In the second episode of A&E’s Bates Motel, “Nice Town You Picked, Norma”, we begin learning a little more about the Oregon town in which Norma Bates and her son now reside. I hinted last week that for the concept to succeed as a series, we’re going to need other storylines to accompany the development of Norman Bates into a “Psycho” killer.
However, I’m going to flat out state this week that the show needs to pick up the pace in doing so.
Rather than advance any supplemental plots, the episode continues to add to the history of the Bates family. The mystery son mentioned in the pilot appears in the form of Dylan Massett (Max Thieriot), Norma’s child from a previous marriage. He’s going to be trouble for her; he’s suspicious about the death of Mr. Bates and critical of Norma’s relationship with Norman. He’s already been trouble to Norman, provoking a murderous rage from him in the kitchen. (Tip for Dylan: you might not want to call Norman’s mother a whore in front of him.)
Introduced briefly in the pilot, it seems a standout character is going to be a classmate of Norman’s, Emma Decody (Olivia Cooke). Her quirk is that she has Cystic Fibrosis and drags an oxygen tank behind her wherever she goes. She appears in the best scene of this episode as a suspicious (perhaps jealous) Norma asks her, “What is your life expectancy?” Emma is tough, though; the question doesn’t seem to faze her at all.
My biggest complaint with the episode is that it virtually ignores the final scene of the pilot: a chained girl being injected with a hypodermic needle. The image relates to the book Norman found in one of the motel rooms, which is now referred to as “manga”. There’s a little progression with this angle of the subplot in that Emma believes it’s connected to a specific location in the woods. After investigating with Norman, however, they discover something else entirely.
As Norma becomes friendly with Deputy Zack Shelby (Mike Vogel), he tells her the most yet that we’ve heard about the town. Apparently, its residents can afford to live in million dollar homes, yet all they do for income is own and operate the local shops. He is quite clear with her that it’s best not to question the situation, yet promises her that wrongdoers are “taken care of”. He seems like a wide-eyed innocent, but Sheriff Romero again comes across as a villain. And it turns out he was friends with Keith Summers, the first victim of foul play in the Bates Motel.
I keep getting the impression that Bates Motel wants to be part Twin Peaks, with a strange town and even stranger townsfolk. But I’ve seen Twin Peaks, and Bates Motel is no Twin Peaks. Yet. I still have hope for the series and am going to treat this episode as part two of the pilot. But next week I expect the story to branch out and start focusing on the town. Or at least paint a more intriguing picture of it than it has managed to do so far.