Friday, May 30, 2014

The Dangers of Master Bates


BATES MOTEL: SEASON TWO

The hotel is closed for the season, but what a season it gave us.  We had murder, we had sex, we had incest, we had drug wars.  Pretty hectic for a small town like White Pine Bay.

I've been pretty harsh on the drug war business, feeling it took away from the interplay between Vera Farmiga's Norma Bates and Freddie Highmore's Norman.  Furthermore, it almost always seemed that this drug was came from another show altogether.  It wasn't until late in the season that both stories were tied together.  On the whole, I thought they were brought together remarkably well, but I also hope that Max Thieriot's Dylan Massett will have other and better things to do.

In regards to Dylan, learning the truth about his parentage led to a genuinely shocking twist.  Actually, that would be a good theme for Bates Motel Season Two: the discovery of the truth.  Norman learns the truth of his blackouts.  Norma learns the truth about Norman's killing and sex life.  Emma learns the truth about love and sex.

That perhaps is Bates Motel's biggest weakness after the drug war storyline.   Poor Olivia Cooke, who is so sensational as Emma Decody, kept getting lost in the shuffle.  Again and again it seemed like one of the best characters was either written out or written off, which seems such a shame.  I hope she stays around for Season Three and that she gets more into the strange goings-on.  Her storyline of finding love with Gunner was in turns sweet and pleasant.  I don't know what happened to him, so perhaps he can come back.

Parents Just Don't Understand...


Now, let us have the ranking of all Bates Motel Season Two Episodes from Best to Worst. 

The Immutable Truth (10/10)
The Box (10/10)
Meltdown (9/10)
Caleb (9/10)
Check-Out (9/10)
Gone But Not Forgotten (8/10)
The Escape Artist (8/10)
Plunge (8/10)
Presumed Innocent (7/10)
Shadow of a Doubt (6/10)

Average Score: 8.4

Shadow of a Doubt was to my mind the weakest because it had one purpose to it: close out the Bradley storyline (of which I'm happy to see end).    It also seemed that giving Norman either a girlfriend or a sex life always ended up in disaster (both physically and story-wise).  Bradley was sent packing, Cody was sent packing, and the luscious Miss Watson just lost her head. 

Maybe in Season Three we could have a season-long arc where Norman appears to have just a steady, regular girlfriend without the accompanying craziness, at least until said girlfriend disappears or is found dead.  Now that both Norma and Norman know what he is capable of, this situation of being a serial killer is worth exploring.


If you had HIS father,
you'd be frowning too...
Another thing worth exploring is the interplay between the Massett-Bates clan and those outside their circle.  We had a storyline with Norma entering White Pine Bay society (sadly come to an end, or perhaps not), but it would be nice to see them interact with the citizens more often (at least those not involved in crimes).  There appeared to be a suggestion that perhaps Nestor Carbonell's Sheriff Romero and Norma would find something there that wasn't there before, but I am one of the few people not interested in a Romero-Norma relationship.  It would be so out of character for the sensible Romero to get involved with someone he knows is, if not crazy, at least not the most stable of people like Norma.

We has some good characters that we may never see again, and I do wonder whether Norma will lose her seat on the City Council (probably will, more the shame). 

In terms of performances, I think we need go no further than Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates.  Long seen as a possessive, clingy, almost evil woman who browbeat her son to a murderous rage, Farmiga's Norma is a remarkably human person.  She is highly flawed: she can be unpleasant, pushy, and selfish, but she is also someone who does genuinely care about both her sons and wants to do right, even if her efforts almost always end up blowing up in her face.  This Norma is someone we can understand, even relate to.  She certainly doesn't set out to be controlling, but it is in the extent to how she loves that is both her and her sons undoing.  She doesn't know when to let go, when to let her sons make their own decisions (including their own mistakes). 

Farmiga already has one Emmy nomination as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama series for Bates Motel (surprisingly, the series' sole nomination, that year the Television Academy honoring Clare Danes' crazy in Homeland rather than Norma Bates' not-so-crazy), and she more than deserves another chance for her portrayal of Norma Bates: a complicated and contradictory figure who is fascinating to watch.  Norma Bates certainly does her best and wants to be a good person, but it just never turns out that way.


Such a sweet boy...
I think Highmore should also be considered awards-worthy.  He too makes Norman Bates less a crazed murderer and more a good kid who has something within him that he can't control, let alone understand.  His horror at remembering killing the luscious Miss Watson and of being held prisoner is such a brilliant performance.  Certainly the writing too should be thought of as better than Season One (minus the drug war...I really disliked that aspect).

I make no predictions about Season Three.  I do hope that we see Dylan rise to drug kingpin or be the motel handyman: one would put him in a position of power, the other would put him closer to his family.  I hope Norman and Norma find relationships that aren't disastrous (given how eventually Norman will kill his own mother, it appears inevitable that she remarries). 

One thing I do hope we get more of is conflict or bonding between the brothers.  They've had their fights (which Norman does not remember, having blacked out after them).  However, perhaps one of the reasons the drug war subplot wasn't the greatest was because Norman wasn't involved in Dylan's life and vice-versa.  Season Three could put the brothers in greater conflict (Dylan more determined to put Norman in an asylum, Norman resenting his brother's interference) or it could unite them either against Norma or the town.  There were flashes of conflict in Season One (particularly in a barely-explored storyline where Dylan and Bradley might have been carrying on an affair), but by and large because there didn't seem to be much interplay between Dylan and Norman, it kept looking like Dylan could have been making guest appearances on a spin-off show we knew little about.  I hope Season Three brings the family together.

For myself, I have enjoyed Season Two tremendously.  It gave us some gasp-inducing moments (Norma's Chinatown confession) and some wonderful storylines (Gunner + Emma=4Ever).  The drug war story is over and we have an opportunity to take the show into more fits of crazy.  Just the way we like our Bates Motel

I certainly will have my reservations ready.

We just love to watch....

Next Episode: A Death in the Family

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