Bates Motel Season 1 Review “Underwater”

Bates Motel returns tonight with the penultimate installment “Underwater”, as the Bates family deal with the aftermath of Norma finding Zach’s body in the bed last week, and the subsequent fallout with the enigmatic and uber-creepy Jake Abernathy.

The first shot shows the potheads from last week’s episode look on as the body of Deputy Zach Shelby is brought down the steps of the motel for the second time. It’s been an ongoing complaint for me that the big moments of this show are never really given many chances to breathe, and that was again the case here. I would have liked to see a little more of Norma’s reaction to this, but all we got was a scream last week and then we cut ahead to her speaking to the cops. These are all things that can be fixed in season two of this series, but I feel like there is a lot of instances in this show where we focus on storylines or characters that really don’t seem to matter too much in lieu of focusing on storylines that I really want to see.

While Norma’s having yet another bad day in this episode, Norman’s life is looking up a little bit. He has made a miraculously fast turnaround at school, as Miss Watson informs him that not only is he getting straight A’s, but he’s turning in short stories so good that they’re worth publishing. Norman’s relationship with Miss Watson does make me feel a little squeamish, but it’s not even entirely Norman’s fault in this instance. Miss Watson is always getting way too close to this impressionable teenage boy, and saying things about him being an “old soul” is skeezing me out. I’m not sure how much more I need to see of this relationship, but maybe this dynamic can be discovered a little more in season two.

I loved Norman’s scene in his bedroom with Dylan, as Dylan is taken off guard by the creepy stuffed dog in his room. Dylan is really one of the only characters on the show who can call Norman out on his weirdness without having to tiptoe around it, and I loved how he didn’t back down from his questioning and demanded that he told him who he dreamed about drowning. I also loved the writing here, as Dylan made sure that Norman doesn’t really want to hurt anybody, and Norman answered very carefully with “Of course, I don’t want to hurt anybody”. He’s not saying he won’t hurt anybody, but that he just doesn’t want to. Great stuff.

We got a couple new introductions to some of the potheads this week, with the awesomely named Ra’uf being one of them. Gunner is the cute one who was hitting on Emma, and he’s the one who’s responsible for one of the funniest moments of the whole series: Stoned Emma! I have quickly developed somewhat of a crush on Emma, and Olivia Cooke’s portrayal especially, and this episode made me fall in love even more! I honestly just want her to be happy at this point, so maybe it’s actually better for her to be with a thoughtful and cute pothead dude as opposed to a future serial killer.

The final scene was almost as much of a surprise as last week’s final scene, as we get confirmation from Jake Abernathy that he is, in fact, in charge of the sex trafficking ring that Zach Shelby worked for. We still aren’t quite sure if the drug dealing and the sex trafficking are directly correlated, but at this point it looks like they’re separate industries.

With only one episode left in the series, it’s a little weird that it doesn’t feel like we’re really ramping up to a big conclusion. I think that this series might possibly have been more effective if it was in a different sequence. The first few episodes were fine, with the Keith Summers/Jerry Martin deaths and Norman and Emma discovering the pot farms and sex trafficking, but then everything was resolved pretty quickly. Maybe if they spent the next few episodes fleshing out the seedy underbelly of the town and building up Shelby as a possible villain, it would have made the shootout in the motel and Shelby’s death a lot more effective. Seriously, wouldn’t that have worked perfectly as a series finale?!

Even if the series may have been a little out of order, I can’t wait to see what happens in next week’s finale! Bates Motel has quickly become one of my favorite new series, so I’m interested to see how we’re going to lead in to the second season!

Random Thoughts:

– This was a great episode for people who are fans of Vera Farmiga giving the stink eye. She stared down the poor lady in the real estate office, and every single one of the potheads, with great aplomb.

– Hey Norman, if you absolutely have to kill somebody, maybe you can start with the pothead playing Goo Goo Dolls on his guitar. Just a thought.

– Someone needs to make me a GIF of Norma beating that poor realtor up with her purse ASAP.