‘Bates Motel’ Recap: One Evidence-Laden Severed Hand, Coming Right Up

Credit: A&E

That was quick. We’re only four episodes into Bates Motel and Norma Bates is already wearing handcuffs.

After shirking her son’s advice to come clean about defending herself against Keith, her attacker and rapist, Norma’s decision to throw the body into the ocean is showing itself to be a poor one because a very telling piece of evidence in the form of Keith’s severed hand with carpet fibers from the Bates Motel has just come ashore. Norma’s goose is cooked, but is the series moving too fast already?

It wasn’t like Norma hadn’t put in the effort to save herself from a jail cell. She’s been sleeping with Officer Shelby – a truth we’re now very sure of thanks to a nooner in one of Norma’s unfinished motel suites. And she almost had it all under control, even the part where she wanted Norman and her new beau to bond and get along.

That was a tall order after last week’s explosive conclusion, which found Norman in Shelby’s basement with a Chinese sex slave begging at his feet for him to rescue her. This week, we jump back a few minutes to see that Dylan was the man on the motorcycle when Norman was walking down the highway towards Shelby’s house. He follows Norman to the cop’s abode where he actually buys his brother time to escape from the basement by knocking on Shelby’s door for directions. He swears he won’t tell Norma, clearly unaware that her murderous moment is the thing that’s driving all this.

After Shelby stops Norman on the street the next night and tries to offer up his friendship, Norman sees only one way to get this man, who holds Keith’s belt and a big ol lump of evidence over his and Norma’s head: he tells Norma about the sex slave. It takes no time at all for Norma to take a post coital stroll to Shelby’s basement, which is significantly less barricaded this time and has your average piles of boxes and exposed light bulbs where Norman saw a sex dungeon with mood lighting. Again, Norman’s strange tendencies are brought into question and Norma accuses him of seeing things, despite the bruise on his ankle which he thinks he sustained from the poor sex slave grabbing his leg as he escaped.

Bruise or not, Norma insists that Norman go on Shelby’s awfully premature “I’m screwing your mom” bonding session: fishing on a nearby creek. Luckily for Norman, he gets the chance to feign trust in Shelby (who for some reason can’t read Norman’s lies as clearly as we can) before he’s called away to the scene of Keith’s severed hand.

It takes no time at all for the sheriff to make a connection to Norma. He may not know about Keith’s belt, but he finds carpet fibers under the watch on his friend’s ex-hand and he’s sure it’s connected to the carpet Norma ripped up the night of the murder. Plus, he’s got the element he’s yet to expose until this week: he grew up with Keith, so he knows he had the capacity to harass Norma enough to drive her to murder. It’s a layer that really helps the series develop beyond bad cop chases anti-hero. The sheriff sympathizes with Norma, and possibly knows what kind of hell Keith was capable of putting her through, but he’s also committed to the law and she’s breaking it over and over again.

There was little doubt Norma and Norman wouldn’t be able to intercept the evidence before the sheriff and his officers could get to it, but Norma was determined not to play nice with the police even after the sheriff tried pretty earnestly to help her as best as he can. The result is Norma with all her limbs hanging on the fence at the dump, shaking it as if the answer to her giant problem will come spilling out. It doesn’t, but her confession to Norman does: she didn’t stab Keith in self defense, she “killed the crap out of him.” With that, it’s not long before she loses Norman’s loyalty and her own freedom.

While his mother is getting cuffs slapped on her wrists, Norman has officially abandoned her: he acted like any other 17 year old boy. After bonding with Dylan, who Norman spills the entire story to, Norman manages to bond on a more average level. Norman has spent all episode comforting Bradley in the wake of her father’s death and Emma’s complete and total absence thanks to the flu. Sure, he tells her father he’s “decent” when the British expatriate tells him his daughter has a crush on him, but Bradley is crying behind those fancy sunglasses of hers and Emma is laying in bed with an illness. So when Bradley texts Norman “hey” at 10 PM, Dylan does his brotherly duty and sends the younger Bates off to make out with the hot girl from school, which is exactly what Norman does. Of course, when his encounter with Bradley descends into a breathy, blue-tinted scene of two presumably naked teens frolicking under the sheets, we have to wonder if this another moment meant to make us question reality versus Norman’s reality.

Either way, it seems it’s the last bit of respite young Norman will know before his whole world implodes even further. Even with Dylan on his side and his separation from Norma and her borderline psychotic decisions, Norman is inextricably involved in Keith’s murder and Emma’s mission to find and free the alleged Chinese sex slaves. You can’t help but feel for poor trapped Norman. While his decision is what’s going to break Emma’s heart (and likely soon, the way things are moving), how can you blame the kid who’s clearly not the most unhinged person in his tiny, little family?

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