Bates Motel season 2 episode 6 review: Plunge

Review Michael Noble 9 Apr 2014 - 18:05

Norman's tendencies are becoming more violent as the season progresses. Here's Michael's review of Plunge...

This review contains spoilers.

2.6 Plunge

This episode aired in the week that a third season of Bates Motel was confirmed. Unless Carlton Cuse & Co decide to take a rather radical direction with the show, this means that Norman’s burgeoning descent will be drawn out over at least fourteen more screen hours.

While knowing how much more story may yet run can help provide a little context, each season must be judged as it is presented, and it is therefore a source of excitement rather than alarm that Norman’s fugue states have blossomed into full-blown rage sessions, even more so that they are now punctuating the season instead of being saved for the finale.

Narratively too, they are coming at an interesting time. Up to now, Norman’s condition has been preserved, as far as it can be, as a secret by his mother. She’s even done her level best to keep them from Norman himself. The sharing of Norman’s secret among the three women closest to him is borne of necessity and of genuine care. Cody, who has done little to win any enthusiasm from Norma, is necessarily involved after witnessing it, while her reporting of the incident to Emma, who then passed it along to Norma in time to prevent the poor lad from sitting his driving test, is testimony to network of care that he has developed around him.

For all the community’s evident oddness (of which, more later) it is a community and that can be caring as much as it can be suffocating. At this early stage in his criminal career, Norman is still very much the victim of circumstance. His fugue states, even his conscious rages, are presented as things that are happening to him, rather than because of him. Even the attack on Cody’s father was made from a victim’s perspective –the old man was the aggressor, his death certainly accidental.

Norma’s concern for her son extends beyond preventing him from drinking ‘for medical reasons’. Her acceptance of his more innocuous outbursts such as the incident with the car (and yes, in Norman’s case, forcing a car off the road does count as ‘innocuous’) reveals just how much she wants to help him, and just how far out of her depth she is in that goal.

Seeing Norman’s loved ones care for him and forgive him his lapses as merely the result of heightened emotions adds texture to the show and means that the drama can emerge not just from the violence of Norman’s outbursts but from his loved ones’ responses to them. It’s an excellent step that means that the certainty of the show’s destination (in however many seasons that takes) is almost immaterial. It’s the quality of the journey that makes Norman’s descent worth following.

Even if that wasn’t the case, the structural back-up plan that is the odd goings-on in town provides further reason. There’s a sense that White Pine Bay, the organisational structure of which is becoming ever more clear, is beginning to envelope our main family, who began the story as outsiders and who, to a certain extent, remain so. Christine’s oppressive friendliness was again marshalled against Norma, and joined by George and the still mysterious Nick Ford, a man of such colossal local influence that a simple nod is sufficient to propel an inexperienced stranger onto the town council despite her sole qualification being to have got rather animated at a meeting.

It all raises the question of just what is it about Norma that they are all after? She’s spirited and, when she needs to be, is quite personable, but there’s more to it than that. The exaggerated, no-taking-no-for-an-answer neighbourliness of Christine and George has more than a touch of Stepford about it and makes Norma a passenger in her own journey through the town. So too is Dylan. Pulled out of the hospital by Jodi, for purposes as yet unclear (the suggestion that Dylan’s new role is ‘to run things without appearing to run things’ is doubtless the tip of a large, marijuana-scented iceberg). At least when she crawled on top of him, Jodi betrayed a more obvious reason for her sudden interest than did Norma’s chorus of boosters.

Less obvious still are the intentions of Sheriff Romero, sorry, Alex. Marked for some time as part of the town’s contingent of malevolence, he now comes across as a man trying desperately to navigate dangerous territory without hurting anyone. His interactions with Norma remain stilted, almost embarrassed, and he can’t quite bring himself to drop the official act, even when he’s out of uniform. His unsteady apology that Norma’s room is a little too visible came across like a case in point, suggesting that he’s decent enough to admit to a situation without fully knowing what to do about it. Rather like someone else we know.

Read Michael's review of the previous episode, The Escape Artist, here.

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