Thursday, April 14, 2016

Bates Motel: Lights of Winter Review


You've got strippers, lesbianism (in a roundabout way), and perhaps people crazier than Norma and Norman Bates.  Lights of Winter gives us just enough hope that maybe, just maybe, these two crazy people will make it...only to show us that they are condemned to be lost in more ways than one.  Where will our Crazy Train take us?  One thing's for sure: it's going to take a lot more people down.

While Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) is stuck in Pineview, his new 'friend' Julian (Marshall Allman) tells him he can help him out.  First bit of help is to get Norman an unauthorized phone call to his brother Dylan (Max Thieriot), who wants to help but who also thinks Pineview is probably the best place for Norman.  The second way Julian helps Norman is by helping him break out of Pineview, where Julian takes our dear little one to The Landing Strip, a strip bar.

There, Julian goes off to a private room, and Norman is enticed to go to another one.  There are no rules, no names, nothing forbidden in this den of iniquity, and soon we get a real bizarre situation where Norman begins to refer to himself in the third person and soon starts imagining it's not him, but his mother Norma Bates (Vera Farmiga) who is enjoying the pleasures of the flesh with the stripper.  Unfortunately, the good times end when Julian gets into a fight with bouncers.  Julian thinks he's getting shaken down, and the resulting fracas causes the police to be called...which in turns brings in Dr. Gregg Edwards (Damon Gupton).  He tells Norman that Julian has broken out many times as a way of seeking attention that he so craves, and Norman tearfully admits that perhaps there is something wrong with him.

While his mother is probably concerned, she is also letting her hair and guard down with her new husband, Sheriff Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell).  They soon start enjoying the pleasures of the flesh with each other (and still frustrating Normero fans by not giving us a proper love scene between these two beautiful people).  Norma finds herself...happy for a change, which can only mean there's disaster coming her way.  That impending disaster will probably come in the form of Rebecca (Jamie Ray Newman), the bank official/money laundress/Romero's ex-mistress, who is not happy about this new relationship.

Seriously, is EVERYONE in White Pine Bay involved in shady business?  IT makes Twin Peaks, Washington look like Mayberry R.F.D.

Rebecca also wants the money Bob Paris has in his safe deposit box, but the key has disappeared along with Bob.  Or has it?

Finally, Dylemma goes on, with Emma (Olivia Cooke) now getting her lungs working, Dylan wonders where to go: with her or with the Bateses.

Decisions, decisions.

Some people, I figure, are not meant to be happy.  Norma Bates and her namesake are two such people.  It looks like Norma has finally found a bit of peace with a man who despite his reason has fallen for her, a hope for the future, and her sons far away where they should be.

Despite this, we know that she will not be happy because deep down, she is too clingy and too pushy for her own good.  Unwilling to trust others, sooner or later she will go back to her old ways and make a mess of things.

Still, in Lights of Winter, when she is with Romero at the festival, her lighted umbrella in hand, dancing with her new husband, she has a little bit of joy, unaware of the burden Romero carries and of the dangerous woman coming at her.

Highmore continues to do what I thought wasn't possible: take attention away from Farmiga's brilliant performance.  Farmiga continues to be brilliant (her scene when she visits Emma shows a genuine kindness to our much-tortured woman), but Highmore brings that growing sense of danger mixed with haughtiness and smugness to Norman.

Highmore in Lights of Winter makes him mostly arrogant, condescending, mean, a bit full of himself.  His manner over the phone with Dylan shows a man who still cannot imagine he is even remotely responsible for anything that has happened to him.

It's only at the end, with Dr. Edwards, that Highmore gives us a more vulnerable, weak, even frightened Norman, one who might be understanding that there is something wrong, but maybe not with Mother.

As I've said, Farmiga is just a delight to watch as Norma: the joy, almost innocence she has about life mixed with a fear and regret about not being able to help her son (or perhaps understanding that it is too late to help him when she could have done a long time ago).  She is a master (or is it mistress) of great acting.  When has she given a bad performance on Bates Motel

The unfortunate thing about Lights of Winter is that I fear Emma Decody is being written off the show.  She talks about moving (to where Dylan might move with her) and there aren't signs that she is coming back to White Pine Bay (except perhaps for visits).  If that's the case, it would be a great loss to see her go.  As it is, she could have been completely written out of all four Season Four episodes and it wouldn't have impacted things much.

It's odd that her mother's murder at the hands of Norman (in the guise of Norma) might be the only thing keeping Emma on the show.

I won't even go into how Dylan, always one of Bates Motel's more hit-and-miss characters, is getting lost in the shuffle.  Could Bates Motel really write both of them out by season's end? 


It would be worse of Dylan was the entry to bringing back Chick (a character and storyline I absolutely detested).

Guest star Allman was good as the man-child Julian, leading Norman astray (although, given Norman's already had sex with at least two women, there is no logic to the idea that he at a strip bar would be something of an innocent).  It's almost hilarious when Julian and Norman get caught (putting Norman in a boa-vest doesn't make things more rational).

Acting-wise, story-wise, Lights of Winter continues Bates Motel's solid record.  In a lot of other ways thought, I keep wondering...about Emma, Dylan, Dylemma, and whether anyone on Bates Motel will get some kind of happiness.   


Next Episode: Refraction

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