Alice Rush reviews the first episode of Bates Motel season 2….
This week saw the return of Bates Motel, the modern day prequel to Psycho. The first season proved to be a bit of a slow burner with tension growing slowly in every episode that eventually culminated in Miss Watson’s brutal murder and the implied notion that Norman may have had a hand in it. Season two kicks off immediately after these events, and the episode, titled ‘Gone but Not Forgotten’, straight away sets about bringing in new plot twists and turns.
After showing Miss Watson’s funeral service we skip ahead four months. It’s summer time and the motel business is booming with every room being filled much to Norma’s delight, however not all is well. She worries about Norman’s mental state as he seems to spend too much time doing taxidermy in the basement and then in-between this visiting Miss Watson’s grave an unhealthy amount. The drive of Bates Motel has always been the relationship between mother and son, and this episode thrusts us right back into the dysfunctional dynamic, with the pair arguing greatly as well as having moments of uncomfortable intimacy. A scene towards the end sees Norma embracing Norman and calling him a “good boy” after he confesses to having been at Miss Watson’s house the night she was killed but that he doesn’t remember what happened. This expertly heightens the dark and tense atmosphere the show is fast becoming famous for, as we see the fear inherent in Norma’s contemplation of her son killing again.
On top of all of this she discovers the new town bypass is running ahead of schedule meaning the threat of closure of her business is a not-too-distant reality. In a scene where she appeals to the town council to stop the work, which they refuse, she flies off the handle and likens White Pine Bay to a cesspool of illegal drug activity of which everyone turns a blind eye to. It is evident that the rotten core of the town is as stinking as ever and there doesn’t seem to be a lot she can do to stop it swallowing up her business. Dylan is still a part of the dark underworld to this apparent quaint town, and it seems as if it’s about to get a whole lot messier.
Whilst we were brought up to speed on the Bates family the focus of this episode was mainly on Bradley, who after discovering her father’s infidelity attempts suicide, fails, and is holed up in a mental institution. After her release she demands more information from her father’s friend and drug king pin Gil as to the circumstances of his death. Dylan warns her against getting involved and reveals to her how Miss Watson was the woman her father was sleeping with and how she was also dating Gil at the same time. Armed with this information and the idea that he could have killed her father, Bradley seduces Gil at his house only to redecorate the living room walls with his brains. Another murder in White Pine Bay! She turns to Norman for help in what we can assume is hiding the evidence, but as we have seen from season one secrets don’t stay secret for very long in this town.
Already from the season premiere we have key plot points emerging: Norma’s fight against the bypass and the town itself, the question of Norman’s involvement with Miss Watson’s murder, and Bradley’s journey to discover what happened to her father. ‘Gone but Not Forgotten’ was a good opener to a series that has never indulged too much in huge, climactic sequences every episode but has instead prised solid tension and character building above all. As we delve deeper into the world of White Pine Bay and the Bates’ ever darker circumstances it seems that there are definitely more dangerous things to come for Norma and Norman.