Bates Motel: The Pit Review
Drugs are run in the name of love, and love is slung in the name of gross.
“This is the only thing that’s real. You and me.”
Who’d have thought that the love ballad of Emma and Dylan would be the crux antepenultimate episode of Bates Motel’s third season? This conceivably bad idea that came out of nowhere in the past few episodes is suddenly a dominant plot thread, and while that might have been alright at the beginning of the season, it now just screams of, “What is going on?”
Of course, “What is going on?” is Bates Motel’s bread and butter, and this could all dovetail together really brilliant, but as it stands, it just feels like the start of a messy, cluttered end to the season. Again, we get deeper into Caleb and Dylan’s drug run in the name of love and cystic fibrosis, which is definitely something I could have dealt with happening off camera, but getting to it now means wrapping it up sooner.
I mean, do we really need to see Dylan and Caleb spending so much time contemplating if they’re going to do the deal? And then Caleb reinforcing the point that if it needs to be done, then he’s surely going with him. These are foregone conclusions at this point. Just get these guys on the drug run already and spend this time on anything else, like more of Norma yelling at a bulldozer.
Even when the operation starts imploding and turning ass over teakettle, it’s still all very mundane. You know Caleb and Dylan aren’t going to get killed here. It just ends up feeling like, ugh we spent all of this time for that. Heaping disappointment on tedium is never a good battle plan.
Back on the hill we’re shown opposing shots of Norman and Norma gazing off in their beds, juxtaposed against each other as the visuals of the episode simultaneously remind us how similar and connected these too far, beyond the obvious ickiness that’s also happening.
For instance, while Norman is still exhibiting strange behavior from his altercation last episode in his pseudo therapy session, Norma begins acting erratic by proxy; these subtle sympathy pains of psychosis. She is manic and all over the place here, like when Romero gets her car back for instance, and it’s more than just Farmiga’s bizarrely brilliant take on the wounded woman. You can see Norma going down her own private spiral as she detects that Norman is also going through something big, and it’s more great work from the actress.
Norma also has to play ball with Bob Paris and some construction crews who are dead set on building that pool that was mentioned all of those episodes ago. This also feels like a step backwards and a very deliberate way of stalling time until we head into the final two episodes of the season. But much like the drug run, it’s at least contained here, so we have nothing but quality to coast through now.
That being said, it does treat us to Bob Paris acting all Vito Corleone-like on hapless members of White Pine Bay who are within proximity of the season’s blessed flash drive of exposition. Then again, these scenes might have only been a thrill for me because I continue to only see this guy as Ted Chaough from Mad Men.
I’m only being harsher on the rest of this stuff because it very obviously means we get less of the Norman/Norma material. This season has been very careful about giving us a centerpiece of a scene in every episode, with this one being no exception. Norman feels compelled to tell his mother that James thought he was sexually attracted to her and he’s beginning to fear that maybe he is. This in itself would be a mammoth scene, but what follows is even better as Norma essentially rationalizes Norman’s Oedipus Complex. She says that sex is complicated, that he’s just figuring out his sexuality, and that nobody has sane impulses all the time. “You’re a man. I’m a woman. You can’t help it if you stare at my breasts every once and awhile.” And just like that, Norman feels comfortable once again with his relationship with dear old mum, as they end their discussion with Eskimo kisses in bed.
The other whopper of a scene which beautifully negates the safety cocoon that the previous one built up, is the one that comes out of a panicked Norma at the end of the episode. She confesses what she told James last week which culminates in a heartbreaking meltdown where Norma screams that being Norman’s mother is an exhausting ordeal that’s ultimately going to kill her.
It’s a reckoning that’s so jarring for Norman that he questions if it’s even real—that this being a figment of his fantasies would be a more plausible explanation for what’s going on. But as Norma tries to backpedal on what she said, it’s too late. The damage is done, and Norman actually does begin to hallucinate, using the Mother of his imagination to lick the wounds that the Mother from reality has left on him. And as this Mother only nurtures Norman further, it seems only more and more certain that this season is going to go out with at least one more murder at Norman’s hand.
Norma can even keep track from the window.