8 Questions for the Bates Motel Finale

by: LGreen

image via A&E

Gather your personal belongings and get ready for check out. Bates Motel is turning the lights out for good Monday night. After carefully shuffling characters around all season, the White Pine Gang is finally back together, headed toward a final showdown. That much seems inevitable, so here are 8 questions Bates Motel should/could/might also address:

Will Norman die? I already speculated my theory on this. I think Bates Motel has to end with Norman’s death, if only to finally reunite him with Norma. A lifetime of medicated imprisonment seems too cruel, despite his crimes. Norman’s death would offer some sort of justice and closure for those left behind. It’s mostly a matter of how. Again, my theory is that he dies trying to rid himself of the more villainous “Mother”.

Are there any more victims? The Dr. Edwards twist really caught me off guard, which has me wondering if there’s anyone else we haven’t considered. No main characters are unaccounted for, but could there be another twist lurking in Norman’s past? And would it even matter at this point? Norman’s walking a fine line of being a fairly terrible person, who still somehow generates sympathy. Any more unpacked baggage in his past could change how we feel about him in the end.

Will Dylan and Emma have a happy ending? There seems to be some doubt about these two going forward, which I’m not totally buying. Sure, finding out your brother-in-law killed your mother is a hard pill to swallow. But he also killed Dylan’s too. Not to be too glib about that, but at least they each know what the other is going through. Emma’s visitation with Norman/Mother likely went a long way towards healing, since the sweet Norman she knew is clearly not running that particular show anymore.

Will Norman admit to killing Norma? Could this realization be what finally breaks Norman? His season-long resistance to even accepting her death created this iteration of Mother. What could realizing he did it do to his brain? An admission would finally give the long-suffering Norma some justice in her life (er… death), and vindication for Romero and Dylan.

Will there be a time jump? Bates Motel has always excelled at the little ways it plays with time. From the look of the house, costuming, Norman’s stuck-in-time awkwardness, time has always contributed to the mood of the show, reinforcing just how out of step Norma and Norman can be, while winking at the world of Psycho. While a time jump would be way less subtle, it could be a handy trick to see how Monday night’s survivors (if any) fare.

Are we done with Psycho? The little nods towards Psycho have always been a fun Easter egg game for Bates Motel. From the glimpses of Norma in the window, shots of the staircase, a very Hitchockian cameo by Carlton Cuse himself, Bates Motel has always winked at Psycho while remaining very much its own story. Could the finale pull more inspiration from its source material? Unless Norman ends up imprisoned, fully taken over by Mother, it probably won’t happen. But there still will be the reveal of Norma’s body and the possibility of one more murder in the house. (Stay safe, Sheriff Greene)

What about Chick’s book? The novel Psycho, was at least nominally inspired by true events, which in turn inspired the movie, which in turn inspired Bates Motel, which features a local writer documenting true crime. So to complete this mind-bending circle, Chick’s book has to be discovered and published by somebody. But who?

Whatever happened to “We all go a little mad sometime”? Perhaps the most famous line in Psycho, I can’t recall if it was ever directly used in Bates Motel. Could they have been waiting for the closing moments? It’s now or never…

Bates Motel: How Will It End?

by: LGreen

image via A&E

“Maybe we don’t get to start over.” So said Norman way back in the series premiere. Norma didn’t want to believe it, it was pretty clear Norman was on to something. After all, if you’re in a prequel (of sorts) to Psycho, and your name is “Norman Bates,” there’s a reasonably good chance your fate is sealed. But just how prophetic was Norman? As Bates Motel prepares for its Monday night checkout, what will happen to the surviving members of the Bates family?

After all, Bates Motel may rely heavily on its source material, but that has proven to be mostly for mood and inspiration. These characters are as close to living and breathing originals as you can get. Season 5 finally took us into Psycho territory, running headlong into the Marion Crane subplot, but that turned out to be a bait and switch, a mere blip in a much more complex story that, as it turns out, barely factors in Marion Crane at all. (Though, for what it’s worth, I really hope she’s made it to Mexico and is living a fancy fugitive life.)

With one episode left, Romero, Norman, Dylan, and Emma are all in impossible positions, with fairly unhappy outlooks. Are they, as Norma once said, “all doomed in the end”? Let’s take a closer look, one by one.

Romero:

Aside from Norman, who is Norman Bates after all, Romero is the character whose fate seems mostly sealed, because he has nothing left to lose. His motivation is a straightforward revenge fantasy and Romero’s on a one-man mission to kill Norman or die trying—an uncomplicated plot point, though nonetheless compelling. Literally, the only way Romero doesn’t kill Norman is if he dies first. Because I feel that Norman’s fate is more tangled up in his relationship with “Mother,” he won’t meet his end at the hands of a stepfather. Will there be a showdown? Yes. Will Romero walk away avenged? Probably not (Sorry, Romero). But he definitely is not someone willing to go back to prison. So what then? I have pointed out all season that Romero’s hidden Bob Paris money is still in that basement. I think the most we can hope for is that he makes it out alive and flees to Mexico to join Rihanna on the beach for frozen margaritas.

Dylan:

Last week we watched Dylan scroll through pictures of his family. Well, both families. The happy normal one he created with Emma—the one waiting for him far away from White Pine Bay. And, well… the other one. The one with Norma and Norman, that didn’t include him, but still calls to him. Will Dylan want to belong so badly, that it literally kills him? Because Bates Motel, despite its darkness, isn’t really a cynical show, I truly believe Dylan will make it out as the one glimmer of hope. Norman might be a hallucinatory hot mess that Norma allowed to manifest on her watch—but not for lack of love. Weirdly, Bates Motel is about the love you have for your family, even if it kills you. I think Dylan will be spared to live another, happier day.

