TV Review: Bates Motel 2.6 “Plunge”

Bates Motel The Plunge

Now, I know what you’re saying.

“Gee, Lisa — late much?”

Well, yes, this review of the latest episode of Bates Motel is rather late and for that I apologize.  I have spent this week dealing with the world’s worst cold.  Seriously, it has been pure misery!  However, as I sit here rewatching “Plunge” and working on my review, I think that I may finally be on the road to recovery.

In short, I think I’m finally well enough to take the plunge and review this week’s episode!

This episode was all about people taking “the plunge,” both figuratively and literally.

For instance, Emma — after being goaded by both her new pot-dealing boyfriend and Norman’s latest unlikely girlfriend, Cody — removed her oxygen tank and took a plunge into freezing water and nearly died as a result.  Fortunately, Norman Bates was on hand to pull her out of the water and save her life.  On any other show, this would lead to the rebirth of Norman and Emma’s romance but, since this is Bates Motel, Norman ends up going so overboard in his anger towards Cody and Emma’s boyfriend (who I know has a name but I can never remember it) that he quickly goes from being a hero to being the guy who freaks everyone out.

(On a personal note, I have to admit that this whole sequence freaked me out because I don’t swim and, as a result, I very much found myself identifying with poor Emma.)

Norma, meanwhile, takes a plunge into municipal politics.  With the encouragement of her new friend Christine (who I don’t trust) and Christine’s brother George, Norma lobbies to be appointed to the city council.  The Mayor — whose name is Rob — agrees while making it clear that he’s mostly appointing Norma because of who she knows (i.e. Nick Ford).

To a certain extent, you have to wonder just how naïve Norma is.  At the start of this episode, Norma confronted Nick and told him that she didn’t want to work with him anymore.  Nick, more or less, told her that she didn’t have much choice in the matter.  Now, she’s been appointed to the city council and you have to wonder if she realizes just how much of a pawn she has actually become.

Speaking of being a pawn, Dylan has taken the plunge of moving in with Jodi Ford Wilson (Kathleen Robertson), Nick’s daughter and the head of one of the two drug cartels that are currently at war.  Is White Pine Bay really big enough for two drug cartels?  The drug war, to be honest, feels like it belongs in a totally different show.  But, I like Max Thieriot so I can’t complain too much.

Sheriff Romero, who is still living at the Bates Motel, took the plunge of informing Norma that, from his motel room, he has a view of her whenever she undresses in her bedroom.  The awkward flirting between Norma and Romero has been one of the highlights of the second season.

Finally, Norman took the plunge of trying to get his driver’s license.  However, Cody told Emma that Norman suffers from blackouts and Emma responded by calling Norma and telling her (at the exact moment that Norma is watching Norman taking his test).  Norma responds by running over to the car and telling Norman’s driving instructor.  The end result: Norman can’t give his driver’s license and now has another reason to both resent and be dependent upon Norma.

Random Observations:

  • Vera Farmiga kicks ass.  I know that’s become a running theme as far as my Bates Motel reviews are concerned but seriously, she really does.  This week’s Vera Farmiga highlight was the scene where she literally ran down a hill to jump onto Cody’s car.
  • Speaking of kicking ass, just how scary is Michael O’Neill in the role of Nick Ford?  That man can make a simple hello sound like a threat.
  • “Who’s Rob?”  That’s okay, Norma.  I’m not always sure who my mayor is either.
  • I found myself wondering which three senators George helped to get elected.
  • “There are reasons he should not drink.  Medical reasons.  And that’s all I’m going to say.”
  • Norman’s flashbacks while hiding in the closet were disturbingly effective.
  • Wouldn’t it be neat if it turned out the Mayor was related to Nick Ford as well and his name was Rob Ford?
  • If I was Norman’s mom, I probably wouldn’t like Cody either.  Seriously, mother’s worse nightmare that one is.  That said, I relate to the character.  I went through my Cody phase when I was younger.  I think everyone has.
  • George gets extra cool points for liking The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
  • Bates Motel has been renewed for a third season!  So, we’ve got at least one more year of White Pine Bay melodrama to look forward to.



TV Review: Bates Motel 2.5 “The Escape Artist”


Bates Motel The Escape Artist

After I posted my extremely laudatory review of last week’s episode of Bates Motel, I received a very interesting comment on Facebook from the veteran horror director and screenwriter Alan Ormsby.  (Among Ormsby’s screenplays: the excellent Deathdream and  Deranged, a film inspired by Ed Gein who, as any Psycho fan knows, also inspired Robert Bloch to first create Norman Bates.) In his comment, Ormsby pointed out something that I had failed to take into consideration.  Whereas Bates Motel presents Norman as suffering from a split personality as a teenager, Psycho established that Norman didn’t “become” Norma until, after years of abuse, he snapped and murdered his mother.  Norman became his mother because he didn’t want to face the reality of his crime.

That’s quite a contrast to the story that is currently being told on Bates Motel.  Whereas Mrs. Bates was the villain of Psycho, she’s become the protagonist of Bates Motel. Whereas the film’s Mrs. Bates was a demonic force who, even after her death, continued to possess her son, the show’s Norma Bates is often times portrayed as just trying to protect both her son from an increasingly amoral world and the world from her obviously disturbed son.

