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Who Is The “The Man in Number 9?” Bates Motel Review

By on April 30, 2013
Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates. Image © A&E

Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates. Image © A&E

Last week’s Bates Motel was such a crazy whirlwind that anything else would likely pale in comparison. Still, “The Man In Number 9” is a solid episode. So far there are no terrible consequences to Deputy Shelby’s death – though Dylan is a little peeved when he doesn’t get any credit. Much of the episode revolves around Norman getting heartbroken over and over again. Watching Freddie Highmore cry is just a little bit gut-wrenching.

Norman remains loyal to Bradley after their night together, making excuses for her noncommittal behaviour. When Dylan and Norma question him, he brushes them off and gives her the benefit of the doubt. So it is all the more upsetting when he finally confronts her only to discover that she has no intention of being in a relationship with him.

For a moment, it looks like we might see Norman completely lose it on Bradley. He even quotes his mother as if she is possessing him. However, after Bradley hugs him and apologizes, he gets it together. On his way home from the tough “break-up”, he sees his brand new dog get brutally hit by a car. I kept wondering why they were bringing in this stray dog throughout the episode, but it appears the dog was just another way to wound Norman. Before the dog is killed, Norman is excited about the animal. He claims that having a dog is something a normal family would do. As usual, normalcy is dangled in front of him, but always just out of reach.

Dylan’s role this week is minimal. As usual, he bickers with a passive-aggressive Norma, and worries about Norman. There is a bit of an odd scene where he meets Bradley, and the two exchange a look that is difficult to read. It could be there is something we don’t know yet, or it could be that Bradley is developing a crush on the other Bates brother. Considering Norman’s luck with women, it would make sense that the girl he loses his virginity to goes after his older brother.

One point that Dylan does make is that he is still planning on moving out. After everything that he has learned, he seems resigned to the fact that Norman will not be joining him. Norma appears frustrated that Dylan doesn’t want to stay and help her with Norman. Still, Dylan hasn’t left yet. He’s keeping an eye out for his dysfunctional family.

The character the episode is named after – the sketchy man in number nine/Jake Abernathy (guest star Jere Burns) – is a guest with a long-standing arrangement at the motel. He appears quite perturbed when he discovers there has been a change of ownership, but Norma is very accommodating. Business is tough, so even when Dylan voices his suspicion of the man, Norma decides not to concern herself with it. This may come back to haunt her next week.

Norman suppresses his rage. Image © A&E

Norman suppresses his rage. Image © A&E

One of the best parts occurs when Norma is unsuccessful in scrubbing some blood out of stone. Dylan comments that no one will even know it is blood, but Norma insists that it will still bother her. Her exact (hilarious) response is, “Every time I walk out the door it’s going to be, ‘Oh, what a beautiful day – hey, that’s where Deputy Shelby bled to death!’”

Probably the creepiest scene happens when Norma and Emma stalk Bradley, hovering around outside the young girl’s yoga class. Emma is bitter about Norman’s rejection, and Norma is… well, Norma. When she sees Bradley stretching in class, Norma vividly imagines Norman in suggestive situations with the girl. Later, she warns Norman against sleeping with Bradley, and then promptly hires Emma to work at the motel.

It is unclear as to why Norma is seemingly so supportive of Norman being with Emma. It could be that she’s sure Norman does not like Emma that way, so it is the one relationship she can actually get behind. Perhaps Norma feels that she can control Emma, so the idea of her dating Norman is less appalling. Or is it something else entirely?

We get a little flash of the future Norman Bates when young Norman demands his dead dog be taken to Emma’s father. According to Norman, the taxidermist knows how to “fix dead things”. It is an appropriately unnerving line that probably would have seemed more sinister had I not been watching through blurry, bloodshot eyes. Just kidding. (Sob.)

It is interesting to note that when we first meet the (now deceased) pup, Norman is holding a hammer – and it is a little menacing. Initially, it seems entirely plausible that Norman is about to display some stereotypical serial killer tendencies and kill the animal. When he is later crying over the dog’s dead body, this also makes complete sense. The character is so well-sculpted that we honestly don’t know whether Norman will kill or cuddle the creature, and neither would seem unrealistic. This is a credit to the writing as well as to Highmore’s effortless performance.

So what did you think of the episode? This show is wrapping up its short, ten-episode season very nicely. Tune in Monday, May 6 on A&E for the next episode of Bates Motel.