As the first season of Bates Motel concluded this week, I’m reminded how far it has come in its ten episodes on the air. I liked it from the start; however, following the second episode, it was a little uncertain where it would be headed. While the acting has been top-notch from the beginning, the consistency of its rhythm and story took a few episodes to gel. By the end, it’s hard to argue that it’s not a better show than it was when it started.
Take episode ten (“Midnight”), for example. The culmination of a couple of very bad days for Norma means that she pays a visit to Dr. Kurata. It’s a productive session for her as we, for the first time, catch a glimpse of the “origin” of Mrs. Bates. The happy memories of childhood she claims to have ring false, though. Maybe her father did smile all the time and her mother smelled like cookies, but we later learn that it’s not the full story.
She later confesses that her father was violent, her mother was “checked out” and the brother whose existence she denied used to make her have sex with him as early as the age of 13. In one particular incident, a hot iron hit her leg leaving an ugly scar. Ah, it’s all adding up now! (Not to mention the horrible fact that this all happened in Akron. Ha, ha.)
The ultimatum that “Jake Abernathy” issued to Norma at the end of episode nine is resolved in the season finale. It’s a tidy conclusion to subplots thinly scattered through the entire season. At the center is Sheriff Romero, whose good guy/bad guy status alternates several times. By the end, I’m not sure what he is… except intriguingly ambiguous.
Ultimately, I suppose he’s Norma’s ally. Perhaps it’s because he doesn’t appreciate the characterization Jake Abernathy makes of her in his confrontation with Romero: “the cute but nutty lady who runs the hotel”. I won’t reveal what happens to Abernathy, but it involves Romero stating, “Not in my town, you piece of shit.”
The best scene of the episode is Dylan giving Norma shooting lessons. Even though he realizes Norma and guns is a “bad mix”, he nevertheless provides instructions that he may have learned during his stint “guarding pot”. (“I don’t like that,” Norma frowns.) By the end, Norma hits that glass bottle directly and Dylan takes to calling her “Mom”. One big happy family…
And, oh yeah, there’s also a character in Bates Motel named Norman Bates. While things are looking up for his mother, they’re going rapidly downhill for Norman. Bradley comes to see Dylan and the sexual tension is palpable, causing ugly words to be exchanged between brothers. Then, Norman has a meltdown when he can’t find his black socks for the big dance.
As Emma’s (and her oxygen tank’s) date, Norman can’t keep his eyes off Bradley, resulting in a punch out from her boyfriend. Bruised and beaten, Norman is picked up by his teacher, Miss Watson. She doesn’t exactly behave inappropriately with him, but does put him in a position he will experience years later: secretly watching a beautiful woman undress.
As Norma breathes a sigh of relief, “Everything is good. Finally everything is good.”, an ending shot provides this season’s cliffhanger and an excellent jumping off point for next season. If you haven’t been watching, it doesn’t seem that you’ll be lost by starting with season two. After several Norma-centric plotlines, Bates Motel promises to at least start out with Norman in the spotlight. That’s pure speculation, but whatever road it travels, I can’t wait to continue the journey.