BATES MOTEL 2.09 ‘The Box’
BATES MOTEL Season 2 Episode 9
Episode Title: "The Box"
Writers: Carlton Cuse & Kerry Ehrin
Director: Tucker Gates
Previously on 'Bates Motel':
You have to appreciate it when a show slowly sets up a villain throughout the season, places the main characters in his crosshairs and drops some very damning info in his lap… right before something unexpected happens and changes the dynamics of the show.
There may be a drug war in the streets of White Pine Bay, but there’s only ever been one Big Bad on “Bates Motel.” And that’s Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) himself. He is the hero and the villain of his own story. That’s never been more apparent than by the end of this episode.
There are full spoilers ahead for “The Box,” so you should probably skip this review if you missed last night’s episode of “Bates Motel” or else Norma will accept your two weeks notice.
For someone as mentally fragile as Norman Bates, an extended period of time locked in a box was never going to be a good thing for him. Rather than psychologically scarring Norman any more than he already was, that experience gave Norman far too much time to think and reflect about a certain night. Much to Norman’s horror, his own memories out him as the murderer of Blair Watson (Keegan Connor Tracy).
I was certain that “Bates Motel” would hold off on Norman’s first full fledged murder and reveal that someone else was responsible for Miss Watson’s death. It was arguably in defense of others that Norman killed his own father and Cody’s father. But Miss Watson’s death is indefensible. Norman’s inner “mother” was outraged that Miss Watson successfully seduced Norman and that led to Norman slashing his teacher’s throat.
That was a chilling reveal, but it was somewhat undercut by the silliness of Nick Ford (Michael O'Niell) learning about Norman’s involvement with his daughter’s death because Norman happened to be carrying her pearls and her photo when he was kidnapped. I was actually looking forward to seeing how Nick would deal with this info, right up until he was murdered by Norman’s brother, Dylan Massett (Max Thieriot).
Weirdly, I’ve come to care more about Dylan than his mother or his half brother because he’s always been the sane member of the family who saves them from danger. Dylan is an invention of this show’s creative team, which means that he didn’t exist in the original Psycho. But Dylan’s presence alone helped humanize both Norman and Norma Bates (Vera Farmiga). All three of them have resentment for each other, but there is love as well.
Nick Ford’s whole plan was to force Dylan to murder the idiotic Zane Carpenter (Michael Eklund). I loved Norma’s way of approaching Dylan in hysterics over Nick’s ultimatum before offering to help Dylan accomplish Nick’s plan as if it was a school project that she could assist him with. Norma was taken aback when she learned that Dylan had to kill somebody, but she was cool with it because it would ensure Norman’s survival.
I’ll give Dylan this much: he really does try to kill Zane and he even gets Zane’s sister, Jodi Wilson (Kathleen Robertson) on board with the plan. The problem is that Zane is too well protected and distrustful of Dylan. In order to save his own life, Dylan basically makes an attempt to show Zane that he’s on his side. One wrong word there and Zane would have had Dylan killed. Although, Dylan should have brought up the fact that he saved Zane from a hit just a few episodes ago. That should have earned him some consideration.
The subplot with Sheriff Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) was pretty compelling, as he’s torn between his desire to learn if Norman killed Miss Watson and his warm feelings for Norma. If Romero had managed to get Norman to take a lie detector test before his time in the box, Norman would have probably beaten it because he didn’t know that he had slept with Miss Watson. He didn’t know that he had murdered her. Now, Norman knows. The question is, what’s Norman going to be like after realizing that he’s a killer?
Ordinarily, I single out Vera Farmiga for praise in an episode because she regularly delivers an engaging performance. But Freddie Highmore was also a cut above in this episode while depicting Norman’s desperation in the box and his mental deterioration. Weirdly enough, the only actor I wasn’t really thrilled about in this episode was Michael O'Niell. O'Niell had a good sense of menace as Ford, but he seemed very cartoonishly evil in this episode. Dylan killing Ford was a nice surprise after Ford was built up into a legitimate threat. But Ford never seemed more like a cardboard villain than he did in this episode.
The supporting cast had some good parts to play in this one. Emma Decody (Olivia Cooke) was so dismayed at being kept in the dark by the extended Bates family that she gave Norma her two week notice… and Norma hilariously accepted! Norma is kind of self absorbed even on days that Norman isn’t in mortal danger. She loves only Norman, and maybe Dylan. The irony is that Emma would do almost anything for that kind of love and she openly asks to be included before she’s thoughtlessly rejected.
Still, Emma can’t help but offer Norma a shoulder to cry on when she dramatically rejects George Heldens (Michael Vartan). I’m still on the fence about George. On one hand, he seems like a great guy who is really into Norma. But during last week’s episode, George seemed more put out that Norma was leaving just when dinner was ready instead of Norma’s sudden confessions about their class differences.
George didn’t really do anything that deserved Norma’s screaming rant and he may have been genuinely hurt by her rejection. But if Emma or George really knew the Bates family in the way that the audience knows them, then they’d be running the other way. This family is poison. They will destroy each other in the end. How many people have to go down with them?