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“What’s Wrong With Norman?”: Bates Motel Review

By on April 2, 2013

Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates in Bates Motel. Image © A&E

Up until the last few minutes of “What’s Wrong With Norman?” this week’s Bates Motel borders on predictable. It mainly feels like it is setting us up for an exciting episode next week. Several plot lines that would have been very interesting to play with have been rushed forward. If this is because there’s something even better to pursue, it will be hard to complain. It’s also something to be considered that there are only ten episodes in this season, so there’s no need to be stingy with the material.

The primary source of conflict in this episode is the fact that Norman kept Keith’s belt after Norma killed him. When the police search the house and suddenly the belt is gone, Norman comes clean to his mother about keeping it. She’s confused as to why he would want a memento from such an awful event, and he is painfully unable to give her an answer. He’s agonizing to watch when he sits tearfully on his own, repeating the words “what’s wrong with me?” over and over again.

In an attempt at damage control, Norma makes a date with Deputy Shelby. It turns out Shelby was the one that found the belt, and that he is keeping it a secret from the other officers in order to protect Norma. He seems infatuated with her, something he makes clear when he tells her she is so beautiful it makes his “heart hurt”. We’ve got a stage five clinger here, folks.

Norman feels deeply disturbed – and guilty – about his mother seeing Shelby. She’s frustrated when he voices his concerns, so he takes matters into his own hands. After having a vision of some kind in which Norma tells him to fix the situation, he goes to retrieve the belt from Shelby’s house.

One of the things Norma says to Norman in his vision is that they can’t let Shelby control them like Norman’s father used to. This hints at the unhealthy relationship Norma and Norman had with the man, who’s death remains shrouded in mystery. Norman feels obligated to “save” his mother from Shelby – did he do the same thing with his father?

Norman’s black outs are also addressed. Last week he attempted to attack his brother, and in this episode he can’t recall such a thing when confronted about it. In fact, he seems downright amused at the idea. When he pictures his teacher tied up in suggestive positions, he passes out and lands himself in the hospital. Even Norma is shady about the topic, acting defensive when the doctor asks if her son has a history of black outs. Unless there had been some pretty serious past problems, that’s not the kind of question that should make a person jumpy.

Freddie Highmore as Norman Bates. Image © A&E

Freddie Highmore as Norman Bates. Image © A&E

It says something about this show that Dylan, the one who’s job involves sitting around drinking beer and guarding a pot field, is the boring and normal character. He has a brief heart-to-heart with his brother, encouraging Norman to get out more and gain a little perspective. Unfortunately, Dylan doesn’t seem to realize just how deep into derangement his brother has slipped. However, Dylan remains a great source of comic relief (“Is this where they filmed Deliverance?”).

There’s a little love triangle action between Norman, Bradley and Emma, but it all seems unimportant compared to the other events of the episode. Seeing Norman interact with the typically beautiful and sweet Bradley is interesting, because it is as though he is flirting with normalcy in addition to the pretty girl. The part of Norman that isn’t insane (and that breaks viewers’ hearts) is the part that could, in another life, happily date Bradley.

Just when Shelby was looking whipped and docile, possibly the nicest guy in town, Norman finds an imprisoned Chinese woman in the deputy’s basement. This introduces a whole new element to the show, and it’s starting to get a bit overwhelming. Hopefully they still continue to keep a focus on Norma and Norman’s relationship dynamics, because that is potentially the most compelling part of the story. Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga remain fantastic.

What did you think of the episode? Will you continue to check into Bates Motel? The show airs Mondays on A&E.

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