A review of last night’s “Bates Motel” coming up just as soon as I think you’re pretty like an old woman…
“Trust Me” was the fourth “Bates” episode, and the first I’d seen since I wrote my initial review of the show. As I said back then, I thought Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore were doing excellent work as Norma and Norman, and that there was a good sense of dread-soaked atmosphere, but that there didn’t necessarily seem to be an ongoing series there. To go into more specifics now that you’ve seen everything I’d seen then, plus one, Cuse and Ehrin have tried to generate story by placing the Bates family in a town with an enormous marijuana distribution operation, a human trafficking ring, and an accepted level of vigilante justice that includes hanging a burning man on a yardarm in the middle of town. And for now, at least, all of that material feels like little more than an outside distraction – something to keep Norman busy between now and when he starts killing women. If anything, the idea that the town may corrupt him as much as Norma feels like a dilution of the concept, even if Cuse and Ehrin have said they aren’t going to be bound by the mythology of “Psycho.”
The invention of Norman’s half-brother Dylan feels a bit more natural. A shunned, mostly healthy member of the family can provide some needed perspective on what mother and son are doing to each other, and the Dylan/Norma confrontation at the end of the hour was the emotional highlight of “Trust Me.” That said, as Norman notes earlier, it’s jarring to have Dylan offering him dating advice only moments after Norman confessed to helping Norma cover up a murder. “Bates Motel” wants to show the struggle between Norman the teenager and Norman the budding psychopath; I’m just not sure it’s figured out how to gracefully do that yet.
But the show’s going to run a while. The ratings have been solid, and A&E ordered a second season yesterday. Whether I believe the concept has legs or not, A&E does, and now we’ll get to see if this can work over a long-ish haul.
What did everybody else think? A month in, does “Bates Motel” feel like a fully-formed series to you? After the pilot, a number of you complained about the scenes with the high school kids; do you feel the show’s getting better with those? And now that you know the future’s relatively secure, do you plan to buckle up for this ride?