FULL SPOILERS AHEAD FOR SEASON TWO OF BATES MOTEL! YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!!!!Bates Motel is a really weird show. I know that sounds like a very basic and generic thought on a show, especially for someone whose job it is to critique entertainment, but it still seems to get the point across better than anything else I’ve come up with to date. Almost every moment of the show, from its very first episode, to its very last, is filled with awkward people, doing awkward things, in awkward situations. The best part though? It’s really fun to watch, and that’s coming from someone who is notorious for going so far as to flip the channel growing up when my favorite television characters would get into cringe-worthy situations. I just couldn’t handle it. Amazingly though, Bates Motel, a show that basically revolves around those moments playing one after the other, never so much as makes me think about changing the channel. Turns out, it’s quite the opposite.
This season of Bates Motel centers mostly on two major story lines — Dylan Massett’s (Max Thieriot) decent deeper into the drug trade and Normans simultaneous journey closer to his mother and deeper into madness. Dylan’s tale is, of course, the lesser of the two. In season one, he was mainly a low-level employee in the booming marijuana business, but season two takes Dylan on a quick ride up the chain of command, after the selfless rescue of his boss puts him in the spotlight. This entire arc is important for really only two relevant reason, if you keep in mind that everyone, and everything, in the show is essentially a catalyst to get Norman to full on crazy at some point.
First, if makes sure that Dylan is high enough up the food chain to be around and when it’s time for Nick Ford (Michael O’Neill) to take a fire poker to the face, and more importantly, for Norman to be rescued. This places him back in the Bates’ “circle of trust”, if you will. And second, it allows him to be set up as the man in charge for season three. I am extremely curious to see how exactly all of this plays out after death of former drug queen Jodi Wilson (Kathleen Robertson) and the extra-brutal murder of here brother, Gil (Vincent Gale).
The other, and more central, narrative this season is that of Norman (Freddie Highmore) and his progression into the killer we all know from Psycho. This seems like an obvious thing to point out I know, but the difference here is the way it is done this season. Last year, we only got to hear about Norman’s “blackouts”, never see them. This year A&E decided to kick it up a notch, and we see what these “blackouts” actually look like. His time spent during the season with Cody (Paloma Kwiatkowski) allows us to see what Norman looks like when he spaces out, and we even get to see him channel his mother a bit when he confronts Norma’s (Vera Farmiga) order brother Caleb(Kenny Johnson).
The real treat though, comes towards the end of the season. As Norman is trapped in the metal box, lying in wait for someone to rescue him, and starts to gain some clarity as to what actually happened in the finale of season one, with Ms. Watson (Keegan Connor Tracy). The slow realization that he was not only seduced by his former teacher, but that he is, in fact, the one responsible for killing her, is fascinating to watch. At that point, we as the audience already know all of this, but to see Norman come to terms with it is both wonderfully shot and acted. That all needs to happen to get us to the final scene of season two, and in a show that is a prequel, meaning we already more or less know what is going to happen, I’m happy to report that I was still pleasantly surprised by exactly what happens. The reveal of Norma there taking responsibility for the murder of Ms. Watson, and therefore relieving Norman of all responsibility, is a huge leap for the character. It means that next season we may start to see Norman the killer, instead of Norman the confused and sick boy.
This show is truly about only one thing — Norma and Norman. Before we go there though, I do want to say that the rest of the cast is amazing. There really is no weak link in the bunch, and stand outs like Olivia Cooke, Michael O’Neill, Max Thieriot, and Nestor Carbonell make the show a pleasure to watch. But as I said, the show is really and truly about the relationship between Norman and Norma, and Highmore and Farmiga, respectively, do an incredible job at portraying the awkward over-affection that the two have for one another. It still catches me off guard sometimes when they will be screaming at one another at one moment, and then perfectly pleasant with each other the next. Norma has spent Norman’s entire life watching over him and taking care of him, and Farmiga shows that creepy over-protectiveness to perfection. I would argue that Highmore is the true star here though, balancing Norman with equal parts crazy, innocent, lovable, and angry.
By the end of season two, things are looking drastically different from where we began the year, from several characters being killed off, to the relationship between Norma and Norman, as well as other characters, has completely changed. The season has many surprising and shocking moments. the kind you’d expect from a show exploring the upbringing of a serial killer, and I was left wanting season three immediately, which is always something I love for in a finale — a strong desire to come back.