Bates Motel: Nice Town You Picked Norma, Review

A look at the second episode in the Psycho prequel series.

Bates Motel continues in its struggle for identity, and the parts that work do so oh so well. The parts that don’t…well. I suppose they could be worse.

The episode opens with Norma and Norman still reeling a little from the murder Norma committed, and then they both covered up. Added to that, who lands on their doorstep but Norma’s prodigal son (and Norman’s older brother), Dylan.

Broke, blond, and with a chip on his shoulder as large as Idaho, Dylan whirls through the house bringing attitude, anger, and some clear Cain and Abel vibes between him and Norman. Added to that, only minutes after his arrival, Norman troops out to the bus stop and almost makes a study date with girl of his dreams Bradley—only to be interrupted by her dad driving off the road in front of them. When he, Bradley and her coterie of friends manage to get to the car and open the door, Bradley’s dad is inside, still alive, but burned to a crisp.

Ewwwwww. That visual will unfortunately stay with me for quite some time.

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As the police gather and investigate, Norma makes small chat with weird undertones with Sheriff Guyliner. He is still suspicious of her. She has reason to be nervous about this: he continues to have no reason to be suspicious of her. Until…

Dum da dum! A call from the Deputy reveals the truck of the dead man parked by Norma’s property. Apparently, his absence has been noticed. Accident and burned man forgotten about, the police scatter to search the adjoining woods for the missing, and un-beknownst to them murdered, man. The Sheriff eyes Norma with even more suspicion and asks her if she’s seen him. Norma denies it coolly. Sheriff guyliner remains…yep, you got it… suspicious.

Back with Norman, he gets assigned in language arts (btw, what happened to good ol’ English class?) a poem to talk about blah blah blah clearly a plot point to get him and CF girl together. CF girl (whose name is Emma) eagerly asks Norman if he can be partners with her for the assignment. He says yes. She tells him she’ll meet him at his house at 11 a.m. He stutters and pretty much can’t say no.

Dylan, meanwhile, continues to be a deadbeat by getting into a fight with Norma by calling her a slut for dicking around with Norman’s dad, insinuating he knows she killed Norman’s dad, and geniunely being lame. Also, he goes to a strip club, meets a crying Asian man, and gets involved in something vaguely nefarious. I say vaguely because throughout the rest of the episode, it’s never clarified. Though apparently, he does need to know how to use a gun.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Guyliner and his Deputy continue asking Norma nosy questions. Why did she say she hadn’t seen the former owner when she had? Why didn’t she come clean? Why is she inferring things? The Deputy seems rather embarrassed, Norma is somewhat defensive, and Sheriff Guyliner is well…yes. That’s right. He remains suspicious.

It makes Norma nervous, so she and Norman spend a good time re-swiffering the kitchen floor (thank you product placement). Then in marches Emma who endures an interrogation by Norma with good grace. Yes, we get a definition of CF (guess the producers made the writers add that in, just for clarification). Yes, Norman awkwardly asks Emma’s life expectancy. Yes, Emma answers its 27. Awwww. Awkward.

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After this, Emma and Norman head up to his room. They briefly talk about William Blake’s poem, Tiger (guess who the poem applies to metaphorically—hint hint, it talks about how God can make monstrous, deadly creatues) before she discovers his manga book and asks to borrow it. She likes manga. He lets her take it.

Norma then goes on a campaign to seduce the Deputy with well-placed laughs, smiles, and cheering him on in a local log-sawing competition. He reveals that the guy she murdered and the Sheriff were childhood friends. Ugh, Sheriff—you’re friends with a gross awful rapist? Not cool, man. Not cool.

The Deputy and Norman go on a semi-date and he warns her that this town she moved to is not all it seems. He says the town takes care of problems in their own way. As in ‘an eye for an eye’. Uh-oh.

Norman, meanwhile gets into a fight with his brother. Already in a cranky mood about his mother dressing pretty and going on a semi-date (and yes, the Oedipal vibes in the scene before when she “tries on” shirts for him, changing into one and another to get his opinion before her semi-date, are way gross), his half-brother infuriates him by calling Norma a whore. Well, technically his phone does, but still. Norman takes a couple swings at Dylan. Dylan warns him not to do anything like that again or he’ll pound him. Then, with nice murderous acting by Freddie Highmore, Norman tries to brain his brother with a meat pounder. Dylan sees him in the reflection of the cabinet, and true to his word, pounds on him. He seems sorry though.

Norma comes home, sees Norman all beat up, and swears that Dylan has to go. Norman agrees. She leaves, he gets a text from Emma saying she needs him, it’s importnant.

He meets her at her dad’s shop and….it turns out…her father is….

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…I’m drawing this out for a reason… wait for it…

…A Taxidermist!!!!!

For those of you who have not seen Psycho, yes this is relevant.

Anyways, for the purposes of this episode, she reveals to him that because a mountain drawn in his manga looks like a real mountain by their town, the event that happen in it (a murder, sex slavery) must be real! Because no amateur artist ever bases things on real life.

Oh, and then she kisses him. He seems to enjoy it. They decide to investigate further. Not the kissing—the manga mystery.

Meanwhile, Dylan wakes his mother up in the middle of the night drinking liquor and playing a music record really loudly. He stares mournfully at pictures, all of Norman, on a table. Norma comes down, demands he leave in the morning. Dylan makes threatening statements about Norman’s father’s demise, and insurance company statements. Norma leaves, but not before she tells him to turn the music down—not off.

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Oh well, guess Dylan’s gonna be around for a while longer.

Norman and Emma investigate the book by traipsing around the mountains, where it’s further emphasized she’s sick by her fits of coughing. They stumble upon a pot field, and then get chased by men with guns, stumble upon a cabin also in the book, and escape via Emma’s orange Beetle. A distinctive car which the men with guns will probably have no problem tracking. Oh, and Emma’s CF seems to virtually disappear during the chase.

After that, the episode wraps up with Norma passing by a crime scene. A burning body is strung up on a flagpole.

An eye for an eye indeed.

So. Much. Drama. This show so far is a weird mix of psychological portrait, pulpy soap opera, and atmospheric thriller. The chemistry between Farmigia and Highmore continues to be excellent, and the side players do what they can—but let’s be real. No B storyline drama can compete with the portrait of Mama Bates and her Baby Bear. We know where this is going….and it’s not good….

Still, an A for effort, right?  

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