Bates Motel: The Deal Review

Everyone is so crazy about flash drives you’d think it was 2002, in this decent placeholder episode.

“Because we all whitewash our parents’ sins because on some level, we need to.”

Norman would defend his mother endlessly.

They might have had their differences lately, but when push comes to shove, he’s going to have Norma’s back to the bitter end—even if he’s the one causing it. So when not only Norman, but Dylan too, are putting their respective parents on a pedestal in this episode it makes for some subtext-y television.

Norma obviously wants to look past Norma’s sins, one, because he loves her, but also he view himself as an extension of her sins. He is her mistake to make, and this season has been all about towing that line and her trying to keep the line effectively taught.

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As much as Norman might think his mother is infallible, the rest of the town certainly doesn’t. Norma finds herself run off the road and her car totaled, early on, with some really excellent camera work done to punctuate it. It feels like you’re in the crash, even, so it’s pretty impressive to see that it’s Sheriff Romero himself, Nestor Carbonell, who’s in the director’s chair this week. He shows a lot of promise as a director and I’d gladly like to see him return here. He could easily be the Tate Donovan to their Damages. You know what I mean.

Norma’s unexpected detour on the back roads is courtesy of Bob Paris and the rest of his team trying to strong arm Norma into giving them Annika’s flash drive. It’s not as if we haven’t seen Norma blackmailed or threatened before, so this early threat doesn’t feel that interesting initially, although the driver does croak out a mean, “You’re lucky you’re not dead, Norma Bates.”

The entire criminal underworld of White Pine Bay seems to be focused on Annika’s missing flash drive with it being a bargaining chip between everyone apparently. Frankly the large fascination with it is coming on a little too hard, especially since the content that’s on it is hardly as satisfying to match this fervor. The fact that it’s ledgers from criminal revenue regarding the drug trade is pretty predictable and really the only thing it could have been. The fact that Dylan’s friend just randomly cracks the flash drive’s code is just puzzling though. As if the show realized it was moving past the mid-way point and had to get this flash drive junk over with already.

This leads to Norma and Dylan helping each other out plenty and as a team they are as delightful as you’d hope they would be. They have such an energy that’s different than what we’ve been freebasing off of lately between her and Norman. Frankly, it’s a welcome pressure release after everything that’s been building up lately. Plus, it gives us more A-plus Norma dialogue like, “Criminals need to do a better job at holding onto their shit.”

When it comes to Dylan blindly supporting his parents though, Caleb is the one he stands behind. He finds himself getting intertwined yet again in the topic of whether Caleb can be forgiven or not (for the rape of his sister, in case you forgot), with Norman being the opposing force naturally. It’s the same argument we’ve seen again and again, so when Caleb is seduced with the high-earning profits of mystery woodsmen, it looks like Dylan might have backed the wrong side here, as much as he wants to have his father’s back. Caleb resists the offer initially, but unfortunately the direction this is going down feels pretty clear. It’d be nice to just see Dylan get a stable support system for once. At the moment that might be Norman, and we know how tenuous that is.

On the topic of Norman, it’s a relatively quiet episode for him if you look past the fact that he’s now sexualizing and hiding his mother’s dresses. We’re now heading into the deep end of full-on dementia Norman sooner rather than later, and I can’t wait. I give it by episode eight that he’ll have tried the dress on.

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Another significant moment, while also quite moving, is Norma’s breakdown with Romero. Farmiga sells it just like any of her other best breakdowns on this show (not being able to get the door open after is a nice touch though), too. Her generalization that Romero isn’t taking her seriously just because she’s a “mother” is a little ridiculous—Norma’s always been a thorn in everyone’s side and more than just a homemaker—that being said, it gets her the meeting with Paris.

The fact that all of this turns into Norma negotiating for the highway bypass (and then some) from so, so long ago almost feels like a joke. But seeing her twist the knife in the town and finally get what she wants is pretty damn satisfying. Watching her hold her own and operate with the utmost confidence in her meeting is an example of how blindsided Norma’s ego is, in spite of how it works. If only she didn’t have that powder keg of a child back at home.

In the episode’s closing moments this idea of whitewashing our parents’ sins away is returned to. It proves to be so strong of a theme that it even brings Norman and Dylan back together, seemingly stronger than ever. Their collective truth session with their mother is a grueling experience due to Norma’s submissive silence through it all. These two siblings can come together, but Norma and hers cannot. Conveniently, after Norman and Dylan are ready to double down on family more than ever, Norma is ready to jump ship.

Now all they have left is each other.

PS: Did you all hear that wonderful little aside from Emma to a motel guest? “And the password for the wi-fi is ‘MOTHER’; all caps.”

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3 out of 5