BATES MOTEL: SHADOW OF A DOUBT
I have been a strong Bates Motel fan since its premiere. That being said, Shadow of a Doubt for me seemed to be an episode that just ended one story thread to introduce what I hope will be the main thrust of its second season. I don't necessarily object to having a bit of a breather within the season. After the roller-coaster that was Season One it is almost nice to stop for a moment before we go into what looks like a deeper exploration of what will turn our sweet young boy into a murderous lunatic. Still, despite its best efforts, Shadow of a Doubt seemed pretty weak, neither linking past stories or introducing new ones well.
Bradley (Nicola Peltz) is hiding out in the fruit cellar/taxidermy hall of her one-night stand, Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore), proving that shallow girls only call on guys whose virginity they take whenever they need something from them. Norman, being Norman, helps her out by a.) hiding her from the police, b.) giving her money and a bus ticket to get away, and c.) turning into her hairdresser and giving her a new hair color (blondes may have more fun, but brunettes can get away with murder).
Meanwhile, Norma Bates (Vera Farmiga) decides that the perfect mother-son bonding experience is...community theater! In this case, a production of South Pacific (whose songs we don't actually hear because I imagine it would cost too much to get the rights). This plan obvious will work (I know how my relationship with my mother grew when we worked on My Fair Lady, though I still think she made a poor Freddie Eynsford-Hill myself). Wouldn't you know it: the auditions are at the same time that Norman is suppose to spirit Bradley away. He has no choice but to call his brother Dylan (Max Theriot) to get Bradley out of the cellar. This goes against everything within Norman, especially since he earlier had denied to Dylan knowing anything about Bradley's whereabouts.
Norman's news stunned Dylan, and not just because Bradley was right under his nose. Norman tells him that Bradley had confessed to killing a man, and now Dylan puts two and two together. Gil's death has started an unnecessary drug war between Gil's group and that of Nick (Michael O'Neill), who also happens to be Blair Watson's FATHER! To take over Gil's group, comes Zane (Michael Eklund), a trigger-happy guy who kills without question, much to the irritation of both Dylan and Remo (Ian Tracy), Dylan's mentor. Dylan realizes that Gil's murder is unrelated to his business, and they have been fighting a nonexistent war. He gets Bradley to write a suicide note in the hopes that this will stop the war before it gets out of hand.
Finally, Sheriff Romero (Nestor Carbonell) has two hot potatoes on his hands. There is this drug war, which he isn't eager about. He's managed to keep the peace by turning a semi-blind eye but these sort of things can't be forever ignored. Then there is the Watson murder, and there is a break in the case. One of Watson's many (and I do mean MANY) lovers, Ian (Brendan Fletcher) has been apprehended. His is one of two semen samples recovered from the luscious teacher, showing she had sex with two men within 30 hours of her murder.
Now despite knowing that Ian isn't the murderer (though Romero knows that Ian has been responsible for other crimes), when Emma (Olivia Cooke) tells the Bateses that someone has been arrested, Norma is thoroughly thrilled. It means that those pearls she found in Norman's room really don't connect him to the crime (or at least that someone else might have done it).
Despite its best efforts, I don't think much of Shadow of a Doubt. This little tidbit about two semen samples was thrown in so haphazardly it was almost meant to bait us into thinking that perhaps Norman really was hot for teacher. Then we spend a long time with this drug war that seems to be from another show altogether (Breaking Bad: Pacific Northwest). I'll cut them some slack since this whole Bradley storyline had to be finished somehow, and we got as good and plausible an ending as possible.
Still, for me, this was remarkably boring. Even Theriot, who appeared to be more the focus of Shadow of a Doubt than Highmore, looked a bit bored or sleepy throughout the episode, as if even he wanted to get on with it and go back to his half-brother's origin story than that of drug running and cultivating.
There are other things that bothered me about Shadow of a Doubt. Poor Cooke...her character was one of the best things in Bates Motel, and this is the second episode in a row where she is relegated to almost a cameo. Let's be frank: the Bateses could have found this news out any other way (a phone call, the radio, television), and having Emma be the source seemed like a way to justify using Cooke in one scene. At least with Bradley gone, perhaps we can start showcasing one of the more talented members of the cast. What does she think of Norman now? What were the repercussions of when she walked out on him at the Prom?
Now in the last minutes of Shadow of a Doubt, we are introduced to Norma's brother. This isn't the same brother who repeatedly raped her, is it? That is one family reunion I am not looking forward to. The fact that we have to wait until the very end to do so seems also quite forced and even clichéd. It would have been more interesting if he had been popping out every so often, maybe even gotten off the same bus that Bradley was getting on, and asking a surprised Dylan where he could find Norma Bates.
No, I wasn't too thrilled with Shadow of a Doubt. It seemed more like filler than anything else, a chance to close up storylines and introduce new ones, a series of trailers and endings than an actual episode. That isn't to say there weren't some good things in it.
Seeing Farmiga belt out what could be Norma's theme song (Maybe This Time from Cabaret) was both a treat and an open admission of how Norma sees her life (a series of disasters that perhaps at this point will finally stop and have her life turn out well). To misquote Morrissey, she does Sing Her Life, and the subtext, while open, is appreciated. Mercifully, the local community theater ISN'T going to do Cabaret: the idea of poor Norman Bates as the Master of Ceremonies is too creepy to imagine.
As far as I know, even the title didn't do it any good. Wherein other episodes served as puns, I don't see the shadows (and no, echoing a Hitchcock film does not absolve you from making your title work on two levels).
Next Episode: Caleb