A song can fix anything
In the second episode of the second season of Bates Motel, the story advances on three fronts. First, as the murder of Gil is discovered and the investigation proceeds, we learn more about the town and the business that keeps it thriving.
Second, as Bradley suffers the consequences of her actions at the end of the last episode, we say goodbye (perhaps) to her character and story arc. Third, as Norma continues to suspect her son of Gil’s murder, we enjoy more revealing and entertaining scenes between the two of them.
As with other things we’ve learned about White Pine Bay, the details come sparingly and shrouded in even more mystery. However, as Sheriff Romero attempts to prevent a feud between two crime families over the murder of Gil, he’s eager to pin the blame on a man named Kyle, who we haven’t seen before, but is apparently “back in town”. When Romero tells Kyle they found his semen in murdered school teacher Blair Watson, he asks if that was the only semen sample inside her.
Yeah, we already know that Miss Watson was a slut. What’s more interesting in this subplot is the arrival of Gil’s replacement, a loose cannon named Zane. Dylan’s co-worker, Remo, knows about this guy and warns Dylan about what might happen with him in town. Zane wants “to address whatever happened”, even if it means shooting innocent men at point blank range. Zane is apparently the brother of the “big boss” and is an “idiot” who, in the past, got caught speeding with a car load of weed.
This development places Dylan in danger because he’s certain to be witness to, and perhaps participant in, many an illicit crime. You have to wonder, though, if his sensible approach might send him up the management ladder in the near future.
Meanwhile, Norman hides Bradley in the basement and helps her plan as escape from White Pine Bay. He’s ultimately unable to fulfill his promise to her and must recruit Dylan to drive her to the bus station.
In this subplot, Norman talks a lot about death. In an early scene when Dylan asks him where Bradley might be, he blurts out, “Maybe she’s dead.” (You know, she already tried to kill herself once.) And when he tells a grocery clerk that he’s buying hair color for his mother, she remarks that he’s part of a “dying breed”, running errands for his mother. He replies about dying, “I guess that’s what we’re all doing.” With last week’s emphasis on taxidermy and now this apparent obsession with death, we’re learning more about what makes Norman tick.
In the final subplot, we don’t necessarily learn more about what makes Norma tick; however, we are reminded of what a nut she really is. This is a woman who can lie on a table during a Pap smear and have an animated conversation with her physician and who can think the solution to all her son’s problems is for him to try out for a community theater production of South Pacific. Her fears and suspicions about Norman inspire this episode’s title, “Shadow of a Doubt”.
It’s during the musical tryouts that we see a pattern of behavior between mother and son repeated once again: Norman’s temper explodes, Norma argues with him then breaks down into tears, Norman comforts her, she admits she’s scared, and he tells her to “stop it”. Further, when Norma admits she can’t go through with the tryout, Norman encourages her, saying “it’s only pretend”. You can see clearly how Norman’s true feelings are always sacrificed for his mother. With her claim that she only wants to protect him (“from what”, he asks), she’s really being selfish and it is he who ends up protecting her.
On the steps leading to the Bates house, the next-to-last scene perfectly ties together all three subplots from what is another excellent episode of Bates Motel. Emma (oh, she’s still around?) delivers the news that an arrest has been made for Gil’s murder, sending Norma into a hilarious fit of delight. Dylan hands Norman a sweet goodbye note from Bradley. And an ever-present Norma watches her son from the famous window upstairs…