Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Good Trap Needs Some Bates



BATES MOTEL: THE BOX

Well, now some things perhaps are best being blacked out.  Like killing the hot teacher who has seduced you into sex.  The Box pushes the drug war that had been hobbling Bates Motel by having it now directly affect the characters, and also by showing that this the penultimate episode that we are getting what we want.

An end to this storyline.

Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) has been abducted after he angrily runs away from Sheriff Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) when he confronts Norman about whether he had sex with Miss Watson the night of her murder.  Even though someone else was found guilty Romero wonders whether the right guy got sent up. 

The reason for Norman's abduction is made clear: Nick Ford (Michael O'Neill) is using him as a hostage to get Norma Bates (Vera Farmiga) to convince her other son, Dylan Massett (Max Thieriot) to kill Zane (Michael Ecklund), the drug rival who has been causing havoc to everyone.  If Dylan doesn't, Nick will kill Norman.  Norma is desperate to save her two sons, both of whom are in great danger.  Although Dylan received Jodi's blessing to execute her own brother, Dylan still wavers Hamlet-style.  It isn't until a desperate Norma goes to Dylan's drug workplace and tells him everything that he decides to act.

Unfortunately, things are going from bad to worse for everyone.  Nick, already with a wild grudge against the Bateses, is informed by one of his henchmen what fell out of Norman's pockets: some pearls and an obituary of the luscious Miss Watson.  Ford puts two and two together, and so does Norman.  While dehydrated, confused, and terrified, he remembers what happened that fateful night.

Dylan tries to kill Zane, but he was too well-protected to get to.  Nick is not happy and decides that Dylan is the one who has to die.  Defending himself, Dylan does what Zane only dreamt of: kill Nick (though in self-defense).  Norma, too wildly distraught and forced to keep silent about everything, pushes George (Michael Vartan) away for good, which she immediately regrets.

Miss Watson had indeed not only come on to Norman, but had gotten him to have sex with him.  We go back to Midnight, where a highly distressed Norman is freaking out about Miss Watson and 'Norma' appears to him.  We see the rest of the story: Miss Watson undressed Norman and was having sex with him when he got a knife or letter opener and slashed her neck.  Horrified, he screams out but there is no one to hear, and with Ford dead the chances of Norman being found alive are slim to none.

This has been the wildest and most intense Bates Motel in a while.  We have abductions, murders, flashbacks, and the ignoring of Emma (Olivia Cooke).  Well, at least the series kept one thing consistent.  From the moment a terrified Norman, in a heavy rainstorm, is led to the box, to the interplay of Dylan and Norma, to the quick and brutal end of Nick, down to Norman's realization of who and what he is there is hardly a let-up in the pacing.  Every beat of the story propels it forward towards a shocking conclusion, with one more to go.

One genuinely feels for Farmiga's Norma.  She certainly didn't want any of this to happen to her sons, but in many ways her ignoring of one and smothering of the other created the men they became.  In many, many ways, Dylan and Norman are the products of nurture, not nature.

Even then, the three central cast members: Farmiga, Highmore, and Thieriot manage to have their moments.  Thieriot's moral quandary about killing in cold blood and Farmiga's terror and confusion about what to do are all top-notch. Highmore's horror about his actions, coupled with his fear of being in the box, gave him a chance to act without having anyone to work against shows Highmore had the best performance of the episode and The Box in general.

One highlight of The Box was the editing, in how things flowed and connected.  A particularly brilliant moment was when Norma is at the house in total disarray and as the camera rises we transition to Norman in his box, trying to stay sane. 

This has been one of the best Bates Motel episode, full of tension and excitement and wild twists and turns.  It has the benefit of putting the drug war both along with the Norman/Norma story and hopefully wrapping it up.

The Box is well-wrapped.

10/10

Next Episode: The Immutable Truth





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