TV Review: Bates Motel 2.4 “Check-Out”


As this week’s episode of Bates Motel came to an end, my immediate response was to say: “Now, that’s what I’ve been talking about!”

Much as Norman Bates could never quite decide if he was himself or if he was his mother, Bates Motel has always struggled with whether to fully embrace the over-the-top potential of the show’s concept or whether to try to be a more conventional and audience-friendly show.  Those of us who have been watching since the first episode have often been left to wonder whether Bates Motel would ever truly allow its version of Norman Bates to become as mentally conflicted as the version who showed up in Alfred Hitchcock’s film and Robert Bloch’s novel.  I have always been on the side of those who wanted the show to start boldly going over-the-top and to truly embrace its status as a prequel to Psycho.

The first three episodes of the second season provided hints that the show’s producers agreed with me.  Last night’s episode, however, proved it.

The episode’s final moments , which featured Norman (Freddie Highmore) slipping in-and-out of his mother’s personality while waving a knife at his Uncle Caleb (the same type of knife that was used to kill Janet Leigh in Psycho), were so powerful that they tended to overshadow everything else that happened during the previous hour.  Now, in the case of the drug war subplot, I really don’t mind forgetting.  The drug war is probably the least interesting part of the show and I always find myself hoping that each new episode will be the episode that wraps it up.  Both Dylan (Max Thieriot) and Sheriff Romero (Nestor Carbonell) are interesting characters and they’re both played by talented and appealing actors so why not put them in a subplot that is truly worthy of their talents?  Both of these characters are at their strongest when they’re having to deal with Norma and Norman so why waste time with a plot that — so far at least — has nothing to do with either of them?

However, I did enjoy the episode’s other two storylines.  It’s hard not respect just how determined Norma (Vera Farmiga) is to pretend that everything is normal when it’s clear to everyone else that nothing is normal.  As I’ve stated since this show began, Vera Farmiga kicks ass.  As a result, even though we all know that she’s making the wrong decisions and is raising a future serial killer, it’s impossible not to cheer for her.  From the creepy scene where she and Norman talked to each other while laying in bed to her harrowing argument with Dylan to her hilariously awkward date with George (Michael Vartan), this week’s episode was full of classic Farmiga moments.  Incidentally, I still don’t trust George.  He seems like a nice guy but then again, so did Deputy Shelby.

(Speaking of Deputy Shelby, whatever happened to that girl who chained up in his basement?  Is she still running around in the woods?)

Meanwhile, Emma (Olivia Cooke) may have finally found a boyfriend.  She started the episode waking up in a motel room with the cute guy that she met at Bradley’s beachside memorial.  No, he tells her, they did not have sex though Emma later tells the guy that she would like to do it with him but, at the same time, she wants her first time to be special — especially since it might be her only time.  Emma is my favorite character on the show and Olivia Cooke always does a good job playing her, so I’m always glad to see her get to do something but I have to admit that her new boyfriend isn’t exactly an exciting presence.  Typically, when it comes to television romance, we always hope that our favorite supporting character will end up with the show’s main character.  Certainly, Emma still likes Norman but do we really want to see her get together with him?

Especially after what happened last night.

Freddie Highmore really does not get enough credit for his performance as young Norman Bates.  A lot of that is because Norman is written to be something of a blank.  Highmore has to bring to life a potentially soulless character while also working in the shadow of Anthony Perkins’s iconic performance in Hitchcock’s film.  However, especially during this season, Freddie Highmore has really made the character of Norman Bates his own.  That was especially obvious during this week’s episode.  While soft-focus images of his mother being abused flashed through his mind, Norman waved a knife at Uncle Caleb while speaking in Norma’s voice and it worked brilliantly because of Freddie Highmore’s introspective performance.  Freddie Highmore take a potential jump sharking moment and turned it into the climax of the show’s best episode yet.

Did Norman kill his uncle?  That’s something that we’ll have to wait until next week to find out but one thing is for sure.

Bates Motel, much like the characters who run the show’s title establishment, is capable of anything.

Song of the Day: Scissorsloid

Like the previous Song of the Day, Arleigh and I discovered this song at a panel at Anime Boston this past weekend.  It also uses the Vocaloid characters, although this one features Hatsune Miku and Megurine Luka.  Unlike the character Mayu though, these two aren’t generally known for their yandere traits, so seeing them in this light is a bit shocking.  All I can say about it is, I can never look at the two the same every again.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – “Yes Men”

AgentsofSHIELDThe March 11th episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. brought a familiar face from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Jamie Alexander reprised her role as the Asgardian Lady Sif, returning to Earth to help locate and return Lorelei to her realm.

I’ve missed a number of episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., so the first thing I’ve noticed is that the team seems to be tighter. While the comedic levels are still there, the tone of everything seems to be more serious. I’m really liking the way it’s moving.

Here’s the set up.

Having arrived on Earth (or Midgard, as the Asgardians refer to it), Lorelei (Elena Satine) uses her power to place any man under her control in order to start building an army. She starts by picking up the leader of a group of bikers, having ditched the poor newlywed she picked up at the end of the previous episode. While the team welcomes back a recuperating Skye, they receive word of activity between Asgard & Earth and decide it’s worth checking out.

