This review contains spoilers.
1.4 Trust Me
‘Mom? About your new boyfriend. Um, yeah, he kinda keeps girls chained up in his basement. Just thought you should know. Anyway, what’s for dinner?’
OK, so the Bates family aren’t ever going to be contenders for model family of the year, but it’s nice that at least some of their problems are shared with the rest of the world. As Norma’s ‘shacking-up of convenience’ continues, it’s beginning to spill over into the rest of their lives. Meanwhile, Dylan is making a better fist of things as Norman’s big brother. He’s doing better than anyone has any right to expect.
What it left us with were some nice opportunities to juxtapose ordinary family life with Bates Motel’s patented creepiness. Although there were a handful of important moments that dealt with the on-going season arc, the best scenes were recognisably familiar to anyone with a family.
Norman’s unexpected meeting with Emma’s dad (Ian Hart) was a great example. A young man meeting the father of a potential girlfriend is always going to be nervous and uncertain of how to behave (as is the father for that matter), but Pop’s advice to ‘be decent’, sounded more like a coded warning. Emma has been, like Norman, an outsider in White Pine Bay, exploring its mysteries from a position of innocence, but it seems that her father knows a little bit more, even if it’s not clear how directly he is involved.
It was a great little moment, but the episode’s emblematic scene was the one with Norman and Dylan on the front porch. It was so refreshingly ordinary, beautifully played and incredibly touching. I’ve really warmed to Dylan as a character, and never more so than here, giving friendly and helpful advice to a romantically confused and awkward younger brother. ‘Why would a girl text you at ten o’clock if she didn’t want you to go round?’ Sometimes, the most important role that a big brother has is to point out the obvious. It was set just right as well, coming right after Norman told Dylan about the night that Summers was killed. It felt cathartic, as though Norman was only able to run off an act like an ordinary teenager once he had relieved himself of his terrible burden.
His scenes with Bradley were cute, meeting for ice cream, texting to let her know that he was outside (thereby avoiding the doorbell). He even needed to be prompted to ‘come sit on the bed’, (which is perfectly ordinary for a shy teen), before engaging in stylised, perfect sex, (which isn’t).
His burgeoning romantic life isn’t going to sit too well with Mama. There was a neat switcharound between mother and son. We saw Norman’s concern that Norma had been out all night and then later on the reversal of roles, as a panicked Norma searched for her son. It was another example of the show’s signature ‘sounds like a husband and wife arguing’ scenes, but it points to the essential jealousy in their relationship. I can’t see Norma blithely accepting Bradley’s place in her son’s life.
Performance of the week came from Mike Vogel as Deputy Shelby. Previous events have confirmed his status as a bad guy, but he was a particularly perverse joy here. He slithered through the episode with a soft, sleazy insistence, whether feeling up Norma in the car or gently (but firmly) pressurising Norman to go with him on the world’s creepiest fishing trip. And was it ever creepy. When it comes as a relief to have your ‘pleasant day out’ is interrupted by a call to attend the discovery of severed hand, you know that something is up.
Deputy Creepy is also making a neat job of appearing on either side of Norma, protecting her the one minute, and accompanying her to the station the next. Such moments expose the vacancy in their relationship. It is, as I said earlier, a convenience. We know what Norma’s after, but what’s in it for him?
Guess we’ll find out soon. While Trust Me was a character-driven episode the parts in which the plot took over really counted. The discovery of Summers’ hand (and his ugly watch), Norma’s unsuccessful, panicked attempt to recover the carpet and her ultimate arrest all point to a quickening of things from next week. Norma’s arrest will bear hideous narrative fruit while a now sexually active Norman will surely become anything but cute.
Read Michael’s review of the previous episode, What’s Wrong With Norman, here.
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