Now, I know that a lot of people are going to argue that Bates Motel is just a TV show and that it’s best not to give it too much thought and they’ll probably start tossing around words like “canon” and “fanfic.”  They’ll say, “Just relax and don’t worry about it.”

But what fun is that?

So, how to explain the difference between the way Norman and his mother are portrayed on TV and in the film?  I’ve come up with a few possible explanations.

1) The doctor at the end of Psycho could have misdiagnosed what happened with Norman and his mother.  As played by Simon Oakland, the doctor was awfully glib and seemed to come from the overdramatic Dr. Phil school of psychology.  After the shocking discoveries at the Bates Motel, everyone needed an explanation and the doctor was happy to provide one as long as he got paid upfront.

2) Bates Motel could be taking place in a parallel universe, one that plays out right next to the Psycho universe, with certain elements occasionally crossing over.  Maybe, when Freddie Highmore’s Norman finally gets around to looking through the peephole behind the painting, he’ll find Anthony Perkins staring back at him.

3) Maybe the Norman Bates of Bates Motel is not actually the Norman Bates of Psycho.  Maybe the TV show will end with Norman and his wife Emma staring down at their newborn son, Norman, Jr.

4) Or maybe Norma is destined to be murdered by her son and that son is destined to take on her identity, run the Bates Motel, and eventually murder both Marion Crane and Milton Arbogast.  However, maybe that son is not going to be Norman but instead, it’s going to be Dylan.  After all, Dylan has been through a lot of emotional and mental turmoil since he tracked down his mother.  Who is to say that he didn’t finally snap and, after killing both his mother and his younger brother, ended up taking on both of their identities?

Obviously, the most plausible solution is the first one but I’m partial to the idea that Bates Motel is taking place in a parallel universe.  That would certainly explain a lot.

As for this week’s episode, it was a rather low-key affair, especially when compared to everything that went on last week.  But you know what?  That’s okay.  Bates Motel has reached the point where not every episode has to have fireworks.  In its second season, Bates Motel seems to be a lot more confident about what type of story its trying to tell and therefore, it can get by with a few episodes that are mostly about appreciating the performances and the show’s off-center vibe.

That’s not to say that things didn’t happen.  Actually, a lot of things happened but none of them were quite as memorable as Norman waving a knife at his uncle while taking on Norma’s personality.

Perhaps the episode’s most dramatic moment was Dylan getting run down in the middle of the street while firing a gun at a car full of rival drug dealers.  (I don’t find the whole drug war to be all that interesting but I do find it amusing that, in the small town of White Pine Bay, nobody ever seems to notice people shooting at each other in broad daylight).  At first, this panicked me because, as played by Max Thieriot, Dylan is one of my favorite characters on the show.  But, it turns out that not only was he not seriously injured but, after being taken to the hospital, he also got to meet his boss and — gasp! — she’s a woman!

We also found out tonight that, on the other side of the drug war, is the Ford Family.  And guess who is in charge of the Ford Family?  None other than Nick Ford, the friendly but slightly sinister guy who has promised to help Norma stop the bypass.  This week’s episode ended with the implication that Nick killed the councilman who was so rude to Norma at the city council meeting.

Speaking of Norma — well, where to begin with what’s going on with Norma?  Not only has she managed to ally herself with a drug lord but she’s also having to watch Norman as he runs around with Cody, a girl who not only has tattoos but who smokes and listens to loud music as well.  On the plus side, Sheriff Romero will apparently be spending several months at the Bates Motel now that the town’s drug dealers have burned down his house.  The scenes between Vera Farmiga and Nestor Carbonell were definite highlights of this week’s episode.  I love the chemistry between the outspoken Norma and the withdrawn Romero.  I’m predicting right now that they’ll be a couple before the final episode of the season and it probably won’t end well.

Vera Farmiga also had another great scene during this episode, in which she responded to Olivia Cooke’s Emma asking her about sex.  Speaking of Emma, she lost her virginity to the cute pot dealer.  Norman has already hinted that he doesn’t consider the cute pot dealer to be a good person so we can probably guess what’s going to eventually happen here.  That said, I’m just glad that Emma finally got to do something that she wanted to do, as opposed to just standing in the background and staring forlornly at Norman.

And finally, Norman is growing even closer to Cody, eventually having sex with her.  (And, again, this is more evidence of my parallel universe theory since the Norman Bates of Hitchcock’s film was a virgin.)   Eventually, he even confessed to her that he often has blackouts.  He also discovered that she comes from an abusive home.

And again, this is probably not going to end well…

Random Observations:

  • Nick Ford’s boat is named “Amnesia.”  What is it with evil people and boats?
  • Did Norman kill Uncle Caleb?  Hopefully, this won’t be another randomly abandoned Bates Motel subplot.

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.

Review: Bates Motel 2.3 “Caleb”


Well, that’s certainly icky.

Regardless of whatever else may have happened on this week’s episode of Bates Motel, it will always be remembered as the episode where things got even ickier than before.