Emma:

First of all, no matter what horror Bates Motel subjects us to, killing off Emma, would be a step too far. Logistically, it makes no sense—she’s well on her way home, far away from crazy town. I wish we had seen more of Olivia Cooke this season, though the moments we got were just enough to see just how much Emma has grown. She left White Pine Bay and can literally and figuratively breathe for the first time. Norman has only loved two women his whole life. Norma, whom he loved to death, and Emma, who gets to have the life Norma couldn’t. Last week she said goodbye to Audrey, made her peace with Norman, and left town. She’s headed back to her bright future, which I’d like to think still includes Dylan. Either way, Emma, as the only truly innocent character, is guaranteed some happiness.

Sheriff Greene:

Minor character, you say? I beg to disagree. First of all, as one Green to another, I’m Team Green(e) all the way. Also, what a refreshing change to have somebody levelheaded in that kooky town, who’s not a mess and not corrupt. She’s not a character who’s going to go down without a fight. Not that it isn’t possible; surely she’s the most expendable than anyone else. But if Sheriff Greene dies, who’s going to discover and publish the book Chick was writing?

Norman:

What good can come of Norman? He’s killed a lot of people and left a path of misery in his wake. The fact that we can still feel sympathy towards him is a testament to the writing and Freddie Highmore’s performance. Though he only consciously and intentionally killed one person, that’s still a pretty big deal. Going free isn’t an option. Saying he’s sorry and moving on, isn’t realistic. The fact that he was unaware of how sick he was and what “Mother” did on his behalf, doesn’t quite cut it as a defense.

Should Norman make it back into custody (though I doubt it. Why have a dramatic jailbreak if he’s just going to end up back in jail 40 minutes later), I don’t think we’ll end up seeing a call back to the end of Psycho, with Norman in a cell, smirking and channeling “Mother”. Bates Motel hasn’t spent 5 seasons carefully weaving an intricate story only to end on a been-there-done-that callback to something less compelling. Nor would “Mother” be allowed to still exist. Surely she’d be medicated right out of Norman’s subconscious. Even after all he’s done, seeing Norman confined to a life sentence without Norma somehow seems too cruel.

Sadly, or not so sadly, depending on your sense of justice, Norman has to die. It’s the only way he can be reunited with Norma—and not “Mother”. It’s just a matter of how and at whose hands. As I predicted, likely not Romero. And probably not Dylan. Though the Cain and Able symbolism would be interesting, that’s not really here nor there. This is a story about Norma and Norman—and the chord between their hearts, etc. etc. Both are flawed, but neither are villains. The only true villain is “Mother,” who has to go. Norman’s still deep down a sweet and damaged kid. So here it is…

To avenge his own crimes, Norman will have to destroy “Mother,” thereby sacrificing himself. Oh, Norman. You never stood a chance.

 

 

 

Bates Motel: Doomed in the End?

by: LGreen

Things are really looking up for everyone on Bates Motel. Norma and Dylan have found love, Emma has a sparkly new set of lungs, even Norman is finding some peace. Everyone is, if not exactly happy, getting pretty close. It’s wonderful! And terrible! Surely this cannot last, can it?

We’re all doomed in the end, right?” is the casual piece of flirty cynicism  Norma threw out to Romero towards the end of last season. And if we go according to Psycho, then yes, you are all doomed in the end. You, especially, Norma. A mere half season later Norma and Romero are blissful newlyweds, saying “I love you,” making out like teenagers, and being all swoon-inducing awesome. So either this is the most excruciating build up to the other shoe dropping, or maybe, just maybe, a few of these troubled characters might just make it out happy and alive. But is that possible? Let’s take a closer look.

Emma (probably mostly happy)

Bates Motel_Emma

Emma is the most likely to make it out of White Pine Bay alive and healthy. She’s already halfway there, including distancing herself from Norman. She’s happy with Dylan and, even if that doesn’t last, we know wise-beyond-her-years Emma can roll with a break up. She’s on her way to college and a brand new life. There is that unfortunate situation with her mother being murdered by Norman/Mother. Maybe no one will tell her? Possible. But a murdered Audrey Ellis is like Chekhov’s gun, expect to see her again before the season is out.

Dylan (chances are slim)

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Dylan has terrible luck, a terrible origin story, and zero safety net. He’s super happy with Emma, but everyone in his family has a way of sucking you right back into their orbit of crazy. Seattle may not be far enough, Dylan. Don’t stop until you hit Canada! On the flip side, Dylan is due some luck and maybe the writers will find it in their collective heart to cut everyone’s favorite brother a break.

Dr. Edwards (sorry in advance, doctor)

Bates Motel_Dr Edwards

I am so worried for Dr. Edwards! He’s totally doomed, right? He even called it himself in this week’s episode (“The Vault”). He says “Mother” appears to protect Norman from danger, in which he includes himself. Don’t give him any ideas, Dr. Edwards! Also take a look at how he’s lit, Norman is often in full light and the doctor is half in shadows. Something ominous is coming his way. His one possible chance? It would be hard for Norman to kill him in the hospital and get away with it.

Alex Romero (I’m so nervous, you guys!)

Bates Motel_Alex

Look at the dapper suit and bright smile! Who’d want to hurt this handsome gentleman? 1: Probably a lot of people. 2: Norman. He’s not going to be happy his late night movie cuddlefests with Norma are a thing of the past. Just look at Norma’s reluctance to even mention her new husband; Alex, you in danger, girl!

Romero’s safety mostly concerns me because of how it will affect Norma. She’s finally found someone who makes her happy, who’s good to her, who literally knows all her secrets and doesn’t care.  He bought her a coffee maker and filled in the pit. This is love!  Would Bates Motel get rid of Romero just to add one more tragedy to Norma’s already impossibly hard life? Yes! Yes, I think they would. It’s gotten so bad, that I hold my breath everytime he shows up.

