At first glance, there’s not a ton of stuff going on plot-wise in Season 2’s fifth episode (the midpoint of the season) of ‘Bates Motel’. However, despite not moving the story forward very much, this week’s entry turns out to be the best episode of the season so far.
Those of you who’ve followed these recaps on a weekly basis should be well aware that I’ve been less than thrilled with ‘Bates Motel’ this season. While the storyline has been semi-interesting, the actual execution has been pretty poor. The show has missed much of the fun banter and dark humor that was present in Season 1. I’m happy to report Episode 5 (entitled ‘The Escape Artist’) recaptures some of that magic. Although the show still has a way to go to match the entertainment of last season, this week’s episode at least proves that the series hasn’t jumped the shark quite yet.
Take, for example, an early scene between Sheriff Romero and Norma at the Bates Motel. Romero has come to ask for a room because his house got burned to the ground last week. Instead of just checking him in, Norma badgers the sheriff with questions and comments, as Romero gets increasingly annoyed with her. Not long after this scene, there’s a wonderful moment between Norman and Emma. As she talks about her new boyfriend, Norman starts to get jealous. Again, we’re provided with a wonderful and occasionally humorous exchange between two of the show’s main characters.
That’s not to say that this episode is perfect. Far too much time is spent building a relationship between Norman and his new girlfriend, Cody. With due respect to the young actress playing her, Cody is by far the least interesting character on ‘Bates Motel’ right now. Even though we learn that she has a pretty rough family life (she has a mean father who may be abusing her), there’s absolutely zero chemistry between her and Norman. At one point in the episode, she takes Norman to a secret treehouse out in the woods where the two of them have sex. Well, at least we know now that things probably aren’t going to go well for Cody, as Norman is probably not the best of boyfriends to latch onto.
Far more interesting is the stuff going on with Norma this week. Although there’s no sign of her new admirer, George, she spends a great deal of time with Romero, and the chemistry between the two actors is quite good. While we may not see anything happen between the two this season, I’m betting that the producers have something lined up between them further down the road.
Norma goes to meet the mysterious Nick Ford on a boat that’s bigger than most people’s houses. Ford doesn’t say much during their meeting, but he gives Norma the name of a man and tells her to go meet him. Also during their conversation, Norma says that the most bothersome person on the city council is the man (forgive me for not remembering his name) who berated her at the meeting she attended. Nick tells Norma not to worry about him… and, indeed, at the end of this episode, Norma will discover that the councilman was found dead after his car ran off the road.
Before she learns that, however, Norma makes her way to the man Ford told her to meet, who turns out to be a local biologist with a folder worth of paperwork he wants Norma to file at City Hall. It turns out that the new bypass is going to be built on the home of the endangered Pistol River Pocket Gopher. (Any relation to the Pine Weasel? A few of you will get that!) By filing a protest, Norma should be able to get an injunction against the construction.
Although it’s not particularly significant to any of the ongoing stories, it’s probably worth noting that young Emma finally has sex with her new boyfriend, Gunner. Before that happens, she asks Norma what having sex for the first time is like. Of course, considering her past, Norma is exactly that last person you’d want to ask that question to, but she’s nice enough to Emma when she brings it up.
Dylan doesn’t get much screen time this week, but his moments are significant. First, he learns that his boss, Zane, wants to meet with him at a Mexican restaurant. (Dylan’s buddy Remo isn’t invited.) Before he makes it to the meeting, Zane runs into Romero, who gives him a serious beat-down for torching his house. So Zane is pretty beat-up when he arrives to meet Dylan. When the two leave the meeting, a black car comes cruising down the road and opens fire on them. Dylan pushes Zane safely to the ground and shoots back at the car. The car circles around and heads back, and Dylan goes all Gary Cooper on it, stepping out unprotected into the middle of the street to take shots at it. He manages to hit the passenger, but the driver hits Dylan with the car, sending him flying over the top and injuring him badly.
The final scene has Dylan waking up in a hospital bed to a female face (Kathleen Robertson). She identifies herself as both Zane’s sister and Dylan’s boss. So this is the “big bad” that runs one of the two major drug rings in White Pine Bay? Looks like it!
Again, not a whole lot happens this week in terms of plot progression, but the episode has some very nice moments between the actors. Still, there’s nothing as engaging this season as there was in Season 1, where Norma tried to hide dead bodies, mysterious strangers checked into town, and a deputy was involved in human trafficking. By comparison, drug dealing and trying to stop a bypass from being built seem sort of lame. Not to mention the fact that Romeo no longer seems interested in solving the murders of Miss Watson or Gil. (In fact, the two haven’t even been mentioned for a couple of episodes.)
With five episodes to go, the series still has time to spring back to life… but the clock is ticking.