Monday, March 21, 2016

Bates Motel: Goodnight, Mother Review


One of the strangest games of cat-and-mouse went on for this Bates Motel episode.  Goodnight, Mother, elevates the creepy factor to a higher level, with Mother Bates and Baby Bates both suspecting each other of murder.  The fact that in truth both are in a certain way right makes it all the more creepy.

Oh, yeah, and we get a little Dylemma.  Almost forgot about them.

Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) is now completely convinced that his mother, Norma Bates (Vera Farmiga) is a serial killer, 'her' newest victim being Audrey, mother of Emma Decody (Olivia Cooke).  He even has a rather horrifying vision of "Mother" stuffing Audrey in the basement freezer to find that Audrey was still alive and fighting furiously to force her way out.  As a result of his 'knowledge', he becomes extremely cold and brusque towards Norma, insisting to her that he knows all about her crimes.  Moreover, he knows she is trying to make others think he did it.

All this alarms and terrifies Norma, who I think is finally forced into the realization her son is insane.  She looks for Audrey's body in the massive pit that was suppose to be the Bates Motel pool, but try as she might, no body turns up.  Eventually, Norman's behavior becomes much more threatening: he holds a gun on her, is violent towards her, and in the end essentially holds her hostage at the house.  Terrified, she does manage to call Sheriff Romero (Nestor Carbonell), begging for his help.

Unbeknown to her, Romero has taken some of the drug money he took from Bob Paris and used it to pay for Norman's stay at the Pineview Mental Hospital, but because Norman's eighteen Norman has to sign the consent forms.  He sends them to the hotel fax machine, but Norman gets to them first.  Eventually, Romero arrives at the hotel and rescues Norma, but it means taking Norman back to the County hospital.  Norma begs her son to sign the consent forms, though he has made it clear he does not want to go. Norma pleads with him that if he doesn't, he will go to an even worse place, and he in the end, signs them.

In the subplot, Emma gets her wings...I mean, lungs, and so far it looks like they are working, much to relief of Norman's half-brother, Dylan (Max Thieriot). 

It's a bit sad that the Dylemma subplot feels as if we go into almost soap-opera territory and feels a bit tacked-on.  I know that eventually Emma will return and that Dylan will probably figure into the overall craziness, but given how strong the main story was and how exception the performances of Highmore and Farmiga are, wandering back to the All Saints Hospital in Portland seems if not a waste of time a bit of a time filler.

And yes, the two main performances are what really push Goodnight, Mother into a fantastic episode, full of sheer-on Bates Motel insanity.  Highmore, who seems to be bizarrely forgotten come Emmy time (as Farmiga has been Bates Motel's only Emmy nomination) is brilliant in his cold, methodical manner to Norman;  the slow build to his fury and anger when 'confronting' Norma is chilling, as if he were inches from killing his own mother that he loves excessively.  The fact that Norman truly believes his own story makes it more chilling and frightening.

Farmiga has a harder task in Highmore's big scene, because she is only reacting to his crescendo of fury, but it is in her silence, her growing hurt and fear, and her genuine heartbreak in seeing the boy she loves essentially admit to being a serial killer that breaks your heart too.  You can see Norma fighting back the tears while also staring at her son in fear.

Carbonell, who doesn't interact with the Bates until the very end, is also strong.  Like a lot of things involving Romero, his motives are opaque.  Does he help Norma because he has fallen in love with her (his storyline involves telling her and everyone that he has agreed to marry her)?  Is he attempting to protect others from Norman's insanity?  We don't know what he is thinking, and Carbonell plays Romero as a somewhat weary man, a good man who does good things for reasons even he might not know.

I'm not going to be harsh on Thieriot because he was not given much to work with, but boy is that Dylemma story so far uninteresting (and him uninteresting too).  As for Cooke, well, again I'm giving her time to let her story grow because sometimes she's the best thing in Bates Motel, but don't try my patience.

Thanks to the double-act of Highmore and Farmiga, Goodnight, Mother is so far a great way to get Bates Motel Season Four off to another bonkers start.


Next Episode: 'Til Death Do You Part

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