Bates Motel continues to deliver a strong season with “Persuasion.” It answers a few of the questions that have been asked so far, and smartly has us asking a whole bunch of new ones. Many viewers were skeptical that Annika’s disappearance would be nothing more than a rehash of Ms. Watson, but now more than ever we can safely say that that’s not the case. As always, spoilers ahead for those who have yet to catch up with this season.
Annika is dead. In typical Bates Motel tradition, she dies in the most unexpected way. She did not die until the very end of the episode, from a clearly recent gun wound. While we probably can’t rule anything out, it does certainly look like Norman is not responsible for this one. The very fact that I felt relieved when it began to appear that Norman was not the killer is a testament to the writing of the show and the characters. Three years in, I still have to give it the upmost praise for making us interested in when and how Norman is going to start killing and then relieved to find out he didn’t do it.
Without a doubt, the highlight of the episode for me was the discussion between Romero and Norman. Romero is pushed away by Norma when he needs to question Norman about the dead girl that they found, almost thrown out of the house. But Norman appears more than happy to answer the sheriff’s questions. The whole conversation harkens back to the great parlor scene in Psycho. What makes it even better is to see Freddie Highmore slyly start working in some of the physical work Anthony Perkins put into that complex, layered original scene. These are things most people wouldn’t notice, like how Norman leans in and speaks with a bit more authority when trying to get the upper hand and take control of the conversation. For me, Bates Motel has always been at its best when it is at its most subtle, and this scene is no exception.
Caleb’s relationship to Dylan was the only family secret that Emma was ever let in on, and it already is something she clearly wasn’t prepared to come face to face with. More than that, things have taken an interesting twist now that Caleb is a secret that she has to keep from Norma and Norman. Later in the episode, she tries to console Norman as he begins to have a total meltdown and almost gets him to acknowledge his own psychological problems, but he doesn’t. She is still left in the dark in that area, and that is going to increasingly become a less and less safe to be.
With Annika’s appearance raising entirely new speculation as to who might have killed her, the real question becomes not “who has Norman killed” but “who is Norman going to kill?” It’s hard to imagine he doesn’t kill anyone this season, but Annika was not the big reveal. And even though it’s only the third season, it’s looking more and more likely that when Norman does kill again, it won’t be a minor character. While Dylan and Emma are two of the most interesting and well developed of the entire ensemble, neither of their deaths would surprise me at this point.