I’m talking, of course, about the revelation that Dylan’s (Max Thieriot) father also happens to be his uncle, Caleb (Kenny Johnson).  I have to admit that I wasn’t necessarily surprised by this.  In fact, when one thinks about the world that Bates Motel takes place in, there was really no way that Caleb wasn’t going to turn out to be Dylan’s father.  It explains why Norma wants nothing to do with her oldest son and Max Thieriot, Vera Farmiga, and Kenny Johnson all deserve a lot of credit for their performances tonight.

That said, I’m hoping that Caleb — much like Deputy Shelby and so many of the other sleazy men who have stopped off at the Motel — will not be around that much longer because, seriously, he is just so icky!  Bates Motel has a good track record for violently executing sexual predators and I expect that same fate is waiting for Caleb.

If nothing else, Bates Motel seems to be making a good case against men in general.  Is there a single man in Norma Bates’s life who isn’t a deviant of some sort?  Earlier in the episode — before we discovered that Caleb was Dylan’s father — Norma met a guy named George (Michael Vartan).  George seems like a really nice guy but, seeing as this is Bates Motel, I’m still expecting him to have somebody chained up in his basement.

Along with the arrival of Uncle Caleb and Norma meeting George, this week’s other major subplot was Emma (Olivia Cooke) attempting to throw a beachside memorial service for Bradley.  As I’ve stated in the past, Emma is my favorite character so I was happy to finally see her getting to do something.  The memorial service was neatly contrasted with the garden party that Norma attended.  And just as Norma met George, Norman got to know Cody (Paloma Kwiatkowski), who, now that Bradley is gone, is apparently going to be the latest obstacle keeping Emma and Norman from getting together.

Then again, that might be for the best.

Norman and Emma are an adorable couple but, ultimately, he is Norman Bates, isn’t he?

Random Thoughts and Observations

  • This week’s “Vera Farmiga is a great actress who deserves an Emmy moment”: The Grand Canyon joke.
  • The great White Pine Bay drug war is apparently still raging.  Fortunately, I love Max Thieriot or else the whole drug war would be kind of boring.
  • That said, Dylan was kinda lingering a bit while Norma was getting dressed.  Again — icky!
  • The name of the town newspaper is the White Pine Bay Current.  For some reason, that amused me.
  • I felt so bad for Norma when she saw she hadn’t been cast in the town musical.
  • Tonight’s episode was directed by Lodge Kerrigan, who has a great name.
  • One thing that was not mentioned in this week’s episode: The murder of Ms. Watson.  I really hope that the show isn’t going to abandon that mystery just because Sheriff Romero arrested the wrong guy last week.  I have to admit that I’m still holding out hope that Norman did not kill Ms. Watson.
  • It’s interesting to note that Bates Motel and The Following both air on Monday nights.  They’re both unapologetically sordid shows about psychotic murderers and sexual deviants.  However, I love Bates Motel and I absolutely hate what I’ve seen of The Following.  The difference is that The Following is a sincerely misogynistic show whereas Bates Motel seems to actually like its cast of misfits.
  • “You’re in the chorus?  Do you want to be in the chorus?”  Trust me, nobody wants to be in the chorus!
  • That said, I would rather be in the chorus than be on the tech crew.  Poor Norman.

Review: Bates Motel 2.2 “Shadow of a Doubt”


I have to commend Bates Motel for directly referencing Alfred Hitchcock with the title of its latest episode.  Shadow of a Doubt is not only one of Hitchcock’s finest films but it’s also one that shares quite a few themes in common with Bates Motel.  Like Bates Motel, Shadow of a Doubt deals with  the way an outwardly placid surface can hide all sorts of scary and dark secrets.  At this point, it’s a lot easier to imagine Freddie Highmore’s blankly charming Norman growing up to be Joseph Cotten’s friendly murderer Uncle Charlie in Shadow of a Doubt than the twitchy character made famous by Anthony Perkins in Psycho.

Still, it’s hard not to feel that an even better title for last Monday’s episode would have been Norma Bates Sings.

That was pretty much the highlight of last night’s episode and that’s not at all a complaint.  The people behind the show obviously realize just how lucky they are to have Vera Farmiga playing the role of Norma Bates.  The show works best when she’s allowed to take center stage and that’s what literally happens in Shadow of a Doubt.

Norma was singing because she and Norman were both trying out for the town musical.

I loved this subplot on so many levels.

First off, it made perfect sense that Norma, who obviously believes that Norman killed Ms. Watson, would try to find an activity that she and Norman could do together.  This, of course, both allows Norman to be occupied with something other than death and gives Norma an excuse to keep an eye on her possibly dangerous son.

Secondly, and perhaps even more importantly, it seemed exactly like the type of thing that somebody like Norma Bates would get excited about.  Being something of a community theater refugee myself, I couldn’t help but smile when I saw Norman and Norma at the auditions because it felt exactly right.  Everything from Norman’s sullen attitude to Norma’s surprisingly heart-felt (yet endearingly awkward) audition rang true.  During those scenes, Bates Motel went from being that strange little show about a boy who might be murderer to being a very believable and almost touching story about a loving but overdramatic mother and her socially awkward son.