Norman (definitely doomed because, well, Psycho)

Bates Motel_Norman

The writers have repeatedly said that they’re not writing Psycho. Bates Motel is inspired by, but not a prequel to, the movie. That’s obviously true, given the current time period. But time is a slippery thing in this world. Norma and Norman, from their home to their clothes, to music and movie choices, often exist in a world that seems both far away and of the past. Indicative of the bubble they share? Sure. But also, a big nod to the source material. This isn’t Psycho, but Norman’s world is. I don’t see how he’s going to escape that fate.

Chick (Doomed. Good)

Bates_Chick

How did this annoying minor character become so pivotal this season? And I’m not sure if his blackmail scheme with Norma is over. She called him on is bluff and all he did was give her a very creepy kiss on the cheek and leave. Is that it from you Chick? Back to the woods you go? Maybe he’s done with Norma, but he’ll likely be hearing from Romero sooner than later. People who threaten Norma Bates don’t tend to live long in White Pine Bay.

Norma (wildcard, fingers crossed)

Bates Motel_Norma

Oh, Norma. I worry about you most of all. The original Norma Bates didn’t end up so well, so we’re either watching her march towards that inevitable fate, or maybe Bates Motel will reward her for all her suffering. Maybe? Probably not.

This season in particular seems especially menacing towards Norma. With break ins, bitter ex-girlfriends, and Chicks all over the place (and even Norman posing a few threats himself), pulling out a happy ending would be an unexpected hat trick. Norma even predicted shed one day break her neck falling on those stairs, so now I have stairs to worry about too!

All this is why her newfound happiness with Romero is fantastic and awful and nerve-wracking. You just want them to really pack that bag and get out of town. Quick, before Norman/Chick/Caleb/Rebecca/The FBI/Fate catches up to you.

(Bates Motel airs Monday at 9EST on A&E)

*all images via A&E

Where does Wayward Pines Rank among TV’s Creepiest Towns?

by: L Green

Wayward Pines is a weird place, what with their abandoned hospitals, inscrutable rules, and ice cream socials public executions. If I found myself trapped in this Norman Rockwell Hellscape, I’d sure want to leave too. Wayward Pines is definitely one of TV creepiest towns in a long time. But where does it rank overall? Let’s take a look at the nightmarish bergs that have come before.

Home in The X-Files.

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Mulder and Scully only visited Home once (though maybe will again?), but once was more than enough. There we got to meet the Peacocks, the town’s resident inbred, incesty, murderous family of sociopaths. Any town that’s a party to this clan is no bueno in my book.

Creep factor: 3 OMGs and 1 oh, Hell no!

Twin Peaks in Twin Peaks.

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Ah, the gold standard in quaint, but vaguely not-right, towns. Sure Twin Peaks had their share of murders, mysteries, secrets, hallucinations, demons, prostitution, betrayal, treachery, blackmail, and ill-timed dance parties. But all very charming in its own way, no? Plus, doughnuts!

Creep factor: 1 million damn good cups of coffee with a slice of pie.

Mapleton in The Leftovers.

Mapleton

Poor beleaguered Mapleton. First all their loved ones vanish, then wild dogs take over, nobody listens to Chief Garvey at all, and then a lurking chain smoking cult moves in to give everyone an extra hard time. And don’t even get me started on this appalling memorial statue.

Creep factor: 4 old cigarettes and 1 No, thank you.

New Otherton in Lost.

lost

Time for a throwback town! Remember the very organized community of Others on Lost (cutely called New Otherton, by Sawyer, the human nickname generator)? Having a maniacal lovestruck nerd as your unwavering dictator is probably no good, but I was always Team Others. They all had jobs and houses, book clubs, and an unusual need to organize and label everything. It could be worse.

Creep factor: a million Dharma labels and a Dharma Shark. When do I move in?

Future NY in Fringe.

observer ny

New York is already a tough place. But jump 20 years to the Orwellian future under Observer rule and things are much harder and much dirtier. You think alternate side of the street parking and the MTA are tough? At least there’s enough oxygen and we’re not all frozen in amber and ruled by bald emotionless geniuses from the future. Yet.

Creep factor: 10 portals to the future worth of See ya.

White Pine Bay from Bates Motel.

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“This is beautiful!” says Norma as she drives along the coast into scenic White Pine Bay. And it is beautiful with lush forests and ocean views and a charming downtown. But the town is run with drug money, fueled by murder, suspicion, greed, and backstabbing. Oh, and then there’s Norman.

Creep factor: 1 basement taxidermy lair and a couple of Nuh uhs. .

Caldwell in The Returned.

the returned

What a quaint little town, nestled comfortably in the Pacific Northwest. Oh and all your dead family members are showing back up!

Creep factor: 1 giant nopetapus

Wayward Pines from Wayward Pines.

wayward pines

So let’s discuss the town in question: Wayward Pines is like Twin Peaks but without the charm. Everyone’s a bit of an oddball, but also super nosy and and all up in everybody else’s business. To be fair, their motto of living in the present, isn’t the worst advice I’ve heard. But nothing says live for today like the looming threat of a public execution.

Creep factor: 1,000 ice cream cones of doom.

Chester’s Mill from Under the Dome.

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Have you heard? Chester’s Mill was a town like any other. But then a pesky dome dropped from the sky and now it’s the thunderdome! Really it only took a couple of weeks before the good people or rural Maine started getting all murdery and setting up a fight club for sport. Seems to me they were just looking for a reason to turn on each other…

Creep factor: 4 severed cows and a dozen mysterious eggs.

Mystic falls from The Vampire Diaries.

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Would I want to live in Mystic Falls? Everyone’s either a witch, vampire, werewolf, cursed, trapped, murdered, or doomed. So, no. But I wouldn’t mind visiting–everyone’s so pretty and they throw the best parties!

Creep factor: 1 million beautiful vampire points!

Eagleton from Parks and Recreation.

eagleton

Oh, sorry, Ealgeton isn’t creepy, it just sucks. Eagleton sucks!

