Bates Motel Season 1 Review “Ocean View”

With most TV shows being preempted tonight by the coverage of the horrible events this morning at the Boston Marathon, Bates Motel was one of the few shows still airing an original episode. It seems almost frivolous to review a silly little TV show while there’s so many people in this country reeling from such a terrible loss, and my thoughts are definitely with those affected as I turn my attention briefly to tonight’s installment “Ocean View”.

There was a lot going on in tonight’s episode, but I feel like I say that every week! Norma is in and out of jail, Dylan is getting even deeper into the criminal underworld, Norman is discovering more of White Pine Bay’s secrets (and dealing with girl troubles), while we get confirmation of the terrible things that Officer Zach is responsible for. Whew! That’s a lot to squeeze in to 45 minutes of screen time!

I’ve been a little confused with what’s going on between Officer Zach and the Bates family in this series, as he’s been very unpredictable and enigmatic thus far. It’s possible that he’s been written this way on purpose to make him seem more mysterious, but it comes off as just inconsistent. He started the series as the good cop, then he was hunky man-candy for Norma when she got lonely, and then just last episode he tried to force his way into a fatherhood role in the Bates family and then finished off the episode by arresting Norma! His facial expression while she was arrested made it look like he really didn’t care, but it looks like he actually does want Norma to be safe as he steals Keith Summers’ watch from the evidence room. This would seem to put him squarely in Norma’s corner – for now, at least.

Vera Farmiga was really in top form tonight as Norma Bates has to deal with the repercussions of last week’s arrest. Just about every scene she was in, from her very first scene in the prison to her last one in the motel room, was just perfect. I would be very surprised if we don’t hear her name mentioned come Emmy season.

Dylan’s storyline got a huge kick in the pants tonight as well, as his buddy Ethan gets shot in the neck by a drug addict in the middle of the street! I really like Dylan interactions with Norma and Norman, and I’m a big fan of Max Thieriot’s performance, but I’m not sure how much I really care about his storyline thus far. I think it’s pretty telling that he doesn’t even know what Ethan’s last name is (It’s Chang, by the way). That’s a great indicator for the fact that we’ve been told so little about this character and this shady underworld of White Pine Bay. I think it’s great if this can all be laying the groundwork for some cool stuff down the line, but I’m hoping they focus on the Bates’ crazy storylines for now.

Overall I’ve quite enjoyed the Bates Motel season being so short at only ten episodes, as it means that just about every episode is packed with juicy twist and turns. However I definitely feel like Norman’s relationships have been rushed quite a bit. It seemed like both Bradley and Emma fell madly in love with him in the very first episode, and it’s been a bit unfortunate that we can’t see these relationships slowly develop over time. Despite the minuscule amount of time we’ve had with these characters, it was completely gut-wrenching seeing Emma hear about Norman and Bradley sleeping together. Olivia Cooke played this so well, and it was also written perfectly. Hearing Emma try to excuse Norman’s night with Bradley as “just a hook-up” as a tear rolls down her cheek, showing that she clearly doesn’t believe what she’s saying, was just heartbreaking. After tonight I’m officially on Team Emma. If that didn’t exist already, then I’m starting it right now!

Emma continues to be awesome as she helps Norman find the Chinese sex slave that Norman found before in Zach’s basement. While you have to be a little bit happy that Norman was finally vindicated in knowing that this woman actually did exist, and that Zach was guilty all along, you couldn’t help but feel pretty bad for Norma as well. Vera Farmiga has been the MVP of this show, and seeing her frantically run around to try to prove this poor girl wrong really made you feel for her. I can’t wait to see how she brings this up to Zach in the next episode!

After tonight’s episode we have officially reached the half-way point of our first season, and I feel like it’s been stellar thus far. You can tell that they’re trying to squeeze a little too much into just ten episodes, but it is nice not to have any filler. It’s just wall-to-wall craziness every episode, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Random Thoughts:

– I loved seeing Norman stroll confidently down the street the night after having sex with Bradley. It reminded me of Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the Hall & Oates musical scene from 500 Days of Summer.

– Look, Bates Motel writers. I know you’re trying to sell Emma as the “quirky girl”, but an orange VW Beetle? You don’t think that’s hitting the nail a little too squarely on the head?

– OK, we’re five episode in now, and we still haven’t had a single visitor at the Bates Motel? They aren’t going to be in business for much longer if this keeps up…