Picking up the pieces from that plot-stretching cliffhanger, the episode proceeded to shift perspectives by revealing that Dylan had watched Norman break into Shelby’s house. I have to say, Dylan’s distraction technique wasn’t all that convincing but it only added to the tension as Norman escaped the basement, but not before promising the girl that he’ll come back for her.
I found it interesting that Norman didn’t see Dylan when fleeing Shelby’s house. What with the whole ‘narrator’ question up in the air, there’s something interesting about viewing this unreliable observer through a more reliable lens.
Not surprisingly the episode centered on ‘trust’ and it was interesting to see how quickly Norman let Dylan in on the murder of Keith Summers and the contents of Shelby’s dungeon, juxtaposed by Mother refusing to believe Norman’s “crazy” version of events — or at least pretending not to believe them. We eventually find out that Norma has known about Norman’s ‘trances’ for a while, which certainly makes the first scene in the premiere even more interesting. Did Norman kill his father? Is Norma protecting him, or protecting herself through Norman? As I’ve said before, I literally wouldn’t put anything past Norma. As much as she loves Norman, there’s a deeply twisted and self-serving aspect to that love. You can see it in her brilliant response to Dylan’s threat to have Norman taken away from her – an almost childlike, self-centered despair, intentionally overcooked to perfection. I like that Norma checked Shelby’s house for the dungeon, it shows that she’s not stupid — nor is Shelby,seeing as he moved the girl to another location, or so it seems.
These developments have really brought Dylan into the fold, which is some feat given that you can barely fit a cigarette paper between Norman and Norma. Does he see something of himself in Norman? I was very curious to see his reaction to the revelation that his mother was raped, and while there was a ‘reaction’, ultimately I sense his feelings about that come secondary to his desire to protect Norman, while his antagonistic relationship with Norma might prevent him from showing too much compassion in that regard. It’s also worth bearing in mind that he finds this out after learning that Norma is knocking boots with Shelby, funnily enough his reaction to this was far more apparent, in part because both he and the deputy know what they know. The look Shelby gave him was one that suggests he has Dylan where he wants him despite his apparent dungeon secrets, while also rubbing his face in the fact that he’s sleeping with his mom.
So it seems both Norman and Norma have new-found external allies, but while I don’t doubt Dylan’s sympathy for his brother I do wonder how much of his efforts in getting him to be a normal 17-year old is partly a way to hurt Mother. I’d be surprised if the two motivations are mutually exclusive. As for the untrustworthy Shelby, I was surprised at how advanced his relationship with Norma has become, no doubt buoyed by the fact that he has slightly less to lose now that he has Keith’s death over her. She also seems to be enjoying his ‘company’ rather more than she makes out to Norman. But what’s also interesting is the weird jealousy she has about Norman seeing ‘other’ girls. I’m glad the show had both characters address the situation, even though Mother brushes it off. It just shows that they’re both still able to see outside of their unique situation, even though that window seems to be ever closing in on them.
The other interesting thread saw Norman and Bradley’s relationship reach the next stage following the death of her father, coupled with Dylan spurring Norman on to make a move. Bradley has slowly revealed herself to be a far more layered character than she might have seemed when we first met her, and while her grief might have a part to play in that it’s allowed her to connect with Norman in an interesting way. If the last episode took a look at what’s wrong with Norman, it’s worth being reminded of what’s right about him too. It’s surely no coincidence that all the ladies dig him, right?
The only note that really struck me as odd in this episode was Norma’s decision to search the dumpster, seemingly without any concern that Romero could have been following her (and he should have been), followed by her major meltdown. But even this offered insight into her emotional instability’s while showing that the violation she suffered has affected her despite how it appears on the surface.
It was pleasing to find out more about Romero’s motivations — while not exactly trustworthy (or detached from the town’s murky underbelly), I find it interesting that now he seems like the good cop to Shelby’s very bad cop who could threaten our mother and son duo in ways that go beyond legality.
With Norma getting arrested, the episode doesn’t end with as big a *THUD* as previously on Bates Motel, but this was another thoroughly engaging installment that furthered both the mythology and character drama.
- At this point I’m going with the girl being real. Norman’s bruising where she grabbed him could be explained away as psycho-semantic, but I think there’s too much riding on her existing. What’s interesting (and fun) is that this still wouldn’t make Norman completely reliable as a narrator, far from it.
- Shelby doesn’t miss a trick when warning Norman not to ignore him next time. Just a hint of menace, deputy?
- How much does Shelby know? Well, he presumably moved the girl so I’m guessing he knows that Norman (and Dylan) know about his attachment to the horrors of WPB.
- Shelby fishing for info on Norman’s father was interesting.
- The notebook’s narrator is still a mystery. Hmm..
- No Emma this week, she has the flu, but Norman got to meet her dad, who gave him a gentle yet firm warning: “Be decent”. Has she suffered heartbreak before? Norman’s response: “I am decent”.
- Norman quietly crying while listening to his mother’s not-so-quiet sobbing from the other room. That alone could fill a review!
- I wondered previously whether Bradley’s messages to Norman were ‘real’, this episode seems to confirm that there are. Thanks for lending us your reliable lens, Dylan!
9/10 Seriable Stars
To be continued…