There’s good news and bad news when it comes to this week’s episode of ‘Bates Motel’. The bad news is that, in terms of storyline advancement, this week is all about setting things up rather than any real progression. The good news – and it’s really good news – is that the show has finally brought back the witty dark humor that was absent in both the season premiere as well as the majority of last season’s episodes.
When we last saw Norman, he returned to the motel in Annika’s car after either dropping her off at a restaurant or killing her. (We’re not sure which.) As this week’s entry begins, Norma brings some fresh towels to Annika’s room, but of course, no one answers the door. Going back up to the house, Norma heads down to the basement where Norman is working on his latest bit of taxidermy: a baby goat. Norman swears to his mother that he has no idea where Annika is, nor has he seen her.
Norma talks to Emma down in the motel office and learns that Norman actually took Annika for a drive the previous night. She storms back up to the house fuming mad and asks Norman why he lied to her. Norman says he didn’t want to tell his mother that he drove without a license, and also tells her that Annika was a call girl. Norma then drags him along and drives to the restaurant where Norman claims to have dropped Annika off, but the staff there doesn’t remember her.
If there’s one problem that continues on ‘Bates Motel’, it’s that the writers don’t seem to have a clue what to do with the character of Dylan at this point. After the return of his father, Caleb, in last week’s premiere, the two are still hanging out with Emma’s former boyfriend, Gunner, up at Dylan’s cabin. While sitting around the campfire one night, Gunner’s pet dog gets attacked by another dog, and Caleb has to shoot the attacking animal. Not long afterwards, a bearded stranger shows up and introduces himself as Chick Hogan (Ryan Hurst from ‘Sons of Anarchy’, doing his best Jeff Bridges stoner impersonation). Chick claims that his dog is missing. Dylan says that he knows nothing about it. Later in the episode, Dylan and Caleb will visit Chick at his own cabin, and learn that he’s quite interested in how many marijuana plants Dylan is growing. As for his dog, Chick confesses that he doesn’t own one. It’s obvious here that Caleb and Chick will be at odds with each other for most of this season, but frankly, this is a pretty uninteresting storyline and one that seems disconnected from everything else happening on the show.
Because Annika still hasn’t returned to the motel, Emma suggests to Norma that they search the girl’s room. Digging through her things, Norma finds an invitation to something called the Arcanum Club, which Emma claims is an exclusive members-only hunting club that she heard her father mention a few times when he was still alive, but didn’t like to talk about. When leaving Annika’s room, Norma runs into Sheriff Romero, who tells her that he’s ending his stay at the motel now that his house is ready. (It was burned down last season, for those who don’t remember.) He gives Norma a check for his stay, then gives her an awkward hug followed by an even more awkward kiss. Norma tells him that she always felt safe while he was staying there.
Norman and Emma finally go out on their first date, and yes – it’s as odd as you might imagine. The conversation turns to sex and then, creepily, to Peter Pan.
Meanwhile, Norma takes the invitation she found in Annika’s room and attempts to get into the exclusive club. She drives up to the gates and shows her invite, but is turned away when she doesn’t know the password. (I’m guessing it’s “Fidelio.”) Refusing to admit defeat, Norma drives around to the back of the property and climbs over a wall to sneak up to the club (which sure looks to me to be the same house/set that was used by Norma’s boyfriend George last season). She creeps up to the window of a cabin on the grounds and sees a guy sitting in a chair watching people in front of him have sex. So, it’s one of those parties… you know, the kind I never get invited to.
Anyway, Norma gets caught snooping by Sheriff Romero, who happens to be a guest, although he swears he’s not there for what Norma just witnessed. Yeah, you’re not fooling anyone, eyelash boy. He tells Norma to get out of there before someone catches her.
On the way home, Norma sees a construction zone with a sign for the bypass that will no doubt ruin her motel business. She gets out of her car and throws a tantrum, chucking construction items at the sign. Then she hops back into her car, backs up to get a starting run, and drives right into the sign, knocking it over.
Back at the motel, Emma drives Norman home from their date. The two share a kiss, but Norman stops and tells Emma that he doesn’t want to start anything he can’t finish. Emma leaves and Norma returns just as Norman is walking back up toward the house. Norman tells his mother that he’s been worried about her and that she needs to stop worrying about him.
The episode ends with a dog (not Gunner’s) barking at something it sees in a lake. The camera pans over to reveal a woman’s body floating face down in the water. Is it Annika? Stay tuned!
I really enjoyed this episode, even though not a whole lot happens. It has tons of witty banter and uncomfortableness between characters that reminded me of how good this series can be when it’s firing on all cylinders. As for that body we see at the conclusion, even if it is Annika, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Norman killed her. Viewers know that some odd things are definitely going on up at that hunting club, and anyone there – maybe even the sheriff himself (though I doubt it) – could be responsible for her demise.