With friends like these…
The third episode of the second season of Bates Motel introduces and re-introduces several characters as new relationships for Norma Bates and her son, Norman. At first, you think they’ll be good for our “heroes”; however, it isn’t long before we learn that each one is likely as screwed up as the next.
First up is Christine, the director of the community musical, who quits because Norma was not given the lead role. Over cocktails, it seems Norma has found someone with whom she can confide. She’s able to whine about how what happened to Shelby (in season one) reflects badly on her. (You think?) But Christine makes her promise she won’t give a rat’s ass about what “some people” think.
Later, at a swanky garden party, we learn this blooming friendship may have been formed with ulterior motives when Christine orchestrates a fix-up between her brother, George, and Norma. The timing doesn’t seem right; however, at this point, George (Michael Vartan) is portrayed as the most “normal” character in the show.
Afterwards, Norma strikes up a conversation with crime boss Nick Ford, with whom she has a shared connection of opposing the bypass project. That’s going to be an interesting, potentially volatile, relationship. The ones with bad boys usually are.
Next up is Cody, the grocery store clerk who called out Norman on his purchase of hair color in last week’s episode. When Norman quits his chorus role in the musical, she convinces him to work backstage. “It’s summer in White Pine Bay; what else are you going to do?” Later, at a memorial on the beach for Bradley, Norman is surprised when the boy with whom Cody is making out grabs his hand. It turns out he’s gay and Cody assumed Norman was, as well. Ah, well, another potential relationship where the timing just isn’t right.
By the way, Norman takes the news that Cody thought he was gay remarkably well. He laughs it off in a mature way rather than letting it anger him. Don’t worry, though, he gets the chance to act out violently when he returns home later that night…
The most interesting part of this subplot is when Norman tells his mother that he wants to work tech. Suddenly, the woman who wanted the musical so badly for her and her son couldn’t care less about it. When she tells Norman he’s never had interest in building anything, he replies that he likes taxidermy because it’s about taking something apart and putting it back together.
Finally, we learn more about Caleb, Norma’s brother who appeared at the end of last week’s episode. He seems sincere, but Norma won’t allow him in the house. Dylan takes a liking to the guy, though, and tries to mediate. Over dinner, Caleb tells Dylan that he lives in Costa Rica and came to Norma to ask if she’d like to invest in property there.
This drama escalates throughout the episode, exploding in a shocking climax. It caught me by surprise; the episode does a great job of distracting from this outcome. But thinking back, the revelation makes sense on many levels, tying together several series elements and character motivations. Plus, it provides a great cliffhanger for next week.
Emma, who has barely been present in previous episodes of the season, begins to make a comeback in this one. When she reveals to Norman that Bradley’s suicide note was found and she’s assumed to be dead, she wants to plan her memorial. It turns out she’s probably doing that more for Norman than herself. At the memorial, she breaks down, saying that she’s a bad person because Bradley’s dead and she still doesn’t like her.
This leads to a pity party with “Cupcake Boy” where she drinks too much and makes dark statements like, “We’re not dead, but we’re going to die.” After inviting him to “make bad choices” with her, she gets sick. Hopefully, this is the start of an arc for Emma, giving her more screen time and real value to the ongoing story.
To conclude, I want to note that while Dylan also gets more screen time, and it appears that he’s finally getting a juicy story of his own, he’s instead just acting as a go-between for Norma and Caleb. He’s always been that character who exists to hear exposition from others so the audience can learn more about them. However, with this episode’s conclusion, it seems that things are about to change for the neglected Dylan…