TV Review - Bates Motel: Season 2

Max Thierot (left), Vera Farmiga and
Freddie Highmore (right) in "Bates Motel"
I don't know if I should throw up a spoiler alert about a 50-year-old movie, but the show seems to be angling toward Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960), a film that ends with Norman Bates in prison for multiple murders, having suffered from a disociative identity disorder, with the deaths of various men and women, including his mother, presumably by his hands in which Norman believed he was his mother.

The show subtly hinted at this in the first season. The show is making bigger allusions to that Hitchcock film in this second season. Carlton Cuse and his writing partners Kerry Ehrin and Anthony Cipriano are laying the groundwork for that character made famous by actor Anthony Perkins. The writers do so in a very blatant way that takes away any ambiguity about Norman Bates, portrayed here by Freddie Highmore, the young and British actor from Finding Neverland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Highmore still has an innocent and boyish quality about him, even as his body grows and develops and even as said body expresses sexuality. It's interesting to see his Norman choose girls, which his mother Norma, portrayed by Oscar-nominee Vera Farmiga, says aren't good girls for him, girls that are perhaps as damaged as him. Those girls so far have been Bradley, played by Nicola Peltz, and Cody, played by Paloma Kwiatkowski, or any girl whose name ends in the letter Y.

The one girl who isn't as damaged psychologically but is damaged physically, as she has to pull around an oxygen tank, is Emma, played by Olivia Cooke. Yet, Norman rejects Emma because unlike the other girls, Emma warms to his mother. In fact, Emma works at the motel for his mother. Emma has a positive relationship with Norma, which in a way might be a source of jealousy or discomfort. It certainly seems to be a turn off for him. It could just be that she's slipped more into a sister role than anything else.

Norman doesn't have a sister. He does have a brother. Max Thierot plays Dylan who has been fully enveloped in the criminal aspects of the town where Norman and his mother live. Dylan is the young, sexy enforcer for a drug dealing organization that has become the town's underground economy. It's so engrained that Sheriff Alex Romero, played by Nestor Carbonell, allows it to pass. The sheriff has to step in the middle when the organization's new leader starts out on a killing spree after Norman's friend exacts her secret vengeance.

The show also seems hellbent to tie all the characters to the drug dealing organization. Even Emma starts an affair, losing her virginity to a charming drug dealer who is staying at the motel. The more important storyline is the one tying Norman's mother to the drug dealers. The plot point from the Hitchcock film about how a new road called a bypass cuts off the Bates Motel from traffic is being drawn out and exploited this season. Norma's goal is to stop the bypass and the drug organization, which has political ties, might be her only option.

This season also picks up on what was an inference in the first season and possibly an inference from the movies. Norman loves his mother but their closeness, their intimacy, was borderline incestuous. Never is it implied that the two would or could have sex, but their behavior at times paralleled that of a boyfriend-and-girlfriend and not mother-and-child. The season has moved away from that specifically, and instead transferred or is exploring it in other ways.

It's revealed that Norma was raped by her brother Caleb, played by Kenny Johnson. It's suggested that Dylan might have been the result of that incestuous encounter.

Yet, there's uncertainty. The deaths of Norman's teacher and Bradley's father are examples of uncertainty. It's uncertain who killed Norman's teacher and Bradley's father. The uncertainties culminate in Episode 2 of this season titled "Shadow of a Doubt," which is also the title of another Hitchcock film that has hints of incestuous feelings as well as the questioning of a person's identity, as being either guilty or innocent.

What's great about the series is exactly what was great last season, and that's watching Vera Farmiga play with this pulpy material. Farmiga brings such depth and heart to the show, even in the silly and melodramatic moments. Getting her character involved more in the town's criminal elements and the drug cartel is vastly more interesting to me than anything Norman is or isn't doing. Seeing her potential and chemistry with the sheriff is exciting and something that could be fun.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-14.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Mondays at 9PM on A&E.


Popular Posts