Technical aspects: C
Particular trigger warnings: creepy incest vibes, images of/implied slavery, mentioned rape
Passes the Bechdel test? No.
The plot continues to thicken. As was fairly obvious from the last episode, Dylan (Max Thieriot) is now working guarding the pot fields. Emma (Olivia Cooke) confesses to Norman (Freddie Highmore) that she hadn’t initially believed that the sketchbook described anything real, but had just wanted to spend time with him; however, now she realizes it is true and feels like they have to do something about it. Norman tells her to give the book back and forget about it. Norman then has a blackout in class, and is hospitalized. Bradley (Nicola Peltz) visits him, and Norma (Vera Farmiga) checks him out early. The police have searched the house, and Norman confesses that he kept Keith Summers’ belt after they disposed of his body, and the belt is now missing. Norma meets with Deputy Shelby (Mike Vogel), and he tells her that he took the belt and is willing to protect her. Later, Norman hallucinates his mother blaming him for the danger they could be in from the police, and she tells him to go to the Deputy’s house to retrieve the belt. While there, he finds a locked room in the basement, and a terrified Chinese girl locked in; apparently one of the girls depicted in the sketchbook.
This is one of those times I feel somewhat conflicted, this time about pacing. I’ve complained a lot about shows that feel like they’re plodding along without progress toward a goal (see pretty much every review of an episode of The River.) This time it feels like it’s racing along too fast, especially where Norman is concerned. The hint of crazy during his attack on his brother (defending Norma’s honor) was good. And the reveal in this episode that he didn’t remember doing so is also good. But adding in the scene where he’s envisioning his teacher in bondage, that he’s full-on hallucinating conversations with his mother… seems like it’s jumping pretty far forward. The allure, in my opinion, of a “prequel” of sorts to the Psycho story that we know, is in seeing how he got that way. And the controlling, manipulative actions of Norma’s in the first episode especially, though continuing into the second, really make sense as the kind of thing that’ll fuck a kid up, considering the codependent/near-incestuous relationship they have. But now we’re being shown a Norman who is clearly already all the way crazy, not one who is slowly slipping.
There could also be complaints regarding how convenient it is that all of our characters find ways to be tied to each other. The Deputy with the enslaved women, Dylan with the drug ring, etc. But hey, it’s a show with a relatively short guaranteed run, so I’m willing to forgive that. (Though I think it’d make more sense if they also did more to capture the small-town feel in other ways.)
Once again, I found it jarring when we’re given scenes that really look like they could be set decades in the past (the old-style TV, a lot of the wardrobe, the rest of the sets in the Bates’ home) and then someone whips out their iPhone. I don’t know if it’s some kind of deliberate anachronistic choice, if I’m supposed to be inferring great meaning from it, or what.
The acting was pretty all over the place. Freddie Highmore is great, I think, and there were a couple scenes where he looked very much like Anthony Perkins. And I still really like Vera Farmiga as Norma. Most of the rest was pretty serviceable. But Nicola Peltz had some badly delivered lines… she’s seemed shaky to me on and off since episode one, but this one was not her best.
Otherwise, everything seems pretty unremarkable, in a not entirely bad way. Nothing about the sound direction or filming or effects sticks out in a bad way, but nothing being done makes me think “oh, that’s amazing” either.
The bad things (some lousy acting, weird pacing) bugged me a little more this episode, but not in a way that makes the show unwatchable or anything. I’ll keep tuning in.