Early on, we find that the drug administered to Skye appears to have come from an alien race. Simmons is dead set on discovering more about it and sharing that with the rest of S.H.I.E.L.D., but Coulson, knowing the truth and that there were secrets kept even from him, orders Fitz to keep it under wraps. I’ll admit that I like the way the story seems to be expanding. It isn’t so much about the Girl in the Flower Dress anymore and they’ve already figured out what happened to Coulson on T.A.H.I.T.I. (which wasn’t as magical as it seemed. Even if the show wraps up that arc in this first season, they’re planting a number of seasons for Season 2 (if it’s ever greenlit).

In time to deal with Asgardians, Simmons shows off some of the new.weapons they have. Both May and Ward in particular are impressed – “You lost the ounce.”, he says with a smile, recalling an conversation from earlier in the season. I thought that was a cute touch.

After receiving word of an energy signature similar to the ones that happened prior to Thor and Lorelai’s arrival, the team makes their way out to somewhere near New Mexico. Almost running into Sif, they’re able to identify her from archive videos taken during Thor’s battle with the Destroyer. Sif joins the group and explains her need to retreive Lorelai on the plane, having brought with her a necklace that will keep the Siren from using her voice to command others. When asked why Lorelai’s gifts of persuasion don’t carry over to women, Sif notes that men are somewhat weak in that regard. I liked that angle, personally. It reminded me a little of Gina Torres’ Jasmine from Angel, though anyone would fall for charms either by sight or sound.

Now aware that the men on the team could become a threat if exposed to Lorelai, Coulson and May have a small talk. She admits that she and Ward have been “having sex” (she says it so calmly it sounds clinical). When asked if it’ll pose a problem, she informs him it won’t. She also pressures Coulson to open up about Skye, the drug and what he knows, but Coulson refrains from sharing his feelings or information.

On board the plane, Coulson shows Sif their computer dashboard, though she already has the hang of it – “I’m familiar.” She points out, performing a search of recent crimes in the area near Lorelai’s arrival. During the search, Coulson mentions to Sif that being Asgardian, she’s probably run into a number of different species. He asks off-handedly if any of them happened to be blue (like what he discovered in the previous episode). Sif gives him a roll call of various aliens including the Kree, many of which will be familar to Marvel aficionados. Sif also adds that Asgard fought many of them back from Earth ages ago. Again, just the suggestion of these creatures opens some doors in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, if not for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., then at least for films like the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy. That’s just my view on it.

Sif finds the crimes by the biker gang and the team decides to head out to their clubhouse, only to be attacked by cops and the MC under Lorelai’s control. In the fight, Sif’s necklace for Lorelai is damaged by a shotgun blast and Lorelai herself confronts Ward, who first resists her voice, but succumbs to a combination of her voice mixed with her touch. Together, they ride out to someplace for Lorelai to enjoy herself before getting their army together. Natually, they have their way with Vegas and each other. In the mix of all this, Ward confesses that he doesn’t really love May, that he has feelings for someone else. Though she isnt mentioned by name, my hopes for a SkyeWard ship were given a boost.

The team regroups on the plane and go over their options. With Ward kidnapped, they’re in a dangerous situation. The guy with the most tactical experience is under the control of a villain. While the arc has a familiar Hawkeye like ring to it, it all still manages to work by way of Sif and Lorelai’s fight on board the plane when they attack. It seems like a number of episodes have had the plane be the arena, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It just may bring out a reaction of “Again?!” to some.

In the attack, Ward and May face off, but not before Lorelai explains that Ward shared his lack of feelings about May. May is visibly unphased by this, of course, but you can see it in the blows she lands that she isn’t particularly happy about that news.

Meanwhile, Sif, who was thought to be blow out of the plane is let back in. She manages to best and subdue Lorelai with her bracelet, clearing the effects she had over her followers. This especially works out for poor Fitz, who was knocked out by Coulson.

After Lorelai is taken back to Asgard, the episode wraps with May calling her relationship quits with Ward. Coulson and Skye talk about the alien blood she was given and Coulson decides that S.H.I.E.L.D. may have gone too far in what they’ve kept from everyone and it’s time they start searching for anything else behind the curtain. The final shot is of May, listening in to Coulson’s conversation from the cockpit and informing someone else (HQ, more than likely) that “He knows.”

So, what we have is an episode that is almost a mini version of The Avengers, which is impressive thanks to Jamie Alexander’s guest appearance. For me, the show feels as if it’s starting to get some solid ground under it’s feet, though I need to back track through the earlier episodes to be sure. We also have the start of a tie in to Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I may be hoping for too much, but it would be interesting to see the whole (or part of the team) either cameo in the movie or something else down the line. From all the promos for the movie, it feels like Captain America is finding it difficult to trust S.H.I.E.L.D.’s intentions and with the Agents also losing that trust, we could be in for some serious drama ahead.