Review/Recap: Bates Motel "Nice Town You Picked, Norma" [SPOILERS]
Quinn Banford ’15/ Emertainment Monthly Staff
Episode two of Bates Motel is a good follow up to the series premiere as much of the episode is dedicated to developing characters and building up the internal and external conflict. Keep in mind that the pacing of this show is highly dependent upon your gradual knowledge of the characters, and if you know them better than this show will be far more enjoyable to you. While not as intense as the first episode, episode two throws in high tension moments to carry the viewer through the drama and makes the next episode carry high expectations.
At the very beginning the shock value returns with a gruesome car accident as Norman waits for the bus to school. A car speeds past Norman and Bradley, the girl who was getting her flirtation on with him in the premiere episode. The driver crashes into a ditch, Norman and Bradley sprint over to the car, and Norman swings open the driver’s door. Inside is a burned man, charred beyond recognition. This man is Bradley Martin’s father, Jerry Martin. The plot thickens. Details emerge later on in the episode explaining that Mr. Martin owned a warehouse. It was burned to the ground with Mr. Martin inside. Keep note of this suspicious activity as it continues to escalate throughout this episode. Arson isn’t the only wackiness happening in this town.
Norman’s interest in Bradley takes a pause in episode two because of her father’s suspicious accident. Instead, Norman finds himself in the sights of Emma (Olivia Cooke), a fellow classmate who has Cystic Fibrosis (CF). Emma’s condition is a rarity in pop culture norms. The writers seem to approach this issue in a much safer way than the graphic depiction of rape in episode one. Rather, they treat her CF with compassion. Norman and Emma are a dynamic duo. Their relationship develops from a friendship to a kiss in the duration of this episode, so later it will be interesting to see where this romance heads. When Emma finds the notebook full of drawings that Norman found in one of the motel rooms, you hope that she doesn’t get freaked out and run away. Inside the notebook are a fair amount of provocative images which suggest some kind of odd conspiracy going on in town. She takes the notebook home with her and does some research on the drawings. What she finds leads them on an exploration, both for themselves and for the overarching plot.
Their friendship is one of the strongest ones in the show. Even with an oxygen tank, she keeps up with Norman on a hike through a forest. Only once are we reminded that her CF is bothered by the hike, which is actually a pretty progressive take on a disability as compared to other shows. For example, the T.V show House relied on House’s leg injury to excuse his grumpy and snarky attitude. Emma, on the other hand, is sweet. But the nice thing about that characterization is that her illness MAY have been a part of her development. Long story short, the writers introduced her Cystic Fibrosis in a calm and mature way, which will hopefully remain consistent as the show progresses.
While Norman is on this mountain hike with Emma it’s just another beautiful day in the woods; two friends climbing and discovering the back country of their town. And BAM, the two stumble upon a marijuana field. Because that’s what usually happens on hikes anyway. They don’t steal any herbal treatments for their own reasons, but their oblivious nature attracts the attention of some gun toting thugs guarding the field. Cue forest chase scene. The two teens outrun potentially lethal killers and hide away in a small alcove nearby. They make it back to Emma’s car and peel out of the forest in the nick of time.
Episode two was an episode of character development and the viewers were introduced to a new character, Dylan (Max Thieriot). He is Norma’s oldest son from a wedlock marriage in her teens. Dylan is the byproduct of Norma’s teenage pregnancy, and grew up in a single parent household with his financially distraught father. As a result, Dylan is full of angst and acts as the miscreant problem child. He’ll smoke cigarettes because he’s rebellious, he’ll throw a punch if he’s threatened, and he’ll let his mother know that she’s not worthy of his respect because she left Dylan behind with his father. Their relationship is troublesome for the remainder of the episode, but I can see Dylan becoming more redeeming as time goes on. Because there is so much strife within their relationship already, it only makes sense for him to develop into a more caring and heroic character as the season progresses. At this point, the writers have done a nice job by depicting Dylan as the flawed “bad boy”.
One of the more heated points during the show occurs in the Bates’ kitchen between Dylan and Norman. Dylan’s phone starts to ring. “The Whore is calling”, Norman says. Hmmm, who might that be? Yep, you guessed it. It’s their mother, Norma. Norman gets offended and as a result, a scuffle breaks out between the two young men and Norman gets punched in the face several times. These brothers have some explaining to do for their crazy mother, and this happens at the end of the episode. She is not as furious as you would expect her to be. Her protective nature toward Norman makes their relationship increasingly intimate. (Intimate might sound creepy, but if you’re watching this show, you’ll realize that creepy plays as much of a character as Norman does). Changing blouses in front of Norman and telling him that it’s okay to look? Creepy. I have to admit, the show does a fine job with the cringe factor, but that’s exactly what Norman Bates should be represented as.
What should we expect for next time? Norman and Emma’s relationship will experience conflict. Perhaps Bradley or the local drug cartel will be that issue. Either way, something bad is looming above them. Norma and Dylan will continue to bicker back and forth about one another and Norman will fall into that hate hurricane. Really though, Norman is going to be in the middle of as much conflict as possible because he is too innocent as compared to his mother, brother, and other townspeople. Keep in mind that the Bates Motel has yet to open to the public, and might acquire some sketchy guests in the coming episodes. Tune in to Bates Motel on A&E, Mondays @ 10pm.