Creep factor: shut it, Eagleton. No points for you.

So there you have it. Wayward Pines is slightly less creepy than a town where dead people have shown back up and slightly more creepy than an uber-organized island prison. Good for you, Wayward Pines!

Bates Motel Recap: Crazy

by: L Green

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Image via A&E

Bates Motel wraps up its third season Monday night and while I’m sad to see it go, each episode this season has been better than the last and I’m worried it won’t sustain its own fantastic momentum. Like George Costanza, Bates Motel is leaving on a high note.

This series ostensibly began as a prequel to the Psycho we all know. A mix of what if and what went wrong, leading up to the damaged, well… psycho that we know Norman becomes. Knowing the end game (assuming that we actually do), it became a meditation on who’s to blame?—focused primarily on Norma and Norman’s relationship. Is Norman doomed because of biology or history? Where do you cross the line from protector to enabler? These questions alone are enough to sustain a series, especially against the very Twin Peaks-esque backdrop of White Pine Bay. But somewhere along the way, Bates Motel became about more than just Norman. Watching this week’s episode, “Crazy,” I was struck by just how unhappy each character is—lost, damaged, and struggling for something better than what they have. The story is mostly about Norman, but the show could easily shift focus to any of the featured cast and could still work on some level. Norman clearly has the worst problem and worst fate, but is becoming the medium through which the other character reflect their own unhappiness. Bates Motel has always had one of TV’s best casts, but it absolutely has the best ensemble, which has never been more obvious than in this week’s episode. So enough chit chat, let’s get recappin’.

Oh heyyyy Bradley. Everyone’s favorite Former It Girl Current Hot Mess, Bradley Martin, is back and she needs Norman’s help. It turns out that living life on the run, while being 18 and presumed dead, is not fun at all and Bradley wants to go home again. Apparently no one’s ever told her that you can’t cuz she gives it a go and is super disappointed. Norman lets her hide out in the motel and she flirts and wheedles her way into convincing him to talk to her mom for her. They never get the chance because Bradley checks out her old house and finds out that her mom seriously moved on, complete with turning Bradley’s room into a gym. Part of me is like, well… she thinks you died, and part of me feels pretty bad for her. But some things never change, cuz when Bradley has a problem it becomes Norman’s problem. She wonders why he and Dylan let her leave town in the first place. Then she gets huffy that Norman needs to go home. He confesses that Norma thinks there’s something wrong with him and that she’s probably right. Bradley’s not too picky these days and unfazed by that. She begs Norman to stay in her room, that she “wants to be close” to him, but he’s too spooked by the image of Norma, watching from the corner, disapproving heavily. What are you going to do about that girl? she asks Norman. “…I know what you want to do.” Norman sure does love the bad girls and “Norma” won’t stand for it. Bradley, you in danger girl!

Dylan’s having an okay day. You win some, you lose some seems to be the way Dylan’s life is going these days. After Caleb punched the smirk off Chick’s face, thanks to the gun run gone bad, he hands over $50,000 to Dylan and told him he has to leave town for a while. Dylan’s sad to see Caleb go, but happy enough to deliver the funds to Emma’s dad, in an effort to get her bumped up the transplant list. It’s nice to see Dylan interested in a nice and normal girl. So nice I wonder what will inevitably go wrong for them. They have a sweet moment, almost kiss, but don’t. You guys, I’m worried for them.

Norman needs to go. Norman tells Bradley that he needs to stay home a lot because he has blackouts, can’t drive much, and Norma needs to keep an eye on him. Those days might be over soon because Norman is becoming more and more unpredictable. And while he may be safe at home, Norma may not be. Word is getting out about Norman and she’s eager to keep his weird ways under control, starting first with the creepy taxidermy lair (Finally! I shouted at my TV). Norman is furious that Norma would get rid of his work, something so “beautiful,” (while Norma tosses matted animal pelts into a hefty bag). He pulls a knife out and waves it around, scolding Norma for her not-so-great behavior lately, suggesting that perhaps she’s the problem, while emphasizing that she’s also the last thing he thinks about at night and the first thing he thinks about in the morning. Oh, Norman, just no.

Norma and Romero have a moment. So let’s get to the really juicy scene, shall we? First things first though. Norma makes her way over to Bob Paris’s house and tells him she’ll give him the flash drive and will do whatever he wants if he’ll just back off any allegations about Norman. She brings it up oh so casually that what he heard about Norman isn’t true. Casually and just randomly enough to signal that of course it’s very much true. At this point, he doesn’t care about her or Romero or anyone and plans on taking them all down. And warns Norma about not accidentally falling into her new pool that goes all the way to the center of the earth. “You may not get out.”

Norma then does what Norma does best, of course: cause a scene. She demands, in front of the entire White Pine Bay police force, to know why Romero won’t answer her calls. He tells her in no uncertain terms that he’s done with her, the town, and everybody in it. Not deterred, Norma breaks into his house, looking for the flash drive. He turned it over to the FBI, risking his own reputation just because he’s tired of lying and covering for everyone.

Knowing the flash drive was Norman’s last chance, Norma loses it. Paris will investigate her husband’s death just for sport at this point. Romero loses it too and demands that Norma confess who really killed her husband. Part of me is so relieved to have someone demand the truth from Norma. “You know the truth, don’t make me say it,” she says. But another part is fascinated that Romero feels so entitled to have this confession. Maybe it’s an effort to save Norma from throwing her life away on Norman, or just Romero’s ego. Or maybe he really is tired of everyone lying all over the place. Who knows really, and to its credit, Bates Motel never pinpoints Romero’s exact interest in Norma. Men are as drawn to protecting Norma as to abusing her–often the same man. Bates Motel doesn’t even begin to explain why or how, but clearly it’s a pattern in Norma’s life and we all just roll with it. A lesser show would have characters philosophize about their own shortcomings and damaged history. These characters are too busy living their messy lives to deal with such navel gazing.

