Over the past couple weeks, I suspected that ‘Bates Motel’ was ratcheting things up for the Season 2 finale. This week, in the penultimate episode of the season, viewers are treated to not only the best episode this year, but perhaps the best episode of the entire series.
Last week’s episode ended with a mysterious stranger kidnapping Norman. It appeared pretty obvious that Nick Ford was behind it, and sure enough he was. Ford’s men take Norman out into the middle of nowhere and stuff him inside a metal coffin-like box that seems to exist solely for the purpose of locking people inside it. If Norman wasn’t borderline psychotic before, spending time in this box won’t do much for his mental health.
Norma returns to the house after spending the evening with George. She immediately goes to check on Norman, but can’t find him in his bedroom. He’s not in the basement or down at the motel office either. Norma runs into Emma (oh, poor Emma…we’ll get to her problems shortly), but she hasn’t seen him either. Norma starts to become frantic as to Norman’s whereabouts.
Sheriff Romero meets a former partner of his father’s (Romero’s dad must have been a cop too) at one of White Pine Bay’s very ‘Twin Peaks’-like cafés. (The creators get bonus points for having Patsy Cline’s ‘I Fall to Pieces’ playing in the background!) Declan (Francis X. McCarthy) is an expert in giving polygraph tests, and Romero wants him to administer one to Norman. Romero explains that he may have sent the wrong man to prison, although the man he arrested certainly deserved to do time. Declan says something to the sheriff about following the law, to which Romero replies, “If I followed the letter of the law, half the town would be boarded up.”
Norma gets a call from Nick Ford, who tells her that he has Norman. If Norma wants her son back, she needs to make sure Dylan does what Nick has asked of him. Panicked, Norma races over to the warehouse where Dylan works and demands to see him. She tells Dylan the situation, and when she finds out from Dylan that Nick wants him to kill his boss Zane, Norma coldly insists, “You have to do it!”
Dylan goes to see Jodi and tells her that he’s ready to do what needs to be done. He asks for the location where Zane is hiding. Dylan makes his way to the house where Zane is staying, but finds him protected by at least three armed men. Zane doesn’t seem to trust Dylan, and disarms him. He asks Dylan whose side he’s on: his or Jodi’s. When Dylan suggests he thought they were all on the same side, Zane just smiles and lets him go – but makes a show of taking the bullets out of Dylan’s gun before giving it back.
While all of the above is happening, Norman is still stuck in the box. He has visions about his mother promising to always take care of him. A few of Nick’s men arrive to give Norman some food and water, but once they open the box, Norman makes a break for it. The men chase him down and, in the process of dragging him back to the box, find Ms. Watson’s pearl necklace and the newspaper clipping about her death (which Norman has been carrying around with him). One of the men takes the necklace and newspaper clipping to Nick Ford.
Meanwhile, Emma is pretty depressed and feeling lonely. I’m not quite sure what happened to her boyfriend (if they mentioned it in an episode, I either missed it or don’t remember), but she’s feeling ignored and unimportant. Even Sheriff Romero gives her the cold shoulder. Frustrated, Emma gives Norma her two-week’s notice – more as a plea for help than because she’s serious. Yet Norma accepts it without much fanfare or sympathy. I have no idea if Olivia Cooke is leaving ‘Bates Motel’ after this season (honestly, I wouldn’t blame her, as her character hasn’t been given much to do), but as one of the truly wholesome characters on the show, it would be sad to see her go.
George comes to visit Norma at the motel office, not knowing the situation with Norman. He brings Norma some flowers, but Norma is standoffish with him. When George gets testy with her, she screams at him to get the hell out. She immediately feels sorry about yelling, but it’s too late. He’s already sped off in his car. Always the caring one, Emma comes over to comfort Norma.
For most of the episode, Romero tries to track Norman down because he wants to set up that polygraph test, but Norma insists that her son is sick in bed. When Romero comes back and demands to see Norman, Norma confesses that Nick Ford has kidnapped him. Romero leaves and Norma pleas, “What are you going to do?”, to which the sheriff replies, “Please stop asking me that!”
Dylan goes to see Nick Ford, and tells him he wasn’t able to kill Zane. He suggests Nick go there with a bunch of guys and shoot it out. When Dylan gives Nick the address of the house, Nick pulls his gun out and claims that Dylan no longer serves any purpose for him. Dylan lunges at Nick and the two get into a scuffle. Grabbing a poker from the nearby fireplace, Dylan whacks Ford across the head. He grabs him to demand the location of Norman – but it’s too late. Nick Ford is dead.
Still in the box, Norman has a flashback to the night of Ms. Watson’s murder. He remembers having sex with her and then sees a vision of Norma in Ms. Watson’s bedroom with him, telling him, “You know what you have to do.” Norman pulls out a knife and slashes Ms. Watson’s throat. Norman killed her, and now he remembers doing so. Looking up through one of the small holes in the box, Norman screams into the night like a wild animal.
What an episode! Both Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore are fantastic this week. They both really showing off the kind of range they have as actors. This entry shows everything that ‘Bates Motel’ can be when it’s firing on all cylinders, and I can’t wait to see what the producers have in store for us during next week’s season finale.