Bates Motel episode 8 review: A Boy And His Dog

Norman discovers a new hobby in this week's Bates Motel, the art of taxidermy. Here's Michael's review of A Boy and his Dog...

This review contains spoilers.

1.8 A Boy and his Dog

Taxidermy. A bizarre art, but rather useful in its own way. It’s nice that Norman has found a hobby that can occupy his time, but there’s a grim destination for his new skill. As we saw man’s best friend, guts pulled out on Mr Decody’s table, it’s difficult not to see the potential for the same treatment of a boy’s best friend. If this show is intent on dovetailing with the 1960 movie, then there’s likely to be some rather hideous taxidermy taking place sometime in the future. At least Norman will have time to learn how to do it properly.

We’re getting very close to the end of the season now, and there’s an increasing sense of crescendo, particularly in the parts of the show that deal with the town’s criminal economy. Dylan and Remo’s road trip was an entertaining diversion, and the bar fight a necessary air-clearing exercise. With Ethan gone, Dylan could do with a new buddy who can guide him through the underworld.

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However, he might take his new friend’s advice a bit more cautiously even though he was proven apparently correct over the singing idiot in the van. While I can only applaud Dylan’s zero tolerance approach to van busking, and although it was pleasing to see the troublesome troubadour given the long walk, there’s no way that this will not have repercussions as the season’s climax approaches. As a veteran strimmer, his cockiness suggests that he’s already been given a reason to feel self-assured in the organisation, even more so than swiftly-promoted Dylan, so I imagine he will prove to have some kind of sway with Gil, and that his ejection will not go unpunished.

The same cannot really be said about Norman’s truancy. A referral to a therapist was appropriate, he’s obviously long overdue a session in the chair, but with his mum answering on his behalf, he won’t get the help he needs. Neither will she. The shrink astutely locked on to the real source of the problem and saw right through Norma’s own difficulties. He delivered his analysis in a disarmingly gentle manner, but it was clear that it hit home. Norma spent the rest of the episode trying, and ultimately failing, to assert control over her own life and actions. Everything is slipping away from her and the various malevolent forces, in both the town and her son’s troubled mind, are taking over.

I’ve looked at the performances of both Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore in previous episodes. Here now is a chance to examine three others who shone this week, albeit in very different ways.

As Sheriff Romero, Nestor Carbonell hasn’t been given an awful lot to do up to now, but following his actions last week, it would appear that his role is expanding, and there are a few clues that suggest he may yet turn out to be some kind of Big Bad, or at least one of the real Big Bad’s direct reports. His scene with Norma in this week’s episode was excellent, the switch in tone from Norma’s folksy, awkward appeal for his favour to the coldly insistent manner in which he took the wind from her sails was brilliant.

Ian Hart provided a rare moment of softness, even as he pulled the innards from Norman’s hapless dog. Norman has too few positive role models, though Dylan has been doing an admirable job as a supportive big brother. Indeed, both members of the Decody family are a refreshing oasis of niceness in the sinister desert that is White Pine Bay. Emma’s sweet heart-to-heart with Norman was very touching, and very welcome, given the horrors that bookended it.

And what horrors. I’ll come to the squicky reveal in a moment, but before I do, a moment for Jake Abernathy. Jere Burns was excellent as the odious man (formerly) in number nine. He’s shaping up to be a great villain and a real improvement on Shelby as the most proximate antagonist. Chillingly handsome, his every word is freighted with a whisper of menace. Even asking for his room to be tidied carries a sense of threat and he doesn’t appear to care if he’s caught, which is truly scary. Norma made a poor detective, and I thought that having him pick her up on this was a wise decision. At this stage in the season, the plot needs to power along and we don’t need a couple of episodes of doubt to spin things out. He claims to be the man in charge, and while this still remains to be seen, his dangerousness is obvious, and no amount of surprise motel guests will shield Norma from him, no matter how relieved she is to see them.

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Finally, yes, Shelby’s body. A warning from Romero, right? Or was it Abernathy? They’re both clearly involved, but it’s difficult to tell which of the two is the more senior or the more vindictive. It was a pretty awful preservation job though. They could do with a decent taxidermist. 

Read Michael’s review of the previous episode, The Man In Number 9, here.

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