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Norma Wants Out in “Underwater”: Bates Motel Review

By on May 14, 2013
Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates. Image © A&E

Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates. Image © A&E

The first (short and sweet) season of Bates Motel is nearly over. This week’s “Underwater” satisfactorily sets us up for the undoubtedly dark finale, but also has us in stitches. Bates has offered up some twisted laughs in the past, but this episode delivers much more dark humour than unusual. It is a fun change of pace, and still leaves room for the more serious issues the characters currently face. The jokes start early when Norma laments, “Why do crazy people keep gravitating towards me?”

An alternative title for this episode could have been “Norma vs. The Potheads”. As soon as our leading lady gets a whiff of the weed being smoked on her motel porch, she is on a warpath. She is agitated with Dylan for bringing these suspicious guests to the motel, particularly when he will only admit that they are “processors of stuff”. She even insists that Emma “bust” them up if they start smoking again – poor Emma looks like she’d rather be asked to do anything else.

To unwind from the stress of telling a cute guest to put out his joint, Emma decides to try the special cupcake he offers her. This leads to her wandering around with a giant stick, suspicious that she is being watched. If anyone is keeping score as to whether Emma or Bradley is a better match for Norman, add ten points to the Emma column.

And minus twenty from Bradley’s. She bats her eyelashes at Dylan, and the two of them visit Bradley’s father’s old office. Dylan flirting with Bradley is concerning on a variety of levels. Falling for Bradley didn’t work out so well for Norman, so we’ll see how the disloyal Dylan fares.

Norma is eager to get out of town, one of the only sensible ideas she’s had all season. Jake Abernathy is sending her threatening notecards, the town is building a bypass that will destroy part of her motel’s business, and her eldest son is engaged in dodgy business. These are all solid reasons for heading elsewhere. She actually googles the safest cities in America before deciding on Oahu, Hawaii. Since Norman is not your average teenage boy, the idea of moving to Hawaii infuriates him.

Dylan (Max Thieriot) comforting Bradley (Nicola Peltz). Image © A&E

Dylan (Max Thieriot) comforting Bradley (Nicola Peltz). Image © A&E

Angry at his mother for wanting to leave, Norman says it is a stupid idea and tells Norma that she is crazy. While he may be having girl troubles, he is fond of his inappropriate English teacher, Miss Watson. The teacher encourages him to publish his short story, even if Norma disapproves. Miss Watson invades Norman’s personal space frequently, rather suggestive in her tone when she tells him that Norma will never know.

Another highlight occurs when Norman brings home his (literally) stuffed dog. The budding taxidermist is tickled with his pet. It is highly entertaining watching Norma struggle to pretend that Norman’s dog is not creepy. Dylan, on the other hand, doesn’t even try: “That’s just weird, dude.”

Dylan has a tense conversation with Norman when the latter admits to dreaming about drowning Bradley. It seems like Dylan is trying to convince himself that Norman isn’t that bad. Dylan still isn’t quite in the perpetual state of denial that Norma lives in, though. There is something very ominous about Norman, an evil that so far has only surfaced briefly. He is a ticking time bomb – but in the most adorable way possible.

Since Norma is eager to leave town, she demands that her realtor find a way to get her money back. It is largely his fault that her investment turned out so terrible, so he agrees. When she returns to check on the progress, however, he tells her that her best bet is to walk away from it. He estimates the value of the motel at about half of what she bought it for, causing her to attack him with her purse.

That scene is so amusing that we are caught very off guard by the scene that follows. As soon as Norma gets into her car, Jake Abernathy pops up from the backseat and threatens her with a gun. If she does not bring him $150,000.00 by midnight the following night, he promises to kill her sons before he kills her. Jake Abernathy and his animated eyebrows are surprisingly intimidating.

It sounds like we will have an action-packed and stressful finale. Hopefully there is plenty of Norma losing it, because she is a sight to behold when triggered. Any predictions for the last episode of season one? Check into the Bates Motel finale Monday, May 20 on A&E.