A&E’s Bates Motel wraps its second season this week in “The Immutable Truth.” Dylan (Max Thieriot) races to find his brother, Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore). To do this, Dylan must enlist Sheriff Romero (Nestor Carbonell) to help, a choice Dylan makes even though he just murdered a man and must admit it to the officer. However, the two men locating Norman is only the beginning of the trouble, and it seems certain someone in the family will end up in jail.
“The Immutable Truth” is probably the most intense episode of Bates Motel yet. Things have slowly been building to a head, and they reach it here. The show often has murder and suspense, but never so much at stake and so close to the edge as this week. It’s a gripping hour, sure to satisfy viewers who have been waiting for just such an installment.
It also features Norman at his craziest. This week, he is coldly making a list and planning on killing himself, hallucinating his mother, Norma (Vera Farmiga), and passing a lie detector test by convincing himself the truth is something it’s not. This is a portrait of a psychopath, drawn out much more obviously than ever before on Bates Motel, putting together all the strange pieces of Norman.
The direction of “The Immutable Truth” deserves much of the credit. From a shot of the stuffed owl Norman hangs in the house, to scary glimpses through the dark, to Norman’s creepy face, each camera angle is chosen deliberately for maximum effect. This is a horror staple, of course, but when done right, can convey scariness even when there’s nothing inherently scary happening, and Bates Motel makes good use of this.
There is now a sense of dread hanging over Norma and Dylan not quite clear before. Norma wants to flee the country to protect Norman, as she has been trying to cover up his misdeeds for awhile, explaining her own irrational actions. Dylan wants to get Norman help, knowing that Norman is not mentally stable. Both are united in their desire to be there for Norman, but this just puts them squarely in danger, as no one can save Norman, which we know. Will Norman kill one or both of them himself?
At least Norma and Dylan have each other, comforting for the moment. There is a real turning point when Dylan saves Norman, which prompts Norma to express her love for her estranged son, even buying Dylan a plane ticket so he can leave with them. They end up staying put, but that bond, ever fragile, has been strengthened in “The Immutable Truth,” growth earned through trial and tribulation.
One wonders how Romero will now act towards the family. He is convinced Norman is innocent, but he knows Dylan is guilty. He does help Dylan cover up the deaths, believing Dylan to be the right person to have in charge of the city’s illegal drug trade, vital to the area’s survival. But will Romero be keeping closer tabs, trying to exert influence? Or will he be a staunch ally, determined to keep their secrets safe as long as they don’t bring more trouble? He’s not a bully, he’s a compassionate man, but his moral code is hazy.
My one complaint about this season finale is the way bodies drop to the floor as if checking off a list of the year two recurring players. The show doesn’t need Nick Ford (Michael O’Neill), Jodi (Kathleen Robertson), and Zane (Michael Eklund) to come back, so it just kills them off. I’m almost surprised Christine (Rebecca Creskoff) doesn’t wind up dead just so the series can start fresh again in 2015.
Still, “The Immutable Truth” is a pretty darn good way to end the season, both for the emotional levels taken in the character dynamics, and the way Norman is rapidly becoming the monster film fans know him to be. I don’t know how many more years Bates Motel has left in it, but at this point, it could build to a natural ending any time A&E is ready for it to do so. No rush.
Bates Motel has been renewed and will air its third season next year.
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