Dymon Lewis ’15 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
The new season of Bates Motel is primed to push viewers further into the seedy underbelly of White Pine Bay, Oregon. Mrs. Norma Bates (Vera Farmiga) points out the hypocrisy of White Pine Bay in the episode’s city council scene. She rips apart a buttoned-up mom’s fear of high school students reading Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment in a town whose main industries are sex-trafficking and pot-farming.
The season premiere opens with the death of Ms. Watson (Keegan Connor Tracy) and then jumps four months forward. Surprisingly, the Bates Motel is actually thriving, and for once things are looking up for Norma and Norman (Freddie Highmore)—besides Norman being obsessed with his teacher’s death and spending all his time in the basement practicing taxidermy. In the episode, the mother and son duo discover that a construction crew is slated to begin building the bypass road that spells disaster for their motel. Fans of the original Psycho should be pleased with the return of this gem of a plot line.
“Gone But Not Forgotten” proves that the success of Bates Motel is largely derived by the combination of Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga. Their chemistry is off the charts and their subtle ability to switch roles and swing the dynamics of their relationship is masterful. An easy approach to this show would have been to paint Norma as the villain, but instead the audience is presented with a mother who is both afraid for her son and driven to protect him at all costs. For example, consider the driving lesson scene from this week’s episode. In the beginning Norman is the child: petulant, bratty, and resistant to criticism. When mother and son see the construction crew, their relationship shifts to co-conspirators, and it’s clear that when the Bates work together they truly shine. When they wander into town, they are at their most vulnerable, which is evident at the city council meeting with Sheriff Romero (Nestor Carbonell).
Because this season is committed to further exploration of the town’s innards, viewers have to venture inside with people who have a reason to be there. Unfortunately, one of those people is Bradley Martin (Nicola Peltz). Bradley’s season one character arc as rejecter of Norman’s love and her subsequent pursuit of older brother Dylan (Max Thieriot) wasn’t that interesting or original. Her stint in a mental institution still doesn’t make her that interesting. Really, why should viewers care that her dad is dead?
Her murder of drug boss (but not the big boss apparently) Gil and request of Norman for aid feels like an unnecessary addition to Norman’s problem. This is especially considering that his blackout during his time at Ms. Watson’s house makes him a prime suspect for her murder. Also, how can viewers not sympathize with the pining Emma Decody (Olivia Cooke)? Thankfully Dylan is around, deeply involved in pot-farming and way more interesting. His complicated relationship with his half-brother and mother makes for good storytelling. He also didn’t reply to any of Bradley’s emails, which makes him awesome.
While the general triviality of Bradley Martin bogged down the episode, this is a strong opener to a season that viewers can only hope is as crazy as the last one.
Overall Episode Grade: B