Sunday, November 6, 2016

Bates Motel: Refraction Review


Bates Motel continues to be among the best-acted series around, and it's a pity that I haven't been as diligent in watching as I had been.  Let's hope to correct this with Refraction, the fifth episode of the fourth season.  We are seeing the main character's mind slowly dissolving into his own delusions, and though some things are obvious, others continue to make this another standout episode.

Norma Bates (Vera Farmiga) appears happy at last.  She's been in her words, too busy marrying Sheriff Alex Romero to piss anybody off.  That is why she doesn't understand why anyone would break one of her windows, particularly one with a beautiful stained glass.  Romero suspects it's because she's married to him (though it might have to do with the money he's hiding from Bob Paris, whom he killed last season).  Norma goes to the hardware store to see if anyone can help repair her window.  In comes Chick (Ryan Hurst), her brother Caleb's enemy who still harbors a hatred against Caleb.  He offers to help, and the unwitting Norma eagerly agrees.

Meanwhile, up at the Pineview mental hospital, Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) is undergoing therapy but it's clear from his work that he is fast losing grip with reality.  Dr. Gregg Edwards (Damon Gupton) sees that Norman is not all there, particularly whenever "Mother" comes to speak in Norman's place.  Norman Bates, in therapy, essentially admits that he is his mother, right in front of a disbelieving Edwards.

In our romance dubbed Dylemma, Dylan Massett (Max Thieriot) and Emma Decody (Olivia Cooke) are seriously contemplating a new life in Seattle.  Dylan is highly reluctant to bring up his marijuana-growing past un in interviews, which is odd to my mind given how pot-growing/using is now so prevalent and considered a positive.

Things come to a head when Dr. Edwards confronts Norman with two pieces of information: he blacked out in his interview, and despite seeing her, Norma has not come to visit him.  All that was in his mind.  Chick, for his part, having made the Norma/Caleb connection, fixes the window but makes some really grotesque accusations when he puts together how Caleb is both her brother and Dylan's father: that she willingly and with desire had sex with her own brother.  He then tells her that it is up to her what happens to her wayward brother.

Bates Motel is best when we see our favorite dysfunctional family at the character's worst.  For Farmiga's Norma, it's when she is vulnerable.  The look of horror and pain and shock as Chick lays it all out for her is a mix of emotions that show why she has sadly been the only cast member nominated for an Emmy (and sadly lost). 

For Highmore, it is when he makes it official that Norman Bates is completely bonkers.  Unlike other episodes, where it was hinted that "Mother" was there but with Norman not being part of the shenanigans, this is the first Bates Motel episode that I can remember where we see Highmore 'acting out' being Mother.  He becomes very feminine and mannered as "Mother" but that is what makes his performance all the more chilling, the fact that he makes Norman's delusions so natural to the character.

At this point I can say that I thoroughly detest the Chick character and so wish he'd go away.  He's about the only character on Bates Motel right now that I'd love Norman to take a whack at.  For me, he drags down everything he touches, and he looks a bit like a deranged Hasidic rabbi.  I figure he's there to provide conflict of some sort, but there's nothing in either Chick or Hurst that interests me.  This whole 'he wants to find Caleb via Norma' setup seems rather clichéd to me.

Up to a point, the same goes for Dylan and Emma: Thieriot resorting more than once to sad eyes and Cooke being now Dylan's love interest and nothing more.  Cooke has been among Bates Motel's best things, so seeing her being now just Dylan's girl seems to show that the show is really struggling to make her relevant, a terrible shame.

Finally, hands up for those who DIDN'T guess that Norman's visit with "Mother Bates" was really all in his mind.  I don't see any, because by now we pretty much figured he was imagining it.     

Still, on the whole  Refraction was a well-acted episode that moved at least the main story, that of the horror show of Norma and her namesake son, forward to what must be its inevitable and tragic conclusion.


Next Episode: The Vault

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