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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Horror Episode Review: Bates Motel, Episode 2

Episode 2: Nice Town You Picked, Norma

Overall: B-
Acting: C+
Writing: C+
Story: B-
Technical aspects: C
Effects: B

Directed by:
Tucker Gates

Freddie Highmore
Vera Farmiga
Max Thieriot
Nicola Peltz
Olivia Cooke
Mike Vogel

Particular trigger warnings: creepy incest vibes
Passes the Bechdel test? Yes, barely.

Episode 2 is an episode mostly devoted to thickening the plot, it seems. Norman’s (Freddie Highmore) older half-brother, Dylan (Max Thieriot) shows up to stay, despite his obvious hatred for Norma (Vera Farmiga). One of Norman’s friends, Bradley (Nicola Peltz) witnesses her father crash his car, after he’d been burned alive. The authorities are more deeply investigating Keith Summers’ disappearance. Deputy Zack Shelby (Mike Vogel) starts to reveal to Norma that there are some… odd and less-than-legal practices common in the town, beneath its “small-town charm.” And when Norman starts a project with another friend, Emma (Olivia Cooke), she finds the sketchbook he’d found in the house, and investigates the drawings of tortured women, and she comes to believe that the drawings describe real events. Later, Norman and Emma stumble upon a field of weed in the woods, after which they’re pursued by armed men. And apparently the “eye for an eye” justice that Deputy Shelby described has led to another man being burned.

I liked this episode more than I liked the first one. There’s at least some sense of an ongoing plot forming. We get to see how Norman himself is already a little unhinged, especially regarding how other people may treat his mother, yet how na├»ve he seems in other regards, like with Emma when she kisses him. Norma still switches back and forth between “good mother” mode and “oh-so-creepy” quite well. (I definitely laughed at the “It’s not like it’s weird!” line.)
I’m not sure yet how I feel about the characters we’ve been introduced to. The addition of a brother seems odd, though his absence from prior canon can probably be easily explained by how unwelcome he seems in the family. I’m wondering if we’re going to be stuck with an obnoxious love triangle plot in the future with Bradley, Norman, and Emma, but I suppose we’ll see. (It’s fairly obvious that nothing will really work out in the long run, but that doesn’t mean they won’t try to drag it out.) I'm also skeptical about their skill in handling Emma's cystic fibrosis; this episode already seemed inconsistent regarding it. One scene she's gasping for breath walking up the hill, but then she's able to run away from the men chasing them without too much visible trouble.
            The hints so far about whatever underbelly the town’s economy is based on are interesting enough, though it's apparently pot, which was maybe revealed a little too quickly. (Dropping hints about the town's dark side is well and good, but they could have gotten a little more tension out of it.) I do wonder just how “small” this “small town” is supposed to be. It seemed like it was supposed to be pretty small, both to fit Norma’s idea of a new life with Norman, and from comments made about how everyone knows everyone… yet much of it feels larger to me.
            The technical aspects are all still pretty good. The effects have been good, too, even if it’s not an effects-heavy show.
            I probably liked this episode a little better than the first one, so we’ll see if the trend continues.

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