One thing we haven’t yet discussed about Bates Motel is the setting. Rather than taking place in the same era as Psycho, the creators have chosen for the story to unfold in present day. I personally like that decision.
It gives the show some distance from its inspiration, which allows the liberties it takes to be less offensive to fans of the source material.
It also allows for such plot points as Norma Bates working on the motel’s website and Norman Bates texting the girl with whom he spent the night. Both of these things happened in this week’s episode of Bates Motel, entitled “Ocean View”. But they weren’t frivolous events; they were well-placed moments that reflected the current mental state of the two primary characters.
For Norma, who was arrested in last week’s episode for the murder of Keith Summers, it allowed a moment for her to pause and think about how her life was unraveling, staring blankly at a computer screen like so many of us do every day. For Norman, it allowed a means for him to express his feelings in the afterglow of a romantic encounter. (However, it was the lack of response from the text recipient that likely expressed more of what was truly happening between the two.)
This was the most explosive episode of Bates Motel yet. Secrets were revealed, characters were confronted with truths and two major acts of brutality were performed. Supporting all this was the most consistent combination of elements so far. At this point in the series, each individual person and occurrence previously introduced has coalesced into one cohesive story. Nobody or nothing was neglected this week.
At the same time, several relationships were turned on their heads. Norma’s relationship with Deputy Shelby became more complicated. Originally, she seemed to be using him to protect her; however, she now seems to truly care for him. What will happen when he betrays her? Norman’s relationship with Emma became strained as he revealed his sexual encounter with Bradley. Will she (and her oxygen tank) continue to help him now that she knows he’s not interested in her “in that way”?
It is the relationship between mother and son that continues to be in the forefront, but it is the development of Dylan that continues to surprise. He has transformed from a potential enemy for Norman into a true ally. But that doesn’t mean he’s an entirely good guy. Something happens in the episode that makes you wonder if he shares some of the family rage.
It amazes me that every week I am able to write so much about a weekly TV series. Is there really enough substance in Bates Motel to support it? I guess there is. Halfway through the first season, the show has reached a creative peak. There’s every indication that it will continue to climb instead of rolling downhill. Most new TV shows need a little time to hit their stride, so if you gave up on this one at the beginning, you really ought to give it another try.