Monday, April 29, 2013

'Bates Motel' 1.07 Review "The Man in Number 9"

It seems that just because the nefarious Deputy Shelby is gone, the horrors for Norma Bates have only just begun. Between living with the aftermath of a murder on her property, the impending possible failure of the grand opening of the Bates Motel, and dealing with her hormonal mentally fragile son’s first crush, blood stains on the stone steps of her house are the least of her worries. Read on to see how first love stings all the more when there’s darkness deep inside of a young boy and why ‘The Man in Number 9” is possibly the creepiest character this show’s had yet.

One of the main stories of the first season of Bates Motel is wrapped up in the opening scene. Or should I say, swept under the rug as Sheriff Romero assures the Bates family and Dylan that the story he concocts about being the real shooter of his former colleague Deputy Zack Shelby will put this whole mess to bed. Dylan is understandably hurt that the most heroic thing he’s ever done will be one that no one will acknowledge or speak about ever again. Sheriff Romero was suspiciously all too ready with that cover story, and it makes what Dep. Shelby himself said earlier in the season about this town being full of dark secrets quite true. Despite the fact that there are some serious skeletons underneath the floorboards in White Pine Bay, that doesn’t stop the townspeople from wanting nothing to do with Norma Bates, the disgraced deputy’s lover, or her business. The hotel seems poised to fail unless something of a miracle can happen but what Norma gets isn’t exactly an answer to her prayers either.
A stranger shows up claiming that he has a standing reservation with the motel from when Keith ‘was involved in a sex trafficking ring’ Summers owned and operated it. While Jake Abernathy hasn’t yet done anything, there’s this presence about him and the vagueness of what his actual sales job entails that suggests what I thought last week, about the sex slave ring story not being finished, is coming to pass.

While Norma’s stressed about the business, Norman has his own very teenage problems to deal with—problems that could prove very formative to his future. Throughout the season, up to and including the ill-advised hookup between them, the idea of Bradley and Norman together provided perfect dramatic tension. Anyone outside of the smitten lad himself could see that a boy who seems to hold to more traditional values of dating would get his heart trashed by crushing so hard on Bradley, a far more modern girl who wasn’t looking for a relationship just a variation of a shoulder to cry on. It was cringe-inducing to see Norman go through all the motions of a boy who couldn’t realize that the very same avoidance he practiced with Emma to avoid leading her on was the same thing that Bradley did with Norman. He believed that she just needed space but Norman sadly didn’t realize that Bradley just chose the wrong method of comfort in her vulnerable state following her father’s death. Now, it’s a mistake a lot of people make, especially teenagers, but it was what Bradley said after Norman’s emotional exit from her front porch (“I shouldn’t have done this with someone like you.”) that sounded off like a red alert to viewers waiting for every little trigger to be pulled that will make this character fall along the same path as his older self in Psycho.

Lately, we’ve been getting more glimpses of this darker side of Norman. If you’re waiting for the formation of the quiet nice young man with an affinity for blondes in showers than you were probably pleased at the brief creepy monologue a hurt Norman spouted out in rage where he mimicked the exact same words his mother used to warn him about his pursuing a relationship with Bradley in the first place. The balance that Norma strikes between well-meaning parent and the spurned jealous other woman is another testament to how captivating Vera Farmiga is on here. The nature of the relationship is more than a little unsettling especially when  fellow Beyond Fandom blogger Rachel pointed out that in the fantasy scene with Norman and Bradley, she initially thought that it looked like Norma was tangling in the sheets with her son. Or when Norma spied on the competition outside of a yoga studio and she gave Bradley a look that screamed ‘he’s replacing me with her?’

It’s all part of Norman’s craving to be just a normal teenage boy for once that draws him into these situations. Emma is a wonderful friend to him but it’s the fact that she accepts him as he is, as something that Norman would like to change, that makes him not want to be around her. Bradley would have been an accepted facsimile for the feelings he’s denying toward Norma as well as the kind of girlfriend that would make people hopefully look at him differently, but when that ended badly it seemed that no matter what he’s always winding up in the arms of his mother. Even when he’s got something dead clutched between them—blood has always bonded these two stronger than nearly anything else. I thought the death of the dog he tried to coax into being his companion was a little on the nose but the image of Norma embracing her son flaws and all was one of the finer scenes of the episode.
All I can hope by the episode’s end is that Norma doesn’t get victimized by this Abernathy guy too when he comes back around again with his business associates. Sure, she can fight like hell, but she’s already been through a lot of trauma and we’re nowhere near the season finale yet. If he does harm her though, perhaps Jake Abernathy will be one of the final triggers yet to be pulled as it seems that every time Norman goes over the edge, it takes a little more strength for him to pull back again. His ultimate fate seemingly as tied to his mother and the property she owns just as much as it was at the start of the series. There is a chance, small though it may be, that Jake Abernathy isn’t involved with the criminal activity we already know about. In that case, White Pine Bay is a virtual Hellmouth for shady characters and they all seem to wind up checking into the Bates Motel which means we’ve still got plenty of story to tell despite last week’s climactic action.

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