Thursday, March 2, 2017

Bates Motel: The Convergence of the Twain Review


As we get closer to the series finale of Bates Motel, the show is absolutely determined to amp up the crazy.  In a certain sense, it has to: with Mother Bates technically dead, we have to have some wild finishes.  The Convergence of the Twain gives us a wild, wild finish, and actually makes good use of the one character I have always, always disliked.

Ghosts figurative and literal are all coming out.  Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) continues to hold to his idea that his mother, Norma Bates (Vera Farmiga) is alive and hiding out at the house while pretending to be dead to the rest of the world.  He manages to throw in some good taunting of his stepfather, Sheriff Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) for good measure, showing himself to be very much alive.  Romero won't be denied, and his rage explodes into a fight in jail.  This may be a blessing in disguise, as it may allow him to be moved to another facility. 

For his part, Norman is not too eager to go on the date the hardware owner Madeleine Loomis (Isabelle McNally) has set up for him, but he quickly changes her mind when Madeleine tells him it's a double date.  He is even thrilled when he learns who her husband is: Sam Loomis (Austin Nichols), who went to the Bates Motel for a sexual liaison with his mistress, checking in as "David Davidson".  The moralistic, smug Norman is pleased to know who "David Davidson" is, but isn't about to tell his secret...and Sam is both worried and angry that Norman may reveal his indiscretion.

Norman continues to struggle against his growing desire for Madeleine, particularly since she bears a resemblance to Norma.  Norman now really slips out of control: going to a bar he truly cannot dissociate between himself and Norma, to where he carries on a conversation with the bartender as essentially Norma, but with dialogue that might make it look like it came from Norman.

Enter into all this lunacy Uncle Caleb (Kenny Johnson).  Having left Dylemma, he comes to find Norma, unaware that she is dead.  Once he learns this, Caleb is devastated.  Things are not helped by the emergence of Chick (Ryan Hurst).  Chick and Norman have come to a business arrangement: Chick will bring animals for Norman to stuff and then sell them to art collectors, splitting the profits.  Chick taunts Caleb with the knowledge that Caleb had raped Norma, but Caleb, like Romero, connects Norma's death to Norman's actions. 

Caleb, in a rage, goes to the house, where he makes a shocking discovery: Norma's body, frozen, all dressed.  He's knocked out, and Chick, who followed Caleb, comes across a scene that is so insane that he takes it all quite well: Norma's corpse, Caleb on the floor, and Norman, in full drag, telling him, "Well, now you know my secret.  I'm still alive".

We've had crazy in Bates Motel before, but few episodes, at least to my memory, have been flat-out bonkers as The Convergence of the Twain.  It has Freddie Highmore's best performance so far, one that would be considered a strong one for Emmy consideration if not for the Television Academy's fixation on ignoring the show altogether.  From Norman's smugness and self-righteousness at taunting Romero and looking down his nose at Sam to his ability to 'be Norma', Highmore really pushes himself.  We see the darkness and arrogance that Norman has, along with his conflicting emotions over Madeleine.  He dominates The Convergence of the Twain, and makes the difference between Norman and Norma believable, even frightening.

A highlight is the editing when Norman and 'Norma' are carrying on a conversation with the bartender (who was polishing the glass...I don't go to bars often, but is that ALL bartenders do?).  Not only is the editing itself really first-rate, but how the conversation flows between the 'three' of them.  It got to the point where I expected Norma to lose control and flirt with the bartender, which would have been stranger since from the bartender's perspective, it would have been Norman who was doing the flirting.  It was such a bizarre, surreal scene, one elevated by the writing, the editing, and Highmore and Farmiga's performance.

This as I said, is the first Bates Motel episode where Chick didn't annoy me.  He even appeared to be one of the few sane people in White Pine Bay, and his surprisingly calm reaction to witnessing the lunacy, a very soft "Holy S-hit", is almost wryly amusing.  Here he comes in to a dead woman all dressed in fine clothes, his enemy on the floor having been knocked out by a young man (22 if we go by the name on the joint tombstone, Norman born in 1995, Norma Louise: 1974-2015) dressed as the dead woman, complete with wig.

It's all pretty bonkers, but Chick takes it all in remarkably well. 

We also integrated the Loomis story into things in a way different from that of Psycho.  McNally is wonderful as the sweet, slightly flirtatious Madeleine and Nichols matches her as the slightly sleazy but not horrible Sam.

A few things didn't quite work.  One wonders why we went to Emma and Dylan at all, but it's not a surprise given how Bates Motel has struggled to integrate them into the show.   Johnson's grieving at Norma's grave was a bit over-the-top for me, and the Romero storyline better start paying dividends soon. 

Still, apart from that, The Convergence of the Twain gave us more cray-cray, which from Bates Motel, is what one loves the most.


Next Episode: Bad Blood

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