As for the rest of Monday’s episode, I have to say that I was slightly relieved to see Bradley safely get on that bus and head off for a new life.  It’s not so much that I thought Bradley wouldn’t make it as much as I was worried that I’d have to sit through several episodes of Bradley hiding in the basement and Dylan being forced to help search for Gil’s murderer.  Don’t get me wrong.  I think that Nicola Peltz’s performance as Bradley was underrated by a lot of critics and I also think that, as played by Max Thieriot, Dylan is one of the most intriguing characters on the show.  It’s just that I felt that Bradley’s subplot was good for, at most, two episodes.  Bates Motel wrapped it up in two episodes and good for them.

The other big development is that Sheriff Romero arrested a drifter and charged him with Ms. Watson’s murder.  We knew the guy didn’t do it.  The drifter certainly knows he didn’t do it.  And, for that matter, it’s pretty obvious that Romero knows that he’s got the wrong guy too.  However, that is what makes Romero such an interesting character.  He’s less concerned with solving crimes and enforcing order than he is with maintaining balance.  It’s obvious that the entire town of White Pines Bay has found a balance between good and evil, legal and illegal and that balance works for them.  Ms. Watson’s murder threw that balance off and Romero’s actions are more about resetting everything back to normal than anything else.

Otherwise, the townspeople might end up burning somebody alive in the town center again.  (And is anyone ever going to mention that happening ever again or has everyone on the show just blocked it from their mind?)

So, all in all, Shadow of a Doubt was a pretty good episode of Bates Motel and hopefully, it’ll be a sign of things to come for season 2.  My only complaint?  So far, Emma, my favorite character, hasn’t gotten to do anything.

Hopefully, that’ll change in the upcoming episodes.

Personally, I can’t wait to find out!

Review: Bates Motel 2.1 “Gone But Not Forgotten”


Bates Motel is back!

During its first season, Bates Motel became something of an obsession for me.  I started out skeptical that a television series that also doubled as a prequel Psycho was a good or even doable idea.  As I watched the wildly uneven first few episodes, I was occasionally intrigued and often frustrated.  I always appreciated Vera Farmiga’s wonderful performance as Norma Bates and, as opposed to a lot of critics, I was always aware of the intelligence that lay underneath Freddie Highmore’s blank-faced interpretation of the teenage Norman Bates.  As the series progressed, I was happy to see the wonderful Nestor Carbonell show up as the enigmatic Sheriff Romero.  Even though his character occasionally seemed like he belonged in a different show, I also loved Max Thieriot as Norman’s bitter but sympathetic older brother, Dylan.  I came to realize that Olivia Cooke’s Emma truly deserved a show of her own where she could solve crimes and worry about finding a date for the prom. Even the oddly named Bradley (Nicola Peltz) came to grow on me, even if I never quite bought the idea that she would have been interested in a someone like Norman.

My main complaint during the first season is that Bates Motel often seemed to be struggling to establish an identity.  A countless number of plots and subplots were introduced and abandoned over the course of just ten episodes.  Was Bates Motel attempting to tell the story of how Norman Bates eventually became a cross-dressing motel keeper and voyeur who murdered women while they showered?  Or was it attempting to tell a story about a single mom who, having moved to a strange new town, now had to struggle to keep her family together? How seriously, I wondered, were we supposed to take the show?  Occasionally, the show seemed to take itself very seriously.  Other times, the show instead seemed to be deliberately over the top, inviting us to laugh along with the melodrama as opposed to at it.

As that first season came to an end, I knew that Bates Motel had a lot of potential but, in order to live up to that potential, it needed to figure out just exactly what it wanted to be.

Well, the second season started last night.  It’s hard to say if Bates Motel has truly figured out what it wants to be but, judging from the premiere, it may be on the right track.

When season one ended, Norman was running home in the rain while his teacher, Ms. Watson, lay dead in her bedroom.  The implication was that the blood-covered Norman had killed her but, as smart viewers know, it probably wasn’t a coincidence that we didn’t actually see him do it.

Season two begins with Norma learning that Ms. Watson has been murdered.  When she asks Norman what happened between him and Ms. Watson, he tells her that he can’t remember anything beyond Ms. Watson offering him a ride back to his house.  Norman and Norma attend Watson’s funeral, where Norman sobs hysterically.  Meanwhile, Bradley — who last season discovered that her murdered father had a mysterious lover named “B” (who, we discover, was Ms. Blair Watson) — jumps off a bridge.

Suddenly, we jump forward four months later.  The motel is thriving, Norma has a new haircut, and her only concern — as usual — appears to be her two sons.  Dylan is spending all of his time down at the marijuana farm while Norman is apparently spending all of his free time either in the basement practicing taxidermy or in the cemetery, visiting Ms. Watson’s grave.  When Norman spots another man standing at Watson’s grave, he is so disturbed that he goes to Sheriff Romero.  Romero then tracks down Norma and tells her that Norman is, essentially, weird.  When Norma confronts Norman about this, Norman admits that he’s been lying.  He does remember going to back Ms. Watson’s house.  He even goes so far as to admit that he watched Ms. Watson undress and that he started feeling “strange.”  However, he also denies having killed her.

