While Norman is lying on the ground, he simply says, “She is not a whore.” This is the first time we’ve seen a sociopathic side of Norman and the trigger (his mother) to set it off.
During the town festival, the deputy implies that there is a crime syndicate of some kind in the unnamed town she is living in. When she comes back, she discovers Norman’s bruised-up face and decides she wants to kick Dylan out for beating up her favorite son. When she attempts to do so, Dylan essentially blackmails her into letting him stay (by insinuating he would tell former friends and colleagues of her late husband of their marital problems).
The chilling past of the Bates Motel was also revealed when Emma researched the notebook Norman let her borrow. As it turns out, someone (perhaps the owner of the notebook) brought over four Chinese immigrants over to be sold as sex slaves. Through Emma’s research, she finds out that one of them died and is buried in a mountain called “Ladyface.” Emma suggests they go find the grave and kisses Norman. (Play on, Norman. Play on). During the search for the grave, they stumble upon a field of marijuana plants. They are spotted by a couple of men with assault rifles and they run for their lives. In the midst of the chase, they find the grave but could not stop because of the imminent danger that was closing in.The episode closed with Norma driving by another burning man hanging upside down with a group of onlookers gazing on in horror.
One thing I can say that I didn’t like about this week’s episode is that I thought it might be revealing too much, too fast. I will admit that it seems like this show has a good story to tell, but there were moments in this week’s episode where I felt as if they were showing their cards before it’s time to check or raise. The first season is critical in the survival of a show and it can become easy to bewilder a new audience by dumping the story on them all at once. Don’t get me wrong because I do think “Bates Motel” is building to something, and too much story is certainly better than the absence of a story at all.