This season of Bates Motel continues to pick up speed in the fourth episode, “Unbreak-Able.” While there’s not a lot of advancement on the plot side of things—all of that stuff we thought we were going to find out about Annika at the end of last week was defeated by a password encrypted USB that could drag things out for who knows how long—this was an extremely well done character-centric episode.
Since pretty much the beginning, Norman has been the sympathetic one in the show. Even though both he and Norma have their share of problems, and he has killed more people, it was Norma who was the overbearing and controlling one. Naturally, we couldn’t wait for Norman to finally slip from her grasp. That balance has begun to shift lately.Even if Norma is controlling, even if she is manipulative and even if she basically just an impossible human being, there’s a reason for everything that she does. We can understand her reasoning, even if she is absolutely insane in the way she chooses to handle things. But now, things have gotten to a point where it’s very clear that Norman is no longer in control and all of Norma’s over-protectiveness might be paying off.
One thing in particular stands out to me. I’ve made my feelings about Norman’s relationship with Emma this season pretty clear. It could have been an adorable pairing for the right reasons, but Norman is very intentionally pursuing her for the wrong reasons and that makes it pretty far from okay. She deserves a lot better than that.
Luckily, Norma has finally picked up on that. First of all, Norman only brings it up to make his mother jealous. And while that may get to her, she sees right through it. She berates him for using the girl and tells him that if he hurts her she will kick his ass to the moon and back, and that has made her a very easy character to root for. Not that Vera Farmiga hasn’t been knocking it out of the park since the very beginning. We’ve always been rooting for Norma in the sense of wanting her to finally get her life together and hold onto whatever sanity she has left. Now, if it has come down to choosing sides between mother and son—and that’s really what this season seems to be about—I’m almost leaning toward mother.
At the same time, we have Sheriff Romero continuing his pursuit for the truth about what happened to Annika and the other girls. While he may have ruled out Norman as a suspect, it’s very obvious that Norma’s keeping something. She has always been pretty terrible at lying to him, and I don’t really know why she would keep this one to herself. She has every reason to trust Romero. Hell, she doesn’t even know what’s on the USB that was in Annika’s grasp. If she gave that to the sheriff, both of their questions would probably be answered in seconds. It almost seems like the only reason she’s keeping it to herself is for the sake of having a season’s worth of story material which, with only ten episodes, is probably not great.
Hopefully there’s a lot more to it than that. Knowing the creative team, there probably will be. Romero’s vigilante subplot is interesting, but the Arcanum Club already seem to know exactly what he would have on them if he were to find that USB. Like I said, while there wasn’t a lot of plot advancement in this episode, there was some great character material, particularly between Norman, Norma and Emma.
I’ll be interested to see where things go in the next episode, as it looks like the secrets that Dylan has been keeping from his mother and brother are finally building to a head.