'Bates Motel' Season 1 Episode 2 Review: Picking a Favorite Child Has Consequences


I often say that I hope I have a sibling a year older or younger than me should I ever be reincarnated. I'm not even sure I believe in reincarnation, but I do know firsthand that having much older siblings brings many lonely experiences and creates an unusual family dynamic. 

That's Norman Bates' issue in Bates Motel, Psycho prequel show on A&E. Last week's series premiere opened with Norman and his mother moving to a new town for a clean slate and to run a hotel following the mysterious death of Norman's dad. So far, they're not off to a great start.

Episode two opens with Norma's eldest son, Dylan showing up to the house uninvited. She's not excited to see him at all. In fact, he had to do some digging to even track down where his mom and younger brother relocated to. Dylan and his mother immediately begin fighting and taking passive aggressive swipes at each other while Norman sits back and does nothing.

This happens with lots of families: Eldest sibling thinks he/she knows better than the rest of the gang and that the runt of the pack is spoiled, sheltered, and downright ignorant. That's how Dylan views his quiet, awkward younger brother Norman, who is basically their mom's puppet.

"Don't you two ever get tired of each other?" Dylan asks his mom and brother. 

They say nothing in response, as if they've never considered such a question before.

Then comes in Emma, one of the many girls at Norman's school who has shown a romantic interest in him. She's different than the others though, as she has cystic fibrosis and tubes attached to her nose. Nevertheless, she enters Norman's house with confidence for study time. She seems relaxed, but Norman's mom Norma is anything but.

Easing out of a spat with Dylan, Norma begins grilling Emma, throwing out more inappropriate questions by the second. 

"What's your life expectancy?" Norma says.


And that's that. Norma proves she has no manners, and both boys prove they really have no backbone when it comes to their mother, as any person in his/her right mind would find such a question rude and worth calling out.

That's not what Dylan does, though. Once the teens scurry away, he asks his mom, "Do you think if she takes out the tubes, they can make out?"

And they do ... kind of. Norman finds himself using the word peculiar, which Emma appears to find so appealing.

"You know what's even more peculiar?" she says. "A 17-year-old boy using the word 'peculiar.'"

Then they kiss, and I wanted to roll my eyes at her for deploying a terrible pickup line, but this scene serves as a reminder that Norman is still in high school and going through some uncomfortable teenage rites of passages in addition to a lot of trauma at home.

Speaking of trauma, last week's rape and murder come up again. In a nutshell, the town drunk tries to kill Norma in the pilot, and when he gets her in a vulnerable moment, he sexually assaults her. Norman storms the room and pulls the guy off his mom, but his mother is the one to ultimately kill the disgusting man, who tells her before she stabs him, "You enjoyed it."

Norma and Norman end the pilot by dropping the body in the water, and in this episode, the cops pay a visit to the Bates Motel to see whether the new family in town has any information on the man's disappearance. Norma is defensive and caught in a lie by one of the policemen, but the other cop, who looks just like her eldest son, lets her off easy and seems to be sexually attracted to her.

Norma uses her sexuality to get an in with this cop, and they go to a carnival together. This upsets Norman, who begs her not to go out with the policeman. It was only last episode that Norma didn't want Norman hanging out with members of the opposite sex, and now he's doing the same to her. If it wasn't clear by the pilot that these two have an unhealthy relationship, it's certainly obvious now. Norma even finds herself undressing in front of Norman, justifying, "It's not weird. I'm your mother." Right.

Everything comes full circle in the end, when Norman and his older brother get into a physical altercation, over what else but their mother.

"You don't get it. She will ruin you," Dylan says.

But Norman won't have any of it. Whether or not he knows his brother is right, he's more loyal to his mother than his sibling, and you can't help feeling sorry for Dylan, who has been left out of this little family love triangle. That said, Dylan also isn't the one who ultimately murders their mom, so maybe he is better off struggling to relate to the family.

The episode ends with a burning body strung up by the river. We can all assume it's the corpse of the town drunk who raped Norma, and next week, we'll see how the murder investigation pans out. Norman is supposed to start having blackouts, and if those aren't suspicious, I don't know what is.