Bates Motel is cooking up two interesting-enough storylines, but paying only half as much attention as they should to either.
Normally I’d take this opportunity to highlight (or lowlight) some particular element or happening on one of the spring’s dark dramas, but something’s been bugging me lately about A&E’s Bates Motel and it’s no longer Nestor Carbonell swallowing his lines.1
No, it’s that a psycho killer and his pot-empire-building half-brother are getting closer and closer to equal screen time in two (currently) entirely separate plots, and I’m interested in watching both.2 Well twice the plot can’t be a bad thing, you helpfully rhetorically suggest – but I am here to tell you it is. Oh it is. As much as I’m liking where they are (finally!) going with both threads, said threads3 are quite possibly the reason to not watch the second season of Bates Motel.
It’s not just because the jumping back and forth after Dylan (Max Theirot) gets out from under Norma’s roof is making it a touch too hard for the characters to marinate and build like they did so well in season 1. It’s not just because what I thought was the coolest thing about this dark crime show (its relative lack of crime) is undermined by full plotline attention being paid to Dylan’s criminal friends.4 It’s not even that the split attention this season is causing us to drop in on Norman instead of sit with him, which is the real way to draw out the dread that character can create.
No, what worries me the most is that the show is going to find a way to bring these two plots together. Together as in not just bring the characters back into one another’s orbits, where they can impact one another in how they navigate their separate paths. And there’s one lynchpin any tie-togethers would need:
Again, Vera Farmiga is doing the most consistent work on a show full of strong acting performances.5 The tension and conflict between mother and son has sparked a lot of great moments in the series’ 20 episodes to date. I just worry – nay, fear – the show trying to tie the two plots together via Norma, because there’s almost no way to do that without also tying in her plotlines. Season 1 of Bates Motel had a long, slow boil that left me hungry for more. I would not like a chop suey follow-up this go-round.6
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- He’s actually much, much better this season, and damn is it paying off for the sleeper character of season 1. ↵
- There are also plots involving dear Norma, but those are sadly dangling in the wind this season. Sadly because Vera Farmiga keeps making an incredibly unlikeable character totally watchable. It’s like how you watch It’s Always Sunny… just to see the gang fail. You don’t expect Norma to per se triumph, and you’re fascinated to watch the wreck. ↵
- Or, really, the existence of the ‘s’ at the end of the word ‘thread’. ↵
- The episode 6/7 addition of the new crime boss, btw – very cool, and what’s giving real juice to what had been an adrift plotline. ↵
- And a few weak ones – Thierot sometimes seems stuck on a single facial expression and he’s definitely capable of doing much more. ↵
- Also, I would like a better metaphor there, please and thank you. ↵