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“Bates Motel” Review/Recap: "Check-Out"

Dymon Lewis ’14 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Vera Farmiga in the Bates Motel episode "Check-Out." Photo Credit A&E Networks.
Vera Farmiga in the Bates Motel episode “Check-Out.” Photo Credit A&E Networks.

While the latest installment of Bates Motel spent a bit of time further developing the pot wars storyline and the potentially awesome deflowering (who wouldn’t want their first time to be with a cute pot dealer) of the perpetually heartbreaking Emma Decody (Olivia Cooke), the bulk of the episode was spent exploring the delightfully twisted Bates’ family tree.

Understandably, Dylan (Max Thieriot) spent the entirety of this episode under a dark incest cloud of shame and anger. While the news is shocking, Dylan’s status as “the outsider” to Norman (Freddie Highmore) and Norma (Vera Farmiga) finally makes sense. His realization that he was the unwanted child born of rape that Norma passed off as another man’s offspring in order to escape her miserable home life is heartbreaking for him and his mother, but she confirms that his version of events are correct. Norman and Norma are keen to restore things to the status quo, as their survival method has always been fake it until it’s your reality (there is no Asian prostitute underneath Shelby’s house, that pearl necklace under Norman’s bed most certainly doesn’t belong to his recently-murdered teacher, I can will the bypass to not exist), but Dylan approaches situations head on. For him, his whole identity has been irrevocably changed and he will not play Norman and Norma’s game.

Michael Vartan, Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore in the Bates Motel episode "Check-Out." Photo Credit: A&E Networks.
Michael Vartan, Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore in the Bates Motel episode “Check-Out.” Photo Credit: A&E Networks.

This episode featured the most aggressively inappropriate scenes of physical contact between mother and son to date. The reassuring cuddle and kiss on the bed is the action of lovers and not parent and child. What viewers can gather from these scenes is that while the level of inappropriate behavior is balanced between Norman and Norma, the balance of power is not. Norma, as the mother and adult, can decide what role she wants Norman to play—reassuring husband or doting son. Norman has no power—as the child he is subject to the whims of his mother. When George (Michael Vartan) shows up to pick up Norma, she brushes off his question of when she will be returning despite only a few minutes earlier when Norman had been acting as her male protector (i.e. father figure/husband) for her against an angry Dylan. So while Norma may not have sexual feelings for her son the continual shifts in the level of intimacy she allows between them and her control of those levels could (and probably will) lead Norman to develop inappropriate sexual feelings for her.

The most explosive scene of the night was in the final minutes of the night when Norman confronted his Uncle Caleb (Kenny Johnson). Although last season viewers got a glimpse of Norman shifting into the “Mother” persona, this episode showcased a prolonged scene of Norman’s lapse into the other identity armed with a knife.  Plagued by images of his mother’s rape at Caleb’s hand combined with witnessing a major blowup between Dylan and Norma, Norman loses himself in an imagined version of his mother’s persona. What makes the scene so terrifying is the sense that Norman truly feels the horror of what his mother went through. He is not just channeling her emotions—he is “Mother”. Though Caleb walks away unscathed, the potential for violence is shown to be great within Norman and also raises more questions about just what happened to Ms. Watson (Keegan Connor Tracy)—a murdered may have been charged but the Bates aren’t out of the clear just yet.

Overall Episode Grade: A+

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