But back to Norma and Romero! He freaks out, she freaks out, they repeat that cycle and get verrrrry close. Maybe Romero doesn’t want to be attracted to Norma and her gazillion problems, but he definitely is. Like, really is. It’s a very steamy scene that ends with Norma deadpanning “don’t touch me” before sauntering out. Oof.

Odds and Ends and Predictions and Thoughts

  • I don’t even know how many seasons Kevin Rahm’s been on Mad Men at this point. But all I can tell you about his character is that he has a fabulous mustache and hates California. No discredit to Kevin Rahm who is clearly a fantastic actor, but in just a few episodes here, he’s a million times more interesting. Your loss, Mad Men. I really hope Bob Paris sticks around for a while.
  • Norman seems poised for another breakdown. Killing Bradley seems logical, but almost too expected. We know his “Norma” side is pushing for it and technically she’s already dead. But I’m still expecting a twist here.
  • We’re sure Bradley’s really real, right? Just checking.
  • Emma and Dylan. Every TV instinct in me says they’re headed for something horrible and tragic, but I’m really hoping to be pleasantly surprised.
  • I think Norma might turn Norman in. Or send him away. I truly think this could happen. I truly sort of want it to happen.
  • The nods to Psycho have been all over season 3, from Norma watching from the window, the shower (obviously), Norman hanging out in a rocking chair, and I keep thinking about what’s next. A car that ends up in the lake maybe?
  • Norma and Romero. I’m really not one that gets invested in TV relationships because they usually ruin the show and also, I know they’re not real people. But I really want this to be a thing.

See your Monday for the finale!

 

 

 

TV’s Best and Worst Mothers, 2015 Edition

By: L Green

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image via HBO

Mother’s Day is just around the corner, so it’s that time again to check in with TV’s best and worst moms. A new year and a new crop of great and …less than great moms has sprung up. So who are 2015’s contenders?

Worst: Cersei (Game of Thrones). Cersei really loves her kids, so that’s great. Yay for Cersei! But she also created the soulless turd that was King Joffrey, so… that’s a strike against her. Joffrey is what happens when kids get medals for participation.

Best: Leslie Knope (Parks and Recreation). Is Leslie Knope ever on a list for being something other than the very best? Leslie Knope is the reason why macaroni art projects and World’s Best Mom mugs exist. She makes her kids eat broccoli, is a positive role model, and lets them hang out with Andy. Wins all around!

Best: Norma (Bates Motel). Last year Norma graced this list as both the best and the worst. But season 3 Norma is the best Norma. Yeah, she did give Norman an unfortunately blase sex ed lecture, skirting the real issue here, but overall is much improved and far less of an enabler (starting with cleaning out the basement taxidermy lair!). She even sincerely likes Dylan! Get Norma a medal!

Best: Jessica (Fresh off the Boat). Jessica Huang is simply the best. Best mom, best wife, best tutor, real estate agent, theater director, overall winning overachieving no nonsense loveable hardass around. She’ll make you eat Squiddies, but will buy you Lunchables too. That’s love.

Worst: Frankie (The Middle). I get it. Working and raising three kids is hard. And Frankie tries. Sort of. But she also forgets about her kids, is actively disinterested in many of their activities and makes them eat dinner in lawn chairs. On the plus side, she really loves them. But Brick is still a weirdo and you should have better results by the third go around.

Worst: Barb (American Crime). Felicity Huffman as Barb is great. Barb, herself? Less great. She’s very dedicated to getting justice for her son, but it’s looking like she might have raised a sociopath. She has one son left and is a bit of a nightmare to him too. Sorry, Barb, you’re the worst.

Best: Nora Durst (The Leftovers). Of course Nora Durst is the best mom, because Nora Durst is awesome. She’s even willing to tolerate the Chief’s annoying kids, take in the weirdo prophet’s abandoned baby, and spends time bonding with her creepy fake children dummies. Nora Durst: patron saint of selflessness.

Worst: Laurie (The Leftovers). …and then there’s Laurie, The Leftover’s worst character in a gaggle of already terrible characters. She abandoned her kids to join a cult so she can skulk around town in her winter whites, terrorizing everyone else and making a mockery of their grief. And then, as if that’s not already horrible, she’s throws out the Cry for Help Christmas gift from her own daughter. Cold.

Worst: Mrs. Schmidt (The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt). We never meet Kimmy’s mom, which is why she’s the worst. Your daughter is rescued from a cult’s underground bunker after 15 years and you’re a no show? Unacceptable.

Worst: Sammi (Shameless). Sammi is the worst everything–daughter, sibling, girlfriend, neighbor, citizen, advice-giver, human being, and especially mother. Advising your special needs 13 year-old-son on how to win over prison guards and carving a mini Charles Manson-esque tattoo into his forehead has to be a new low on Shameless. Most of the mothers on that show are at least vaguely trying to not mess their kids up.

Best: Cookie (Empire). Do not get in between Cookie and her sons. Don’t do it. DON’T DO IT. Nothing stops Cookie from protecting her boys. Not prison, not Lucious, not even Courtney Love.

Worst: Cherry (The Affair). You forgot about Cherry, didn’t you? The Affair seems like a long time ago, but Cherry’s ice cold guilt trip to Alison about Gabriel’s death is still horrifying. Cherry’s also a liar and a hypocrite, but those are just bonus points.

