Everyone gets a little sumpin-sumpin
After a strong 4-episode start to its second season, Bates Motel returned to what it does worst in the fifth episode, “The Escape Artist”: dropping storylines. Norma’s brother? Caleb appears only in scenes from last week’s episode. George? It’s as if he never existed. Although this trait isn’t as bad as The Walking Dead’s habit of forgetting characters for multi-episode stretches, it’s still pretty darned annoying.
It doesn’t mean that nothing interesting happened, though. Both Norman and Emma got a little sumpin-sumpin, just not with each other. Dylan also got a little something, but it landed him in the hospital. And Norma thinks she got something towards stopping the bypass project; however, it’s likely more than she bargained for.
The most interesting thing about Norman’s relationship with Cody is… Norma. The two women finally meet when Cody drives up to the motel, music blasting. “Hello, I’m Norman’s mother.” Cody replies, “How ’bout that!” We already knew they wouldn’t like each other, so it’s fun to see it play out. Later, Norma tells her son, “I’m not going to give you the third degree. I’m not going to be that mother.” Then, of course, she proceeds to do so. She warns him, “There are people who can help you and people who can hurt you. You have to choose the right people.”
By this time, though, Norman and Cody have already been kissing and undressing in the treehouse. “I’ve never met a girl like you. I guess I feel safe with you. It’s a weird thing for a guy to say, huh?” He then tells her that his recent blackout wasn’t the first one. (Earlier, she told him, “I’ve never seen anyone go into a hole like that,” to which he replied, “Don’t tell my mother.”)
The most interesting thing about Emma’s relationship with Gunner is also… Norma. When Emma asks Norma about the first time, she replies, “If you have feelings for him and he’s a good person, then the first time you have sex, it should be lovely.” Should be. Vera Farmiga loads this line with multiple meanings. The way she delivers it, you learn almost everything you need to know about her first time. She subtly indicates that it wasn’t what it should have been.
When alone, the passion ignites between Emma and Gunner. (Let’s just hope her oxygen tank does not also ignite.) In his motel room, she removes her breathing tubes (and her shirt). Gunner asks her if she’ll be all right. And when things heat up between them, he says, “On second thought, keep it close.” Emma certainly hasn’t heeded Norma’s earlier warning, “He sells pot.” “Nobody’s perfect,” she replied, although it seems he may be perfect in bed.
The most interesting thing about Sheriff Romero’s relationship with Zane is also… Norma. It’s no mystery by the end of the episode that Zane “hired a dude to torch his house”. How convenient for our entertainment purposes that Romero has to move into the Bates Motel for “a few months”. The scenes between him and Norma are quite fantastic. She gives him a hard time while simultaneously doing his laundry and cleaning him up from his fight with Zane.
There’s definitely chemistry between the two. Norma: “Don’t you get tired of being stoic?” and “God, you’re contrary”. Romero: “Oh, and you’re not?” Just when you think he’s warming up to her, she tells him she met Nick Ford. That cools him down fast and he warns her, “He’s in the drug business. Stay away from him at all costs.”
Norma replies, “OK”, but, like other warnings in this episode, they’re too little too late. At this point, she has already met with a biologist who gave her an environmental impact report about endangered Pistol River Pocket Gophers. Naïve and confident, she marches into city hall to file the report. Harmless enough; however, by the end of the episode, her arch-nemesis on the city council, Lee Berman, ends up dead from a car accident.
This final point exposes another weakness of Bates Motel. Near the end, Norma notices an upset Romero returning “home”. “You haven’t seen the news?” he asks. You’d think the news was that her son, Dylan, was hit by a car during a shootout and is lying in a hospital bed. But no, it’s about Lee Berman, a character who was introduced by name for the first time in this episode. You might even think an interesting twist was that he was driving the car that hit Dylan. But no, he apparently drove off a cliff.
Oh, well, it all gets us to the same place; it’s just a little sloppy with the details. The episode ends just as others have, with a mysterious new character being introduced. It’s Zane’s sister and when Dylan asks who she is, she says, “I’m your boss.” From what we’ve learned this season, don’t get too attached to her or her storyline. After a couple episodes, they’re likely to be gone.