After a couple of ho-hum episodes, ‘Bates Motel’ returns with a bang – quite literally – this week, in what is easily this season’s best episode, and perhaps the strongest episode of the entire series.
Following her confrontation by Dylan and Norman about her brother Caleb, Norma packs up her things and takes off in her car. To say Norman doesn’t react well to his mother’s desertion is an understatement. He has a screaming fit and breaks just about every dish in the kitchen. Meanwhile, Norma speeds down the highway, crying, and refuses to answer her cell phone. When Dylan repeatedly calls and texts her, Norma pulls over to the side of the road, throws the phone on the ground and shoots it.
That isn’t the only gunplay the opening moments give us. As Sheriff Romero exits a grocery store, a car drives by and the driver shoots at him. Romero goes down… He’s been hit!
Norma drives to Portland, Oregon and goes on a bit of a shopping spree at a clothing store called “New World.” She buys a slutty red outfit with a white coat and wears them out of the store. She then drives her car over to a local dealership to trade it in. She winds up driving off in a new red sports car. (I expect we’ll see the return of her iconic Mercedes at some point.) She checks in at a local motel. While lying on the bed, she has a flashback to when she was a young girl and she and Caleb had to hide under the porch because their father was beating up their mother.
Back at the Bates’ house, Emma comes to check on things. When Dylan explains the situation, she offers to stay the night to help keep watch over Norman.
Romero wakes up in the hospital. He’s been shot in the left shoulder, but will otherwise be okay. He insists that the nurse bring him his cell phone, and he tries to call Norma to warn her that she might be in danger. Of course, since Norma’s phone has a few bullets in it, no one picks up.
Norma leaves the motel and heads to a local honkytonk bar, where a guy named Taylor flirts with her. They drink, dance a bit, and then head out to Taylor’s truck, where they start making out. However, when Taylor tries to take off his pants, Norma freaks out and leaves. Yep, the same thing happens to me on my dates.
Norman has a number of strange dreams/hallucinations in this episode, starting with one where he goes into his mother’s room and sees the walls cracking and coming apart. Later, he has a second hallucination where he’s performing taxidermy on a bird that comes back to life, and Norman strangles it to death once again. Also, the stuffed dog, which was Norman’s first taxidermy project, is very much alive in this scene.
While Emma is staying at the Bates’ home, she starts to cough badly and asks if Dylan will help her get the phlegm out of her chest. Lying on the bathroom floor, Emma tells him that he needs to cup his hands and pound vigorously on her chest. Yes, I’m guessing this scene was pure hell for actor Max Thieriot to perform! There’s definitely an attraction going on between Emma and Dylan here. Will a future episode have Norman catching them both together? And will he wind up killing one or both of them? I’m guessing that’s a pretty strong possibility down the road.
Back at the hospital, Romero gets a visit from Marcus, his upcoming rival in the sheriff’s election. Marcus tells Romero that his losing the election is a done deal, but offers him a job working for him after he becomes the new sheriff. Romero says he’ll think about it, and Marcus says he’ll be back in 24 hours for his answer. However, when Marcus gets in his car to leave, his window suddenly shatters. Romero has followed him out to the car. They struggle, then Romero grabs Marcus’ gun and shoots him dead. Jumping into the car (with Marcus’ body next to him in the passenger’s seat), Romero takes off in the vehicle.
Norma gives her psychiatrist friend, James, a call and asks if she can come over. When she arrives, she tells him the truth about what happened to her husband – that Norman killed him. She then realizes what she has said and begs James to forget what he heard. One thing leads to another and the two kiss. James tries to stop, saying he could lose his license, but Norma continues to seduce him.
At the Bates’ house, Dylan hears sounds coming from the kitchen and finds Norman there, wearing one of Norma’s dresses, preparing food and thinking that he’s actually Norma. Dylan doesn’t try to snap him out of it, but rather just allows him to continue his delusion. This is certainly one of the creepier scenes we’ve seen on the series, and a strong sign that Norman is edging closer and closer to becoming a full-blown psycho.
Norma finally comes home and tells her two sons to get in the car, because they’re all going to see Caleb. When they arrive at Dylan’s farm and Caleb sees Norma, he cries and falls on his knees, sobbing “I’m sorry… I’m sorry!” over and over again. Norma doesn’t say anything, but embraces him, showing that she’s willing to forgive. However, while watching the reunion, Norman gets a mean look in his eyes, like he’s jealous of the attention Norma is giving her brother.
From beginning to end, this is a fantastic episode and really shows off what this series is capable of when the writing is strong. (This entry was written by series co-creator Kerry Ehrin.) Both Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga give amazing performances this week, even though the two don’t share a whole lot of screen time together. When all is said and done and ‘Bates Motel’ completes its run, fans will remember this episode as one of the very best.