Bates Motel: Some Pressing Questions

By: L Green
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The Bates Motel season finale is bearing down on us, so it’s time to start considering its end game. Season 3 has really found its groove–upping the creep factor significantly and managing to be funny, tense, unsettling, and impossibly sad all at once. With only 2 episodes left this year, Bates Motel has a few questions to answer about everyone’s favorite dysfunctional family and a few larger ones for down the road. Here are 10 of the most pressing:

1. What about Norma’s inheritance? Season 3 opened with news that Norma has inherited half of her late mother’s estate, an offer she promptly turned down. Caleb, the recipient of the other half also offered his share to Norma. Why doesn’t anybody want this money??? But at the end of the day it has to go to someone. With Dylan trying to raise money for Emma and Norma under pressure from Paris, surely a nice chunk of money can come in handy. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of this inheritance.

2. Will Emma survive the season? I want to say Probably? She’s clearly sicker than she lets on and if it weren’t for all the Bates Family craziness going on, we’d be more focused on this sad story. Bates Motel needs Emma as an audience stand in and an anchor of all things normal. But no one’s safe and usually finding new love is the kiss of death on a tv show.

3. Is Bradley back? Nicola Peltz’s name is back on the opening credits, but still no Bradley. I love the newer hot mess Bradley 2.0, so it’d be great if she’d return to White Pine Bay. But would her return be real or just another Normanvision?

4. Will Bob Paris win this war? He’s won a few battles, but will he win the war? So far he’s getting what he wants… except the flash drive. As long as Norma (or Romero) has that, I wouldn’t put money on Paris coming out on top.

5. Is Romero gone for good? Oh, sure he’ll be around. But is this it for my dreams of White Pine Bay power couple Normero? Let’s hope that Norma’s reluctance to out her son for murder to her new maybe boyfriend is just a minor glitch on the road to future happiness. The heart wants what it wants, you know?

6. Is there more to Norma’s childhood? We’ve probably seen all we need to see about Caleb and Norma’s childhood, but there’s probably enough material there for a whole new show. Take note, A&E.

7. Is Caleb Norman’s next victim? Norman really hates Caleb. Like really really hates him. Watch your back, Caleb. Also, good riddance Caleb. (And a preemptive “sorry, Dylan”.)

8. So about those impulses? In Norma’s very not helpful sex ed lesson, she reassured Norman that thoughts and feelings are fine because people don’t act on their impulses. This family’s not particularly good at not acting on their impulses. But would Bates Motel really go there or just dance around it?

9. Is the ending a done deal? We’ve seen Psycho, so we know how Norma and Norman end up. But is that 100% for sure? Clearly Norman’s not headed anywhere great, but I’d love to see Norma end up anywhere other than being stored in Norman’s basement taxidermy lair. Anywhere.

10. Can anyone live happily ever after? Maybe Norma can’t escape her fate. After all, they’re all just victims of history and Norman’s biology. But what about Emma? Romero? Dylan? Emma is the only truly innocent one of this group, but I’d like to see Dylan live far away, happily ever after.

Bates Motel Recap: The Pit

by: L Green

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Last week, Bates Motel delivered one of the strongest episodes (and my favorite) of the season, “The Last Supper”. Characters we’ve seen struggle independently came together to make Norma’s dream come true–a home with a door open to family and friends. Never mind that the group is made up of the town’s outcasts, black sheep, rapists, criminals, and outsiders. And then there’s Norman, a different kind of threat altogether. “The Last Supper” was full of so much impending doom and unsettling moments,  it was inevitable that Norma’s dream would crash and burn sooner than later. And what’s a better reminder that your life is a gigantic pit of impending doom? Well… an actual gigantic pit of impending doom. In your front yard.

This week’s aptly titled episode, “The Pit,” began the unraveling of any hope Norma had of her life being happy or normal. And who’s to blame? Norman, of course. Norman, again.

Normero breaks up. I’ve decided that should Norma and Romero get together, their couple name would obviously be “Normero”. But sadly, Normero isn’t meant to be. It started out promising enough, with Romero drunkenly flirting with Norma and staying for dinner. And what’s Norma’s best moment of family dinner night? That “Alex” stayed. Cue the awwwws. Romero even got Norma’s car back! Norma is just not Norma without her classy but beaten up vintage Mercedes. It’s like her id on wheels. “Why did you do it, ” she asks. “I couldn’t stand the thought of you being sad about it.” I’d say “get a room, you two,” but luckily Norma actually has about 15 free rooms at her disposal, should she want them. There’s nothing like giddy Norma when she thinks a boy likes her and Vera Farmiga is charming as usual.

But Romero calls a halt to their budding relationship when he asks for the truth about how Norman’s father died (Dr. James, you snitch!). Romero lets Bob Paris convince him that Norma’s only using him to protect her family and demands that she come clean about what’s-his-face getting clocked in the head with a blender. But she doesn’t budge and sticks to the original story. And honestly, I don’t see how or why Norma would confess to the town sheriff that her son murdered his father just because he politely but firmly asks twice. Romero is either a jerk or sorta bad at his job. Or sorta too sensitive. But either way, he stomps off and Norma is heartbroken and alone again and furious at Dr. James, who’s the only one who knew the truth. So let’s talk about Dr. James and his snitching ways!

The doctor is out. For a while now, I couldn’t tell if Norma’s therapist friend was good at his job or really really bad. From pestering Norma to seek help and making presumptions about her childhood, he seemed either super unprofessional and desperate for a client or a master manipulator. Well, I’m sure we can all agree that he’s no standout in his field. He’s picked up by Bob Paris’s people and beaten silly until he spills all of Norma’s secrets. He tells everything, including her affair with Shelby, how her husband died, and Norman’s blackouts. Really, Terrible Fake Dr. James! You could have just made something up! Paris then uses this info to leverage Romero against Norma and presumably is saving other information for later mischief. I can’t even blame Paris here. He’s just doing his job. Which is more than I can say for some people.