If that’s not bad enough, Norma also discovers that work has begun on a new highway that will divert business away from her hotel.  When she goes to a city council meeting to complain, the mayor talks down to her.  That’s his mistake because, as any viewer knows, it’s never a good idea to talk down to Norma Bates.  Norma responds by calling out the entire town on their hypocrisy and giving one of those wonderfully over-the-top speeches that have become her specialty.  Vera Farmiga was nominated for an Emmy for the first season of Bates Motel and, as far as I’m concerned, she earned a second nomination last night.  Seriously, the next time some jerk talks down to you, you just do what Norma Bates does and call him a dick to his face.

The episode’s other major plotline followed Bradley, as she was released from the mental asylum that she was sent to after being rescued from the river.  The friendly and somewhat shallow Bradley of last season appears to be gone.  Instead, she’s been replaced by vigilante Bradley. This is the Bradley who, after considering using her father’s gun to commit suicide, instead uses it to execute Gil, the man who ordered her father’s death.  To be honest, I was initially reluctant about buying the idea that Bradley could so easily become a murderer but then it occurred to me that, out of the main characters, Bradley was one of two who didn’t murder someone last season.  (Or did she?  Check out my first random note below.)

The second season premiere of Bates Motel wasn’t perfect.  I would have preferred to have seen a bit more of Dylan and the show’s most interesting character, Emma, was hardly present at all.  But, on the basis of last night’s episode, it does appear that the show’s creators have figured out that Bates Motel is at its best when it follows the lead of a Vera Farmiga’s sincere yet over-the-top lead performance.  Bates Motel is at its best when it shows the self-awareness to cheerfully embrace its melodramatic potential.

That’s what it did last night and hopefully, that’s what it will continue to do for the rest of this season.

Random Thoughts and Observations:

  1. So, who do you think killed Ms. Watson?  The show wants us to think that it was Norman but, personally, I won’t be surprised if it turns out to be Bradley.  Perhaps she killed Ms. Watson and then attempted to kill herself.  When Bradley shot Gil, she certainly didn’t act like someone who committing her very first murder.
  2. Rumor has it that Nicola Peltz will be leaving the show before the end of this season.  That’s another reason to think that Bradley will ultimately be revealed as Ms. Watson’s murderer.
  3. Hopefully, the show won’t forget about Emma.  She’s a great character.
  4. And yes, I will be reviewing each episode of this odd yet intriguing show.  It should be fun!


20 Good Things That I Saw On Television in 2013


Someday, I want to have my own tv network.  I’ll call it Lisa Marie Television (or LMTV for short) and it’ll be like Lifetime but with the Lisa Marie difference.  What’s the Lisa Marie difference?  Sweetheart, if you have to ask, you’ll never know.

Anyway, as I wait for that day to come, I’m going to continue my series of posts on my favorites of 2013 by telling you about some of the best things that I saw on television over the course of the previous year.  Here they are, in random order:

1) The series finale of Breaking Bad


2) The series finale of The Office

After a rough couple of seasons, The Office redeemed itself with a perfect conclusion.  How can you do any better than Jim and Pam moving to Texas?

3) Children’s Hospital on Adult Swim

Without a doubt, the funniest 15 minutes on television.

4) Burning Love on E!

E! broadcast episodes of the hilarious, Bachelor-parodying web series in 2013 and gave everyone a chance to follow Julie as she pined for Blaze and asked lucky bachelors, “Will you hold my box?”

5) SyFy Saturdays

This year, my Saturday night ritual was to gather online with the Snarkalecs and watch an original movie on SyFy.  And while all of the Normals (as we refer to the rest of the world) were going crazy over Sharknado, the Snarkalecs knew that End of the World was a hundred times better.

6) The only likable team won The Amazing Race 23

I can’t remember their names but I can remember that I liked them more than Tim & Marie, Nicole & Travis, and Leo & Jamal.

7) Bonnie and Clyde

Broadcast on three different networks and over two separate nights, Bonnie and Clyde was big, silly, over-the-top, glamorous, and full of style.  It made me want to go out and rob a bank while looking good doing it.

8) Orange is the New Black

We lost a lot of good shows in 2013 but, fortunately, we also gained a few new ones.

9) South Park satirizes Obama and Game of Thrones

I like one of those targets and dislike the other (guess which is which) but the important thing is that both of them have reached a point where they deserve to be satirized.  Not surprisingly, South Park continues to be one of the few show to have the guts to ridicule the topics that other shows are too cowardly to touch.

10) Bates Motel

Bates Motel was frequently uneven but it was always worth watching for Vera Farmiga and Max Thieriot.

11) The Space Kitten

That little space kitten that was singing Wrecking Ball at the American Music Awards?  Adorable!

12) Jimmy Kimmel

Whether he was causing Kanye West to have a meltdown or posting fake videos on YouTube, 2013 was the year of Kimmel.

13) The Talking Dead

Look, we all know that The Walking Dead is great but, for me, The Talking Dead is usually the highlight of AMC on Sunday night.  Chris Hardwick is adorable to begin with but the moment he choked up while discussing the death of Herschel confirmed that he’s not just a host.  He’s a true fan as well.

14) Miley Cyrus at the VMAs

It was tacky, it was shocking, it was disturbing, it got people talking and overreacting, and it was everything that television should be.  (That said, I would like to point out that — despite what some members of the media seem to believe — twerking existed long before Miley Cyrus decided to make it a part of her act.  I was twerking back when Miley was still Hannah Montana.)

