BATES MOTEL: THE TRUTH
Here, on this Bates Motel episode, the story has the feel of it being the end of the first part of the first season. A long story involving the Asian sex slave and Norma's lover, Deputy Zack Shelby, ends, in rather dramatic, even shocking terms. The Truth also alters the very beginning of Bates Motel, giving us a sense that Norma has been covering up much more about her twisted son Norman, a harbinger of things to come.
After discovering that her lover Deputy Shelby (Mike Vogel) has indeed been keeping a sex slave, Norma Bates (Vera Farmiga) is determined to bring him to justice. This is a bit strange in that Shelby has been covering up her murder of Keith Summers and the involvement of her beloved son, Norman (Freddie Highmore). If she only knew what her other son Dylan Massett (Max Thieriot) was up to.
Dylan, now in cahoots with the local drug kingpin, now has as his partner Remo (Ian Tracy), who takes an immediate dislike to Dylan. Norman's brother is aware of all that is going on with his mother and half-brother. He is going to help Norman find the belt and remove the blackmail threat, but he also suspects that Norma murdered his stepfather. He shares these thoughts aboard Shelby's boats with Norman, who refuses to believe anything bad about her.
As they search and find the belt, Shelby decides to come up and see Norma for some sexy time. She tries to please him, but wouldn't you know it, he happens to find the occupant of Room 11. Dylan and Norman appear just as Shelby realizes that he has been discovered. He holds the three of them hostage (the Asian hostage ran off before the boys arrive, gives chase, shots are heard, but we don't know whether she escaped or not).
At one point, Shelby strikes Norma. Bad actions for the momma's boy Norman is. He in a suppressed rage, gets up and lunges at Shelby. While Shelby makes quick work of the physically weak Norman, the ensuing chaos allows Dylan to seize Shelby's gun. We get a fierce gun battle between Dylan and Shelby, with Norma desperate to revive a dazed and confused Norman. Norma is forced to call the police to rescue them.
Shelby is finished in a remarkably gruesome manner, but Dylan now wants The Truth, in particular with what happened to Norman's father. We now hear from Norma a slightly different story than the one we started with. Norman's father was violent and abusive, and when he struck and threatened Norma with an iron, their son somewhat calmly (though probably in a haze) got up and struck his father dead, then walked away. Norma dragged her husband to the garage, where she made it look like an accident. In that respect, Dylan was correct: his stepfather's death was staged, but it was Norman who did it (or so Norma says).
It certainly is believable in that Norman is still sitting in the car, either in shock or in a blackout (which come about when he kills). Norman, once he comes around, truly does not remember the events (which is like when he does not remember coming at Dylan with a knife in an earlier episode).
The Truth has one great flaw: it never answers specifically what happened to the Asian sex slave. We never see a corpse, we only hear gunshots. Shelby never confirms whether he actually gets her or if she manages to escape. Whether this is done to perhaps reintroduce her in future stories or leave things a greater mystery or just because co-writers Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin don't have a desire to answer it we do not know. Apart from this, The Truth gives us one wild turn after another that keeps things extremely tight. If one sees The Truth, we see that with only a few scenes with Dylan speaking with drug kingpin Gil (Vincent Gale), it takes place almost entirely at the Bates Motel.
It also has a very restrictive cast: the Bates-Massett family, Shelby, Emma, and Jiao the Sex Slave. In particular The Truth really dealt with four people: Dylan, Norman, Shelby, and Norma. These four lives become entangled in a wild way. In particular the scene where Shelby is holding the others hostage is a masterpiece of great camera work, as we see Norman's fury is unleashed. Highmore's rage-filled face at the attack of his mother is brilliant and frightening performance.
We get great touches of foreshadowing. Near the beginning, when Emma attempts to comfort Norman and Norma, she tells Norman, "I can't imagine what a shock. I mean, a guy you were really into turning out to be a monster." Emma is unwittingly speaking about herself. When Norma appears wearing a shawl, the producers/creators of Bates Motel were patently giving a nod to how Mother Bates will eventually will be found in a fruit cellar.
Farmiga's performance is equally brilliant: mixing the anguish and confusion about Shelby with her intense narcissism over Norman (despite all the danger and chaos surrounding her, Norma seems more concerned with Norman possibly leaving her than she is over whether Jiao is alive or dead). In any other context, it would come off either as laughable or insane, but with Farmiga, it is totally believable. Vogel sadly will no longer be on Bates Motel (having moved up to Under the Dome), but I don't think few characters got such a bloody, violent send-off as the sweet-faced (and hot-bod) Deputy whose pleasing face and figure hid a twisted heart and mind, corrupt to the core.
The Truth feels like we have closed up one storyline, leaving Bates Motel with the chance to open up new stories. As such, it is a brilliant and shocking conclusion to a bizarre story. As to whether or not The Truth IS 'the truth', that remains to be seen...
Next Episode: The Man in Number 9