Emma moves on. Unlike “Normero,” there’s no cute couple name to give Emma and Norman, so it’s just as well that Emma pulled the plug on that train wreck of a relationship. Her budding friendship/romance with Dylan is such a refreshing change of pace, it’s nice to see Emma cut her losses with Norman and decide she can do better. (Also, Dylan’s flirty phone call to Emma is the most adorable thing we’ll ever see on Bates Motel.) Emma gives Norman a very nice it’s-not-you-it’s-me speech, but let’s the truth slip in: “I just didn’t realize you have these issues.” (So it really is you) She’s not wrong and Norman doesn’t really argue her point. But her next one really bugs him: “It always seemed like you were with someone else, even when you were with me.” Someone else? But who? Norman thinks long and hard on the matter before finally confessing the truth to himself and Norma. And it’s fabulously awkward.

Norma’s sex ed lesson. After brooding over what Emma said, Norman creeps into Norma’s room to make a confession. “I have something to tell you but I’d rather tell you in the dark.” Maybe there’s some truth to what  James asked him last week, and Norman admits that maybe he’s in fact sexually attracted to Norma. Duh, we all yell at our TVs at once. But Norma is more diplomatic. And awkward. Very awkward. She excuses his worries away by saying that he’s just growing into his sexuality and noticing that she’s a woman it’s totally normal and not a big deal at all and who cares if we have thoughts or feelings or impulses because people, unlike animals, know how to control their impulses. (She knows she’s talking to Norman, right?) Then she says that they’re a-okay and Norman’s a-okay and everything will eventually and forever be a-okay. Then then snuggle a little. It’s basically sex-ed at its least effective.

“Yes, I am really here and it happened.” The good times snuggle-fest ends soon enough, though, when Norma finds out from James that he leaked all her secrets–including the truth about Norman. She insists that Norman lay low for a while. He’s furious that she would talk about him to anyone, especially another man. Norma has had it. She’s tired of fixing problems Norman causes and being his emotional janitor. She promises to resolve this situation but has finally cracked. “You have no idea what it’s like being your mother.” He’s killing her and she’s had it. Norman is shell shocked but then does what Norman does when he loses his mother–he conjures up a better one. And right on cue, there’s his subconscious mother, there to reassure him that she’s not going anywhere. Bates Motel has always played with the Madonna/Whore imagery for Norman’s fantasy and it seems like his preference is leaning a bit more in one direction these days. His fantasy Norma is wearing her signature blue dress–slipping off one shoulder–and red lipstick that’s just a tad too garish. “You can’t run away from me Norman” she whispers. Oh boy.

Oh, and the pit? Well, Bob Paris made good on his promise to build a pool for Norma. But so far it’s just a bottomless unavoidable pit that just gets deeper and deeper beyond her control. She should call that pit “Norman.”

Bates Motel airs Mondays at 9 EST on A&E

Bates Motel Recap: Norma Louise

By: L Green

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Image via A&E

Just past the halfway mark in its third season, Bates Motel aired a stunner of an episode, also probably its best of the series. Norma is on the run and Norman has a breakdown. Tensions that have been simmering since the beginning finally boil over. So let’s talk about “Norma Louise”! A million spoilers below.

Sheriff Romero, you in danger! Let’s get this out of the way. Of course it was too good to be true that Bob Paris would hold up his end of last week’s deal. While Romero is out buying groceries, he’s caught in a drive-by from one of Paris’s men. He survives of course and is well enough to both warn Norma (aww) and take out the creepy new wannabe-sheriff who’s after his post. And he does it while wearing a hospital gown and using an IV stand as a weapon! Nobody threatens Sheriff Romero. Boom.

A new Norma. On to the main stuff! This week picks up just where we last left the Bates family–with Norma driving off into the night. She makes it at least as far as the next town, trades her well-tailored clothes for some Hot Topic-esque clingy red and black duds (with a feather coat!), trades in her car, and checks into a motel to plot her next move. (It was a nice throwback to Marion Crane on the run in the original Psycho. All it needed was an envelope of stolen money.)

Norma is essentially running away from Norma and trying on somebody else’s life for a while. She ends up in a local bar, flirting and drinking with Hot Townie Taylor, spinning a yarn about running away from her wedding day, being unattached, joking about killing her first husband. (These are all a little true in some way.) She teases that commitment isn’t for her, which is just what Taylor wants to hear. Although Norma can’t really not be Norma and ends up storming away in a huff in true Norma fashion. “Scew off!” she screams at a very pissed off Taylor.

Trying on the life of a carefree stranger isn’t for her, so Norma calls her pseudo therapist friend (whose name I can’t remember or bother to look up). She’s drunk and alone and asks to come over. Where’s Don Draper when you need him?? Because this dude is no Don Draper. He does listen though as Norma fesses up to what’s really bothering her and why she ran. “I don’t know if I can keep living my life. My son is not normal, there’s something wrong with him.” She confesses that she’s given up everything to take care of Norman and pleading Caleb’s case was too much of a betrayal. Also, Norman killed his father… whoops! Didn’t mean to let that one slip out. Therapist friend is all go get some rest now and Norma’s like nah, let’s hook up. He says it’s unprofessional but of course does anyway.

In the morning Norma heads out, back to her family, ready to talk to Caleb for her boys, using The Giving Tree for inspiration. That boy in the story takes everything from the tree and then sits on the stump–that’s motherhood. (Have I mentioned the writing for this week is fantastic??) Mama Bates is back!

Norma[n] Makes Breakfast. Hurry up, Norma because Norman’s not doing well without you! After rambling around the house saying “I want my mother” like the world’s biggest toddler, Dylan and Emma finally get Norman to bed. We’re treated to some super creepy hallucinations–a figurative look at the cracking of Norman’s mind. He envisions birds flying around, the walls and plaster crack and lights flicker and burst. He dreams that a dead bird comes back to life before killing it again with his bare hands. Norman’s grasp of reality is all but gone. What’s not there, he sees, what he doesn’t have, he creates. Because if dead birds aren’t creepy enough, Bates Motel drops a bombshell…

The next morning Dylan walks into the kitchen and finds Norman dressed as Norma, completely channeling his mother, as he recreates a perfectly normal day! This scene, though a surprise, was a long time coming. We know that Norman retreats into Norma’s mind when he feels threatened and, I hate to say that this, this new revelation somehow makes sense, no? What’s more threatening for Norman than to not have his mother? Problem solved. Here she is. And I know it’s all disturbing on a million levels, but I have a feeling they had a ball filming this–tragic as it is. Freddie Highmore nails Norma’s speech and mannerisms. Max Theriot gives Nestor Carbonel a run for his money as the straight man to the Bates family craziness.

