It’s a brave thing for any show, no matter if they’re beginning their freshman season or if they’ve been on the near for nearly ten years, to feel free to let a story play out naturally. So many television series are stuffed with filler episodes and C-minus plots that drag down the main theme. Bates Motel should be lauded that nearly half-way through their first season they haven’t missed a beat in laying out their main storyline as introduced in the pilot of the secret sex slave trafficking ring in White Pine Bay. They’re also not afraid to keep things unpredictable regarding the actions and consequences of our main characters. But what the story was truly about in ‘Ocean View’ was a battle being waged for both Norman’s soul and his future.
This version of Norman Bates has a story with no true foregone conclusion. Sure, he has the same mommy issues (and that is a massive understatement) as well as violent black outs that fit the prime version of the character, but this Norman has something new—a possible way out. Introducing the character of Dylan Bates seemed so gimmicky at first. It was as though the creators wanted a way to differentiate themselves from the Psycho canon and thought that a bad boy fuck-up older sibling that was free of Norma’s ways would be just the ticket. One of the best elements of this episode was a growing bond between Norman and Dylan when both were on the outs with an imprisoned and later bailed out Norma. Think about the image of Norman on the back of his brother’s motorcycle—how happy he suddenly was and how free.
The character of Dylan Massett (Max Thieriot) has come to represent the ultimate in this what-if scenario: what if Norman could be free from Norma’s influence and tendency to stir up drama? What if he moved away from the titular motel and the iconic house behind it and lived a new kind of life, away from his former stresses…could the story end up differently? It’s the kind of thing that fanfiction writers have toyed with in their stories for years and watching it play out on screen is one of the true delights of watching Bates Motel. Dylan is the ultimate obstacle to Norma’s precious boy and their special bond and I think that if something happens to take Dylan away from Norman we’ll truly get closer to revealing the monster inside of a troubled awkward teenage boy.
That’s really all he is at the moment—just a young man who is sincere in a time where sincerity is mocked and taken advantage of. Emma had it right when she tried to tell Norman that his hook-up with Bradley was probably just that, a fling. It’s also a form of denial that Norman engaged in when he was physical with Bradley. He figured out a way to provide her with the comfort she needed which shows how good of a friend he can be to those in need of a shoulder to cry on or perhaps something more. To Norman, it was also an act of rebellion toward Norma as much as it was a satisfying of his own lust for that ultimate of all forbidden fruit. All the while assuring himself that he doesn't feel this way toward his own mother in the slightest and he isn't any different from any other teenage boy. Emma is as much a bright spot in Norman’s life as Dylan is and I worry for her safety as well on a show that has no problem with unexpectedly killing off a recurring character without any real warning. How his relationships fare with Emma and Dylan are going to help mold Norman into the person he turns out to be.
As it stands, he’s still preoccupied with protecting his mother and make no mistake that Norma definitely needs to be shielded from the duplicitous Deputy Zack Shelby. I know some American Horror Story fans out there watch this show and I know I can’t be the only one to see so many shades of Oliver Thredson and Lana Winters in the tale of Norma Bates and Zack Shelby. The back and forth power struggle between them but this time there's the complication of actual affection, at least from one side. Next week seems to be about trying to bring Dep. Shelby down but I have a feeling this might not be neatly wrapped up in the span of just one hour. I also have a feeling that my theory of Norman’s first kill within the show being Dexter-esque (killing someone who does bad things) could be spot on after all.
Even though Norman’s story isn’t quite so set in stone, it seems that Norma is courting serious danger all around her. Despite every bright spot and way out for Norman, if he loses Norma I have a very hard time seeing his future end up as anything resembling well-adjusted. If I were Bradley, I would be very cautious about hopping into the shower if that happens because something like that could make the boy finally snap.