Bates Motel 1.03 Recap: “I Just Want to Be Happy”

‘Bates Motel’ continues to impress with its third episode, ‘What’s Wrong with Norman’. We’re only three weeks in, but already signs are pointing to how Norman Bates will turn into the psychopath we know he’ll eventually become. (Spoilers to follow!)

Early in the episode, Norman is taking a test in class, but can’t get his mind off the sketch book filled with sexual bondage drawings that he and Emma have been investigating. His teacher comes over to make sure that Norman is okay, and suddenly he envisions her being tied up and taken advantage of. Norman collapses and is sent to the hospital for tests and observation. While there, he gets a visit from his high school friend Bradley, who re-gifts the flowers he had brought to her while her father was in intensive care. We learn that Bradley’s dad is still in a medically-induced coma and is not expected to make it. She climbs up and joins Norman in his hospital bed. “I just want to be happy,” she says, almost stone-faced.

Norman’s half-brother, Dylan, makes his way into the woods for his new job, which – you guessed it – is acting as one of the guards for the large marijuana crop that Norman and Emma discovered in episode 2. His co-worker there is the same guy Dylan had met in a strip club in the previous episode, and who helped him get the job. When Dylan asks why the town doesn’t complain about all the pot being grown, his friend simply laughs and tells him that a number of families in town are the ones growing it, and it’s one of the main reasons the town is still in good financial shape.

Meanwhile, the sheriff has arrived at the Bates home with a search warrant. When Norman returns home from the hospital, he discovers that the tool belt belonging to the man who raped his mother (and whom his mother subsequently killed in the pilot episode) has disappeared from where he had it hidden under his bed. Norma decides that it’s time to start using her relationship with Deputy Shelby to find out what happened. When she joins him for dinner at his home, she discovers that Shelby took the tool belt himself, and that Sheriff Romero doesn’t know about it.

Norman has a nighttime chat with his mother toward the end of the episode where he decides that he must go retrieve the tool belt from Shelby’s house… except that his mother was never in the room at all, and her appearance was just Norman’s delusion. Breaking into Shelby’s home, Norman has a close encounter with a canine while finding the keys to the deputy’s basement. There, he makes a startling discovery – a young Chinese girl like the one in his discovered sketchbook. “Help me,” she cries as Shelby arrives back home and enters his house….

After three weeks, ‘Bates Motel’ is proving to be one of the best new dramas on TV. Who would have guessed that Shelby is anything but an upstanding citizen? If he’s as evil as this episode suggests, is anyone in this town walking the straight and narrow? And what’s up with Norman’s friend, Bradley? Is her 1,000 mile stare just bad acting, or is she as haunted as Norman is becoming?

1 comment

  1. The previews for the next episode leave open the question of whether there was really a girl in the basement at all, or if that’s just another of Norman’s delusions.

    I’m not really in love with the pot field or white slavery storylines. I don’t think the town needs to have a great mystery or conspiracy. It should be all about Norman.

    However, I do like that the show hasn’t piled on a series of abuses or humiliations onto Norman to explain why he goes nuts. He has a lot of people trying to help him lead a normal, social existence. He’s screwed up because of his mother and his own mental illness, not because he was bullied or a popular girl embarrassed him.

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