In the end, Norma returns and agrees to go see Caleb. I was hoping this week would delve into a bit more of their back story. All we got was a flashback to them as children, scared and hiding from their parents. And maybe that’s enough. To know these two are victims and survivors as much as Dylan and Norman will be in their own way. And at the end of the day, she might be “Mother” now, but first she was “Norma Louise Calhoun” and has some loose ends to wrap up. Or as Norma puts it: “I’m not going to be the mom who won’t talk to your dad cuz I hate him cuz he raped me.” Succinct, Norma.

Her reunion with Caleb is brief. She cries. Caleb cries, repeating he’s “sorry” over and over. Both boys reflect what we’re probably all feeling, happiness that they’ve reconnected, mixed with just a smattering of horror. This family’s problems run deep.

Odds and ends and questions
– Emma and Dylan? Whodathought? But it makes sense. Both are outsiders peripheral to the main tragedy and both want a family. Maybe they can just be each other’s.
– That being said, there’s real chemistry between them, though I’m glad neither went in for that kiss. I kept thinking how Emma just coughed up a lung full of phlegm.
– Question: what’s Bob Paris’s plan? Nothing more than kill Norma and Romero? Surely there’s something more sinister and dramatic planned.
– Do you think this night will be the breaking point for Emma’s patience with Norman?
– And when will Norman and Romero be a thing? Their couple name will be Normero, obviously.

Bates Motel Recap: The Deal

By: L Green

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Image via A&E

Bates Motel, “The Deal” recap; original air date April 6, 2015

There were 2 deals struck this week on Bates Motel. One fell through spectacularly and the other most likely will as soon as Bob Paris reveals his next move. Last night Norma Bates won a little and lost a lot. But Norman really lost the most. Let’s discuss “The Deal”!

The content of the flash drive was finally revealed–it’s incriminating financial evidence against most of the town’s prominent residents. I was hoping for something juicier, but this will do just fine for Norma. Dylan, who finally has a family, doesn’t want Norma to risk keeping the flash drive around and begs her to go to Romero. Norma has other plans and finally sees her chance against everyone in White Pine Bay who’s treated her so badly. And she knows Norman is sick (white washing it a bit with “medical issues”) and needs money. She does go to Romero, but only to set up a meeting with Paris.

Why don’t we see more of Norma and Romero? Enough of Emma and Norman–here’s a couple with some real chemistry! Beginning with Norma’s knock on his door “Can I trust you?” (Look at his sad sad eyes, Norma, of course you can!) and ending with Romero’s agreement to help her out. And maybe something more? Romero’s fatal flaw might be his irrational need to protect Norma against his better judgment. Of course Norma’s fantastic tirade against the town as a whole– “they raped me, they put a dead man in my bed, they kidnapped my child and put him in a box in the ground!”–probably did the trick. Watch the little flicker of surprise in Romero’s eyes–it’s clear he didn’t know about the rape. Nestor Carbonel is fantastic here. But back on the subject, for all of Norma’s histrionics and freak out and denials, she’s a scrappy survivor and knows what’s what–particularly how men see her. What a fun scene when she asks her faux psychologist if he’s attracted to her. He can sit and analyse her, have the upper hand all he wants, but Norma undermines that with 4 little words. “I think you are.” Norma Bates is no fool.

Deal No. 1. This leads us to the first deal. Norma meets with Paris and insists she’ll turn over the flash drive if he meets her demands–build an exit before the bypass, two billboards, and a motel pool. How can he know she won’t just continue to blackmail him forever? Essentially cuz she says so, which seems like dubious logic on Norma’s part. Paris, however, folds rather quickly and gives in. But with that cat that ate the canary grin, can we really believe that’s the end of it?

Deal No. 2. After his discovery of Caleb at the cabin, Norman ran home to tattle, as promised. Only he didn’t do it. Not really. Norman had another blackout and thinks he spilled the beans about Caleb. Norma’s all “huh?” But wasn’t she wearing that blue dress that Norman likes so much? he insists. (Just another one of those unsettling little details Bates Motel excels at.) Norman doesn’t believe what Norma’s telling him and runs to her closet and there–sure enough–is that blue dress, hanging in the back, very much not worn. Gone is the bravado of the past few weeks, as Norman realizes that something is seriously wrong with him. When Dylan proposes that they talk to Norma about Caleb together, Norman gives in.

Dylan lays it all out for Norma. Caleb is in town and has been the whole time and just wants Norma to know he’s sorry. Vera Farmiga is fabulous here; it’s impossible to know exactly what Norma is thinking (especially as the exact details of her and Caleb’s childhood remain murky). One thing’s for sure–she won’t stand for what’s happening! Is it the betrayal from her sons? Is she afraid of Caleb? Nobody knows exactly, but she packs a bag pretty quickly and takes off into the night. Well… it was a nice moment of solidarity from the Bates brothers at least.

Odds and ends
– Almost no Emma this week. Bummer.
– What’s going on with Chick and his creepy offer of a job for Caleb? That won’t end well.
– I love the idea of Norma’s banged up car being a manifestation of what’s going on in her life, a la Walter White’s little Aztec.
– Could Norma be headed to Romero’s house?
– So with Norma being gone for a while, will Norman start channeling his inner mother?

Bates Motel airs Mondays at 9 EST on A&E.