15) That episode of Girls with Patrick Wilson

One of the best 25 minutes of television ever, and not just because Patrick Wilson is super hot.

16) The Herstory of Dance and Intro to Felt Surrogacy episodes of Community

Without the guiding vision of Dan Harmon, Community‘s fourth season was undeniably rough.  However, these two episodes reminded us that Community still had something to offer.  (That said, I’m glad Dan Harmon’s back for season 5…)

17) Colton walks off Survivor …. again

Colton Cumbie is one of the most loathsome people to ever show up on a reality TV show so it was satisfying to see him utterly fail to win Survivor not once but twice.

18) The Big Brother Blog got a new writer named Lisa Marie

This year, Bill Lage asked me to write episode recaps for the Big Brother Blog.  Of course, I said yes and, for three months, I had a lot of fun keeping people updated with what all of the loathsome people in the Big Brother house were up to.  I made a lot of new friends and I even made a persistent enemy named Maggie Long, a poor little internet troll who just couldn’t handle the fact that I encouraged my readers to “Stay supple!”  It was a lot of fun and I look forward to doing it all over again in 2014.

19) Winter Storm Cleon caused the local news people to freak out!

Yes, we did get some snow and ice down here in December.  Unlike you folks up North, those of us in Texas only see snow and ice every other year so, whenever it does show up, you can be sure that all of the local newspeople are going to panic.  That’s exactly what happened this year and it was fun to watch.

20) Degrassi!

My favorite Canadian show came back!


Tomorrow, we take a look at ten of my favorite books of 2013.

Other Entries In TSL’s Look Back At 2013:

  1. 10 0f Lisa Marie’s Favorite Songs of 2013
  2. Lisa Marie’s 16 Worst Films of 2013
  3. Necromoonyeti’s Top 10 Metal Albums of 2013
  4. Things That Dork Geekus Dug In 2013
  5. Lisa Marie’s Best of 2o13 SyFy


Review: Bates Motel 1.10 “Midnight”


(Have you seen this episode yet?  If not, you might not want to read this review.  Spoiler warning!)

Well, we all knew that was going to happen, didn’t we?

To recap: During last night’s episode of Bates Motel , Norman (Freddie Highmore) asked Emma (Oliva Cooke) to attend a school dance with him.  Emma bought a really pretty dress and was obviously very excited to finally go out on a real date with Norman.  However, before Emma showed up for their date, Norman was upset by 1) Bradley (Nicola Peltz) showing up at the motel so that she could talk to Dylan (Max Thieriot) and 2) Norma (Vera Farmiga) telling him that she had been sexually abused as a child.  Once they got to the dance, Norman wouldn’t stop staring at Bradley and Emma finally lost her temper, told Norman to get a ride of home from someone else, and then left.

(And allow me to just say, “You go, girl!”  Seriously…)

After getting punched out by Bradley’s boyfriend, Norman started to walk home in the pouring rain.  As always seems to happen whenever Norman is walking home, someone drove up and offered him a ride.  In this case, it was his overly concerned teacher, Miss Watson (Keegan Connor Tracy).  Miss Watson took Norman back to her place and, after washing the blood off his face, then said that she’d give Norman a ride home after changing clothes.

It was at this point that Norman started to hallucinate.  Norma suddenly appeared, sitting on a couch and demanding to know what type of teacher would actually take a student home with her and then go into her bedroom to change clothes without bothering to close the door first.

“You know what you have to do,” imaginary Norma told Norman.

One jump cut later, Norman was again walking in the rain and, as was revealed in the episode’s final scene, Miss Watson was lying dead in her bedroom with her throat cut.

This, in itself, wasn’t really a shock.  Simply by the fact that the show’s main character is Norman Bates, we already knew that he would have to end up killing someone by the end of last night’s season finale and Miss Watson, as an established character who wasn’t really central to any of the show’s storylines, was the obvious victim.  As such, what happened on last night’s episode wasn’t exactly surprising but it was still effectively handled.  While the show is often thought of as being a showcase for Vera Farmiga, Freddie Highmore has done such a good job of making Norman into a sympathetic character that it’s still somewhat upsetting to be reminded of just what Norman Bates is destined to end up doing.

Up until Norman and Emma left for their date, last night’s episode was dominated by both Norma and Vera Farmiga’s ferocious performance.  If I haven’t said it before, Vera Farmiga deserves (at the very least) an Emmy nomination for bringing Norma to such memorable life.  During last night’s episode, Norma enlisted the suddenly rather mysterious  Sheriff Romero (Nestor Carbonell)  to help her deal with Jake Abernanthy (Jere Burns).  In his calmly intimidating way, Romero confronted Abernanthy, told him that nobody did any business in his town without his permission, and then proceeded to gun Abernanthy down.  It was a moment that was as surprising as the death of Miss Watson was predictable.

And so concludes the first season of Bates Motel.  It’s been a frequently intruiging and occasionally frustrating season but, perhaps most importantly, it ended strong.  I’m still not totally convinced that there’s all that many stories available to be mined from a prequel to Psycho but I’m certainly looking forward to seeing what happens when this show returns next season.

