Friday, March 10, 2017

Bates Motel: Bad Blood Review


Never underestimate Bates Motel's ability to make crazy crazier.  Just when one thinks things couldn't be any more bonkers, out comes something even more outlandish yet surprisingly within normalcy of the series.  Bad Blood, the third episode in the last season, gives us two stories, loses Dylan and Emma, makes Chick simultaneously rational and repulsive, and ends with a sad but diabolical moment.

Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) now has someone else know his 'secret': both his uncle Caleb (Kenny Johnson) and Chick (Ryan Hurst), the handyman who both stumbled into finding the body of Norma Bates (Vera Farmiga) and Norman in full drag as 'Norma'.  While Caleb freaked out to where he had to be chained up in the basement, Chick took all this remarkably well.  He played along with Norman's delusions, even having dinner with 'both' of them, attempting to keep up with whatever they were talking about.

Eventually, we learn why Chick is rather cool with everything going on: he plans to become a bit of a Robert Bloch and write all this down for what would probably be a wild best seller.  He even goes and gets a typewriter and secretly records Norma/Norman conversations.

Meanwhile, former Sheriff Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) is a desperate man.  Finding  that he will be transported to another jail, he takes the opportunity to escape, determined to get to Norman and enact revenge.  In his travels, he kidnaps a passerby and ends up attempting to hotwire a car.  The owner's teen child ends up blowing Romero with a shotgun, with Romero in shock.

As for Caleb, the guilt of his actions with Norma all those years ago, the insanity of his nephew, and the general chaos has left him resigned to a fate of death.  He too begins hallucinating between Norman and "Norma" (his head injury making things more muddled).  "Norma" tells Norman that for once, he has to the killing, in this case, of Uncle Caleb (as she cannot bring herself to do in her own brother).  Norman allows Caleb to flee and never return, but "Mother" comes down with a gun chasing after him.  All hell breaks loose when Caleb spots a car and desperately hails it.

Unbeknown to him, it's Chick, who turns away to read a text from Norman/Norma about picking up milk.  He is distracted just enough to not see Caleb running towards him, causing Chick to run Caleb down.

It looks like everyone, even dead people, are using others in particularly wicked ways.  "Norma" wants her son to kill someone.  Chick is playing Norman's delusions to gain fame and fortune for himself.  Caleb is playing to "Norma's" sense of brotherly bond to stay alive, though by the end he figures his sins have finally found him out.  Romero uses the friendly nature of his guard to put him off guard, and pushes an innocent stranger into a ride of terror.

There is an overwhelming sense of tragedy in Bad Blood, where the actions done decades ago, both good and evil, have brought a perfect storm that is devouring everyone in its path.  Of particular note is when Romero frees Jason (Joshua Hinkson), the man he forced to help him in his getaway.

A green-tinted sky and landscape presses down on Jason and Romero, as if they are both in a nightmare not of their making.  Jason softly begs for his life, pleading he has a wife, two children, and a mother.  He fears he will die for no reason, and Romero sees where he now is: lost, with no real way back from the mess he both made and finds himself in.  He seems almost genuinely stunned that anyone would think he, Alex Romero, would harm anyone.  It's a haunting, sad moment, a true tragic situation for two people who meant no harm (and in Jason's case, was just at the wrong place at the wrong time).

Credit has to be given to two fine performances: Johnson and Highmore.  Bad Blood is perhaps Kenny Johnson's best performance in his recurring role.  His Caleb is one that fears for his life, but who also sees, more than ever before, the harm and pain he's caused and how despite his own wish, he will never be able to make amends.  Johnson's Caleb is a man who is tired of running, who is resigned to his awful fate, who has given up on life.  The fact that he was given an unexpected reprieve, and then to have it taken in the worst way, by someone who sought to benefit from it but now finds he too has done evil, is tragic too.  Johnson is simply excellent in his regret, his pain, and in his remorse.

Highmore does something quite interesting: he deliberately heightens his voice when he is seen in drag as 'Norma'.  His adoption of more feminine manners and his voice going up to sound more feminine show that Norman was doing his best to be 'Norma' and not Norman pretending to be Norma.  Couple that with Highmore still having to play Norman, particularly when he has a scene with Madeleine Loomis (Isabelle McNally), shows that Highmore is consistently excellent in the 'dual role'.

As a side note, while she had only one scene, McNally was heartbreaking when she details her own loneliness and efforts to reach out to the nice young man at the motel.

Even Hurst as Chick, a character I've pretty much hated since his debut, does a great job when he has dinner with the 'two' of them.  A credit to how Farmiga and Highmore also worked well to make this particularly bizarre meal work pretty well.

There's something to be said where the guy who committed incest turns out to be the most sane person around.

Perhaps because Caleb was run down in the clumsiest of ways (seriously, text), I thought Bad Blood stumbled slightly.  However, this was another intense hour in a show that hopefully will come down to an epic series finale.


Next Episode:  Hidden

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