It’s the next-to-last episode of ‘Bates Motel’ Season 3, and this week seems to be a lot about set-up as the pieces are put in place for what could be a very violent confrontation between Norman and his mother. But first, young Mr. Bates must deal with a familiar face who has returned to town.
This week’s episode picks right up where the last one left off, with Norman running into Bradley Martin out on the road at nighttime. As far as this episode indicates, Bradley is the real-deal and not one of Norman’s hallucinations, although – to be fair – we never see Bradley interact with anyone else but Norman, so the jury may still be out on whether she’s real or not.
Meanwhile, Norma pays Bob Paris a visit at his house and assures him that she’s going to give him back the flash drive, while trying to convince him that the things he learned about Norman (particularly, that he killed his own father) were lies. Bob calmly explains to Norma that she is no longer calling the shots.
Caleb returns to town after last week’s gun deal gone wrong. He confronts Chick about what happened. Chick wonders if Caleb is just making up the story and if they never took the guns anywhere at all. Then Chick tries to pull a gun on Caleb and the two men get into a vicious fight. Caleb is the victor, but he gets pretty beat up as well. He warns Chick to stay away from Dylan if he wants to live.
Norman and Bradley hide her car in the nearby woods and walk back to the motel, where Norman plans to let her stay in one of the vacant rooms. He has no intention of telling his mother about it.
Norma goes to the police station, where she confronts Alex and demands that he give the flash drive to her. Romero says that he’s done talking to her… for good.
Dylan returns to the farm to find Caleb all beat-up from his fight with Chick. Caleb explains that he needs to disappear for a while and suggests that Dylan go stay at his mother’s house until things blow over. Caleb also offers Dylan $50,000, which was his share of the inheritance from his own mother’s death (the reason Caleb came back to town in the first place). It occurs to me that if Dylan had just taken this money when Caleb first offered it, we could have avoided the annoying Chick subplot, which was really a drag on much of Season 3.
Back at the Bates’ home, Norman finds his mother in the basement throwing away all his taxidermy materials. She tells him that the info about his father’s death is out there, and asks how it would look if someone comes to investigate and finds all these dead animals in their basement. Norman turns the tables on his mother and wonders if she could have lied to him about what he does during his blackouts. Could Norma have actually killed his father?
Norman and Bradley attempt to go visit her mother, but wants nothing to do with her once she sees that the mother already has a new man in her life. To make matters worse, Bradley sneaks into the house to check out her old bedroom, only to find it filled with exercise equipment.
Back at the sheriff’s station, the DEA has taken over the investigation and the officer in charge (Anika Noni Rose from ‘Dreamgirls’ and ‘The Good Wife’) interrogates Alex about how he could have been elected to his position after his father was sent to prison. She’s obviously very suspicious about what’s actually going on in the town.
Dylan takes the $50,000 that Caleb gave him and turns it over to Emma’s father, even though he only needs $20,000. Dylan’s only request is that Emma never be told where the money came from. Dylan goes to see Emma in her bedroom before he leaves, but nothing romantic comes from the visit.
Romero returns home from his office to find Norma searching his house for the flash drive. He tells her that he already turned it over to the DEA, which causes Norma to flip out. Alex begs her one more time to tell him the truth about what happened to her husband, but Norma can’t say it out loud. After a fight, Alex tries to kiss her, but Norma pulls away and runs out of the house.
Back at the motel, Caleb arrives to drop off a guitar for Dylan and to tell Norma about the encounter he had with Norman back during his first visit to White Pine Bay – when Norman came to his motel room and acted like he was Norma. Caleb is concerned that Norman is going to hurt someone, and he doesn’t want anything to happen to Norma.
In Bradley’s motel room, she tells Norman that she’s decided to leave town (again!) and wants Norman to come with her. Norman says he can’t. Bradley kisses him and starts making out with him on the bed. Soon, however, Norman has another vision of his mother, and exits the motel room, where he has a conversation with his faux mother outside. The two of them walk back up toward the house as this episode comes to a close.
For weeks now, it appears the writers have been setting up a finale where Norma might… just might… be killed off at the hands of Norman. As I mentioned in last week’s recap, it’s a step the showrunners could take and still keep actress Vera Farmiga on the show, since she could play the version of Norma that Norman hallucinates. However, that “Norma” is such a one-note character, I’m not sure that’s something the series should do at this point in time.
After a series of really strong entries, this week’s episode seems to tread water a bit. First, the fact that Dylan finally accepts the inheritance money from Caleb pretty much means that the whole Chick subplot was a big waste of time. Further, it seems pointless to bring back the Bradley character at this stage in the series, unless the writers intend for her to be Norman’s next victim (which is quite possible).
The finale of Season 3 will air next Monday night, May 11th – exactly one day after Mother’s Day, appropriately enough. As of this writing, ‘Bates Motel’, which has suffered an approximately 20% drop in viewership this season, has not yet been renewed by A&E. Let’s hope the network is smart enough to bring it back for at least one more year.