“Bates Motel” Recap: Motorin’

Norman Bates’ life goes from abnormal to absurd. Just like Hitchcock wanted?

For the past few weeks I’ve enjoyed Bates Motel for its sinister Oedipal drama and freakish character developments. Det. Shelby is a horrifying sex predator? Weeee! Norma goes to jail for that murder she’s obviously lying about? Cool! Dylan‘s just going to keep wearing that motorcycle jacket because he can’t believe what a deal he got at The Buckle? Perfect.

But there comes a point when strangeness turns into wackiness, and last night’s episode Bates Motel was the first that felt absolutely, ballistically, unapologetically insane. It wasn’t just that the plot machinations were crazy; even little, innocuous details were treated with a comical broadness. I can’t decide if that’s a good thing. Let’s check in with the original Norman Bates, Anthony Perkins, and see what rating he gave this episode, kids.

Anthony Perkins gives this episode a…

CONDESCENDING GIGGLE.

And who could blame him? Here are the five most noteworthy (though I can’t say impressive) things about last night’s episode.

1. Ur bail bond is ready. :D

Um, did I see this right? Norman and Emma rally to get Norma out of jail with a bail bond, and once they do, Norman receives A TEXT MESSAGE from the bail bond place that says, “Ur Bail Bond is a success. Norma will be released tomorrow” (paraphrased)? Uh? Not even Chico’s Bail Bonds from The Bad News Bears would send a text message to its patrons. I know the iPhone practically sponsors this show and that’s why were treated to an eyeful of its technology, but this moment was 100% ridiculous, and not in the campy-but-spooky way Bates Motel has trained us for.

2. Norma and Norman sitting in a tree: K-V-E-T-C-H-I-N-G.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I have a problem with the way the tension between Norma and Norman is unfolding. Usually I relish their meaningfully entendre-laden discussions that almost result in a hookup, but Norma’s histrionics are both too bland (She’s always whining at Norman as opposed to exhibiting real craziness) and too zany (Her senseless diatribe against Norman in the car? Even though she ended up in jail, her attitude felt baseless and random). Part of the problem is it still feels like we know about 5% of the story with Norma and Norman, so their interactions have all the transparency of a concrete door, and we have to treat everything they say, do, or scream about as a clue. Those clues aren’t really adding up for me. In fact, sometimes they’re subtracting up for me.

Though let’s face it, it’d be really fun to kick smug, sex-having little Norman out of a car and make him walk home. Boy could use an outdoorsmanship class or two.

3. Norman is one “Easy Rider.”

Bates Motel has been serving up “transcendent moments” for Norman recently, and they make me nervous. First it was the ethereal sex with Bradley, and now it’s his whimsical motorcycle ride with Dylan, who picked Norman up after Norma abandoned him on the side of the road. I guess Dylan just finds himself biking down remote roads all the time, so we shouldn’t be shocked that it takes three minutes for him to scoop up Norman.

Admittedly, Dylan’s protectiveness over Norman is getting interesting. He insists that Norman move in with him because Norma is crazy, and that sounds like a logical thing to insist. But I still don’t quite understand why Norman disappeared into a euphoric dream state while riding on the back of his chopper. Is Norman going to have transcendent moments all the time now? Is his life turning into the fashion montage from Mahogany? Because that’s one Anthony Perkins tribute I can get behind.

4. They Shoot Supporting Characters, Don’t They?

So, Dylan’s buddy from the strip club got shot in the neck while they were sitting in the truck together. Question: Why would you shoot someone in the neck at point-blank range? Wouldn’t you rather shoot him in the head and kill him immediately? Because a neck shot will kill him, but in dramatically slower fashion. I thought this scene was incomprehensible. I mean, I get it, the show is incomprehensible, but the staging, sequence of events, and the ensuing Chicago Hope emergency room drama felt weird and stale. At least that’s one less supporting character to think about! Now we can get back to thinking about (ugh) Bradley.

5. I’m a sex slave 4 u.

Well, I guess that WAS a sex slave in Det. Shelby’s house. Emma and Norman found the girl while rummaging in his cellar, and she’s pretty forthcoming about what the blond maniac is doing to her. Unfortunately, Norma is less convinced of her story and accuses her of misidentifying Shelby — Norma’s sweet baboo — as a crazed, traumatizing, imprisoning psychopath. Ugh, Norma, come on. Maybe you’re not the only crazed dishwater blonde in town! Use this to your social advantage.

At this point, I can’t tell what’s going to happen, so next episode’s preview leads me to believe that Norma will endure a moral crisis over helping protect Shelby. Are you still on board with this show? I am, but main/y under the assumption that Norman will start sexily killing people soon.

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