‘Bates Motel’ 3×3 Recap: First Days Are the Worst Days

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Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? (photo: A&E)

Freddie Highmore has a real talented face.

Okay, that’s not the most normal compliment to pay someone. Maybe tell someone they have a nice face, or a handsome face, or even a solid face. But this is a Bates Motel recap! A show where the main thing standing between you kissing someone is an air tube or the fact that she’s your mother. We can get weird here. No, Highmore’s face is talented. The role of Norman Bates is a tough one, because you have to sell not only the surface level emotions but the undercurrent of craziness that is firing off constantly in Norman’s young rattled brain. And by far the highlight of this show is Freddie Highmore selling all this perfectly with no words. The kid…who is the same age as me, oh dear god…sells the role of Norman Bates through his eyebrows harder than most actors could with a 10 minute monologue.

Take, for example, the scene when Sheriff Romero comes a’knockin’ to ask about everyone’s favorite missing party prostitute, Annika. After some smooth talking from Norman comparing the social lives of prostitutes and magicians, Sheriff Romero shows him a picture of the girl they found in the tidal flats. This is Norman’s immediate reaction:

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Now, I’m pretty sure that face alone is evidence enough to hold up in court. But taken in context from what we know (and don’t know) about Norman, there’s so much going on there. There’s recognition, which is intriguing because as we learned the woman on the morgue slab is not Annika. There’s fear, because in Norman’s black-out riddled life there’s a chance he did kill this woman and an even more likely chance he doesn’t even realize he killed this woman. And there’s disgust, disgust because underneath all the teacher-sex and murder Norman is about as childishly afraid of the world around him as any character on this show.

But then, even when Norman is in one of his rages, his eyes tell the story. This episode’s climax is a heated fight between Norma and Norman, an obvious turning point in a relationship where son is sick of mother looking at him like particularly damaged goods. Norman, or I suppose Highmore, has this way of being angry where the anger is concentrated in his eyes. And as we all know [review cliche incoming] the eyes are the windows to the soul, and Norman Bates has one murderous-ass soul, whether he knows it yet or not.

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And hey, we even get the return of HalluciNorma, when she returns to tell Norman that a good way to remember stuff is to drown yourself in a bathtub, advice I will remember the next time I misplace my car keys. But almost drown Norman does, and while he’s underwater he has all sorts of visions and remembrances. What were they? We don’t know! They flashed by pretty quickly. Real-life, non-hallucination Norma pulls Norman out of the water, so we’ll just have to find out what he saw after the break.

Oh, actually the episode just ended. But not before Annika, very much alive and not floating face down in the tidal flats, arrives back at the motel about 100% more shot with a gun than she was before she left. As she lays bleeding out, she hands Norma a flash drive. A flash drive! Has any good ever come from a mysterious flash drive? Like, what are the odds that Annika’s favorite pictures of dogs wearing people clothes are the only thing on that flash drive? Or something equally as pleasant? Not very good, I’d personally say.

This is the end to what turns out to be quite the couple of days for Norma. She starts classes down at the local community college, which goes about as awkwardly as all the days you start down at the local community college. She accidentally sits in on the wrong class, Psych 101: History of Psychology, which wouldn’t even be fun if it was the right class. And whoever cast Joshua Leonard as a Psych 101 professor, A+ to you sir or madame. He looks so much like a Psych 101 professor. If you never had a Psych 101 professor that looked like Joshua Leonard, then you never took Psych 101.

But despite a brief first-day spat, Leonard’s James Finnigan takes a liking to Norma, because he can recognize when other people had shitty childhoods. I bet Mr. Finnigan’s childhood involved approximately 99% less incest than Norma’s childhood, but I suppose time will tell on that front. He offers Norma some therapy, a kind offer that I’d be uncomfortable and a little offended recieving from a person I met yesterday, no matter how correct they were. Norma seems interested, though. Mr. Finnigan is full of helpful tidbits like “first days are the worst days,” even though that directly contradicts my therapist‘s words of wisdom, “birthdays was the worst days.”

Down in the woods, Dylan and his uncledaddy are still hard at work building the weed barn with the help of Gunner. This whole “I’m mad at you because you bought me the good lumber but also because you made your sister have sex with you” thing feels like the show treading water until they find out what to do with these guys. We did get a lovely rendition of “Smoke on the Water” on an unplugged electric guitar, though.

Shower Thoughts

  • That weed plant distributor to Emma, basically: “I’m discreet enough to only deliver to the motel, but I will in fact open this trunk literally filled to the brim with pot plants in broad daylight.”
  • Speaking of Emma, I kind of like that among the murder and incest and craziness and insanity going on in this town, it seems she just would really like to get laid, please.
  • Story time! Norma’s classroom accident brought horrifying flashbacks to my senior year of college, when me and a friend of mine enrolled in a three hour Intro to Documentary class taught by an Oscar winning director. We arrive, and the professor immediately starts to teach us some pretty advanced Photoshop, which was weird but hey, “he’s the Oscar winner.” An hour and a half in I’m really wondering why Photoshop is such an important part of the documentary process but hey, “he’s the Oscar winner.” Two and a half hours into a three hour class, my friend checks the syllabus and realizes that yes, this is Advanced Photoshop, and Intro to Documentary is one room over.  I was sitting next to the professor and everything. Still can’t use Photoshop to save my life. Moral of the story: first days are, in fact, the worst days.
‘Bates Motel’ 3×3 Recap: First Days Are the Worst Days