Random Observations:

  • “SCREW OFF, SHITHEAD!”  Seriously, if Vera Farmiga didn’t already deserve Emmy consideration, she deserves it for her delivery of this one line.
  • I wonder if Eric (the guy that Miss Watson was on the phone with) will show up next season.
  • One of the best scenes last night: Norma and Dylan bonding over target practice.
  • Everyone online seems to be obsessed with hating on Bradley and hoping that Emma and Norman get together.  However, doesn’t Emma have enough to deal with without the addition of a psychotic boyfriend?
  • Speaking of Emma and Norman, their “fight” at the school dance was handled pretty well by both Olivia Cooke and Freddie Highmore.  The contrast between Cooke’s anger and Highmore’s blank expression was a definite highlight of the episode.
  • How many times, this season, was Norman offered a ride while walking down the street?  Seriously, it seems like it happened at least once every episode.
  • I’ve really enjoyed reviewing the first season of this frustrating but frequently intriguing show and I look forward to continuing to do so during the second season.

Review: Bates Motel 1.9 “Underwater”

Bates Motel Underwater

This week’s episode of Bates Motel was all about marijuana.

No sooner has Norma  (Vera Farmiga) recovered from finding the decaying corpse of Deputy Shelby in her bed then she’s having to deal with the hippies openly smoking weed out on the motel’s porch.  Now, I have to admit that some of my best friends are hippies but, for the most, they’re a lot more charming than the Bates Motel hippies.  The Bates Motel hippies are all incredibly dirty and rather rude.  Even worse, one of them has a guitar and insists on both playing and singing The Goo Goo Dolls’ “Slide” during all hours of the night.  Seriously, I thought Dylan (Max Thieriot) ran off the guitar-playing hippie last episode.  Maybe he came back.

However, as one of the hippies explains to Norma, the town’s entire economy is pretty much dependent on that huge marijuana farm in the woods.  So, the hippies can pretty much do anything they want without having to worry about being strung up in the town square and being set on fire.  In one of my favorite moments from last night’s episode, Sheriff Romero (Nestor Carbonell) drives up to the motel, calmly glances at the pot-smoking hippies, and then pretty much ignores them for the rest of his visit.

One of the hippies takes a liking to Emma (Olivia Cooke) and gives her a pot cupcake.  To the show’s credit, Emma doesn’t have a melodramatic freak-out or anything else that we’ve come to expect from television whenever a character tries drugs for the first time.  Instead, she gets rather realistically spacey and paranoid.  Hilariously, Emma’s stoned paranoia isn’t all that different from Norma’s natural paranoia.

Speaking of which, this week’s episode was also dominated by Vera Farmiga and her performance as Norma Bates.  Throughout this season, Farmiga has proven that she’s an actress who knows just how much scenery she can chew before losing credibility.  One the joys of this show is watching Farmiga continually take Norma to the edge of becoming a caricature and then pulling back at just the right moment.  Last night, we got to see Norma confront one of the annoying hippies about “smoking a doobie” on the motel’s front porch and physically attack a sleazy real estate agent for refusing to help her sell the motel.  And, of course, we can’t forget about the tres creepy scene where she climbs into bed with Norman (Freddie Highmore).

Norman, as always, is having issues of his own.  After having a dream about drowning Bradley (Nicola Peltz), he writes a short story about it.  Ms. Watson (Keegan Connor Tracy) is so impressed by the story that she volunteers to help Norman edit it.  When Norman tells her that he’s not sure if his mother would approve, Ms. Watson tells Norman that maybe they don’t need to tell his mother.  In fact, maybe it can just be their little secret.  As Ms. Watson talks to Norman, it becomes apparent that she’s interested in more than just being his teacher.

This leads, of course, to an interesting question.  Is there anyone in the town of White Pine Bay who isn’t crazy?

No wonder Jake loves this place!  Yes, despite having checked out of the motel, Jake Abernathy (the wonderfully creepy Jere Burns) is still around.  First he sends Norma flowers and then, at the end of the episode, he pops up in the back seat of her car and tells her that if she doesn’t pay him $150,000, he’s going to kill both her and her sons, therefore setting us up for next week’s season finale.

If there’s been a reoccurring theme running through my reviews of Bates Motel, it’s that this is a show that has struggled to define itself.  This first season has been spent trying to find a consistent theme and tone.  Over the past 9 episodes, whenever Bates Motel has attempted to be a straightforward thriller, the show has struggled.  However, when the show has accepted the inherent oddness of being a weekly prequel to Psycho, Bates Motel has succeeded.  Bates Motel is a show that benefits from going over the top.  Perhaps that’s why I enjoyed this week’s episode, Underwater, as much as I did.  Underwater was Bates Motel at its over the top best.

Random Observations:

  • I have to admit that I’m not really all the interested in finding out who Bradley’s father’s girlfriend was.  However, I do think that Bradley and Dylan make a cute (if doomed) couple.
  • It’s hard for me to pick an absolute favorite moment from last night’s episode.  Certainly, Romero’s nonchalant reaction to the hippies and Emma’s reaction to the cupcake were contenders.  However, I think my favorite moment had to be the sleazy real estate guy saying, “Oh shit!” and running for the back of the office when he saw Norma approaching.
  • Only one more episode to go in this season and nobody’s taken a shower yet…

Review: Bates Motel 1.8 “A Boy and His Dog”

Bates Motel A Boy and His Dog

Last night’s episode of Bates Motel featured Norma (Vera Farmiga) trying to flirt her way to prosperity and out of trouble, Norman (Freddie Highmore) dealing with a therapist, Emma’s Dad (Ian Hart) waxing poetic about taxidermy, Dylan (Max Thieriot) pulling a gun on a pushy hippie, and Jake (Jere Burns) being brilliantly sleazy.  It was a lot of fun and a definite improvement over last week’s dour episode.

For those of us who are still invested in the idea of this show being a prequel to Psycho, last night’s episode was important because it opened with Norman learning about taxidermy from Emma’s dad, Will. Norman is getting his poor dog stuffed and mounted and, no offense to any taxidermists out there, but it’s all a bit creepy.  No wonder that, when Norma drops her son off at Will’s shop, she tells him that she’s not sure if Norman should be spending all of his time with dead things.  Despite the fact that Will points out that taxidermy makes Norman happy, I can actually see Norma’s point.  No mother looking forward to someday being able to play with her grandchildren is going to be happy about seeing her son taking up taxidermy or ventriloquism.

However, that’s the least of Norma’s problems.  Despite her attempts to first flirt with and then blackmail Sheriff Romero (Nestor Carbonell), Romero refuses to use his influence to help Norma get a seat on the town’s planning commission.  Instead, Romero, in that wonderful way that Nestor Carbonell has of being enigmatically threatening, tells her, “We’re not friends.”

Even worse, Norma can’t get Jake to leave the motel.  In one of the best scenes of the entire first season, Norma follows Jake when Jake drives out to Deputy Shelby’s boat.  (Or was it Keith’s boat?  Sometimes, I have a hard time keeping all the dead perverts of Bates Motel straight.)  When Jake discovers Norma watching him, Norma attempts to convince him that she hasn’t been following him.  Speaking in a chillingly child-like voice, Jake replies, “Where’d you hide it?”  (“It” being that sex slave who was last seen running off into the woods.)  Norma finally finds the strength to order Jake out of her motel and, despite the fact that Jake leaves, it’s pretty obvious that he’s not gone.

Meanwhile, at the high school, poor Emma is hiding in the girls room stall and using her inhaler (which brought back a lot of asthmatic memories for me) when she overhears a group of mean girls talking about how weird Norman is and how there’s no way Bradley (Nicola Peltz) would ever sleep with him.  This leads to Emma stepping out of the stall and telling them that Bradley did just that.  Words get back to Bradley, Bradley gets mad at Norman, and Norman ends up up having a mini-breakdown at school.  This leads to two scenes, a hilarious one where Norman and Norma attend a meeting with a therapist and a truly touching one in which Emma apologizes to Norman and tells him that she likes him.  Awwwwwwwwwwww!  Seriously, Norman and Emma are such a cute couple that it’s really a shame that one of them is destined to grow up to be a cross-dressing voyeuristic serial killer.

Finally, Dylan and Remo go on a road trip to pick up some hippies to work at the marijuana farm.  One of the hippies is a really obnoxious guy with a guitar and I spent the last half of the show worried that he was going to be a new regular character.  However, fortunately, he got on Dylan’s nerves so Dylan pulled a gun and left the guy and his guitar on the side of the road.  Yay, Dylan!

Since it first started two months ago, Bates Motel is a show that has struggled to find an identity.  That, in itself, is not surprising.  Few succesful TV shows look the same during their final season as they did during their first.  I recently rewatched the pilot episode of Lost and I was surprised at how different it felt from the show that Lost eventually became.  The fact that Bates Motel is struggling to find itself is not surprising.  What is surprising is just how different Bates Motel can feel from week to week.  Whereas last week’s episode felt a bit forced and melodramatic, this week’s episode felt a lot more self-aware.  This week’s episode was deliberately over-the-top and campy, in a way that acknowledged how ludicrous the series can occasionally be without ever descending to self-parody.  Bates Motel has already been renewed for a second season and hopefully, season 2 will look a lot like last night’s episode.

Random Observations:

  • Tonight’s episode ended with Norma finding Shelby’s mummified body in her bed.  I’m assuming that was a message left for her by Jake, since I don’t think Norman has quite reached the grave robbery stage just yet.
  • The episode started out with clips from last week’s episode so, once again, I had to watch that poor little dog get hit by that car.  I wanted to cry all over again.
  • Was it just me or did Sheriff Romero’s secretary sound like she had a bit of an atittude while she was talking to Norma on the phone?  Speaking as an administrative professional, I thought that was a bit unprofessional.
  • Vera Farmiga’s scene with Nestor Carbonell was definitely Bates Motel at its best.
  • God, that guitar-strumming hippie was annoying.
  • “Actually…I’d like my room made up now…” Agck!  Jere Burns is soooo creepy!
  • “Are you supposed to be putting your hands on the students?”
  • “Not many people write poetry but we still have to have poets, don’t we?”