Bates Motel: “Unconscious” Review
Bates Motel Season Three definitely went out with a bang, and a bash, and a tumble, and all the discord we’ve come to expect from White Pine Bay.
We’ve reached the end of another season, and Norman Bates is another step closer to the man we all know he becomes. As usual, Norman’s downward spiral was portrayed with all the drama and realism I’m craving from Bates Motel. In “Unconscious,” we saw Dylan’s plan come to fruition—but as always, there was a snag. Will Decody got long awaited news, Bradley went on a day trip, and Romero showed us who he is once and for all. Caleb’s true colors were discovered, and Emma did something fans have been waiting for since Season Two. It’s not surprising that the Season Three Finale was tense, action packed, and full of yelling. Spoilers for “Unconscious” follow.
What was surprising, is what we didn’t get. When I saw that the title of the S3 finale episode had been changed from “Psycho” to “Unconscious,” I was sure I knew what that meant. I stepped into this episode feeling sure that Norma would finally tell her son that she plans to commit him. I was sure that when she did, Norman would snap and kill her—only to wake up and be horrified by what he’d done. So when Norma’s first order of business was to drive out to some fancy residential mental health facility, it looked like things would proceed accordingly. But first, Dylan awoke to discover that Caleb, his Uncle-Dad, left town after promising he wouldn’t. Norma sums it up perfectly, “People are generally disappointing, honey. They can’t help it…”
Town business in White Pine Bay is still cray. The DEA is about to carry out their raid on Bob Paris. For whatever reason, Romero is still walking around free, though it’s clear that they suspect him of being in on it). Somehow, Romero is easily able to learn what the DEA plans to do—in plenty of time to do something about it. Sherriff Sexypants has always been a wild card. He means to do the right thing, which can be very different than keeping the peace. We know he’s not afraid to take out anyone who threatens the serenity of White Pine Bay. Of course, since it’s a city run on drug money, there are plenty of people threatening the peace.
Dylan drives out to where Caleb was staying, missing him by minutes. Caleb sucks, and Dylan leaves a message telling him so. I hope Caleb never darkens our doorstep again. Across town, Will Decody gets a call about a new set of lungs for Emma. She’s shocked to have moved to the top of the list so fast. It doesn’t take long for us to see how ambivalant she is. But why? This is good news, right? Back at the motel, Norman brings Bradley Martin some breakfast only to find that she is gone. We still aren’t entirely sure if she was really back in town. Norman being a little hallucinatey this season. Norma’s trip to the mental hospital is good and bad. The place is lovely, the care seems excellent and the patients happy. But she has no health insurance, and $40,000 a month is steep even for the rich (which the Bates family is not).
Norma is a deeply flawed person who’s been damaged by an absurdly difficult life. We know her well enough to know that sending her son away will destroy her emotionally, but if it’s the right thing to do—she’s willing to do it. This says a lot for Norma’s willingness to put her own needs aside. The Norma we knew in the first season could never have made that choice. At the Decody’s, Emma is supposed to prepare to leave for the hospital. Instead, she goes off on her own, prompting her father to call Dylan for help finding her.
Oddly enough, Bradley really is back in town. Norman wasn’t just imagining her. Neat! The girl breaks in to her mom’s house again, stealing money, watches, and jewelry for hocking. She also trashes the place. Can you blame her? Dylan knows exactly where Emma is—his place. The two discuss exactly why she’s so afraid of the transplant, and it’s actually very reasonable. If her body rejects the new lungs—which is quite likely according to her—she’ll die. It’s not like they can just put the old ones back in. She wants a decent quality of life, even if it’s short. Dylan says what we’re all thinking: Emma is awesome, brave, smart, strong. She’s a warrior. And she needs to get the goddamn surgery. Finally, at long last, they kiss. And the Internet goes wild!!! Happily, Gunner does not bust in and spoil the moment. Cool as this is, if Emma dies, Dylan will totally hold himself responsible.
Norman checks Bradley’s room to find that she’s back, and with about $30K in jewelry and another $15K in cash. Not bad. Still, Norman just doesn’t think he can leave Mother, his job, his home. Well, she’s leaving that night, with or without him. But she hopes with. Norman returns to the house to find Norma arriving home as well. When she tells him that she’s looking at hospitals for him, she presents it with far more tact than usual. His immediate reaction is that Norma has “given up on” him. Clearly, Norman needs professional help. He doesn’t think so. After all, he’s home all the time. How much trouble could one guy get into living at home with his Mother and running a motel? 😉
Romero stops by the motel office to see Norma. He’s not sorry for giving the drive to the DEA. But dammit, he’s sorry about how this impacts Norma and her family. He’s near tears to see her so heartbroken. I was confused when Alex tipped off Bob Paris so that the DEA would find his place empty. Bob might have taken that info and simply skipped town, but surely he’d come back the next time he needed to put the squeeze on someone. Alex thought of that already. Also, watch for the DEA guys to say “We’re in the pipe five by five.” I’ve only ever heard that phrase in Aliens. What does it mean? When Paris reaches his getaway boat, Romero is already there. Hint: If you’re trying to get someone to not shoot you, try not telling them the thing they most don’t want to hear. And how does the DEA not suspect Romero in this too? RIP, Bob Paris. Let’s hope Kevin Rahm’s character meets a better fate in the Mad Men finale. But as Norma says, “We’re all doomed in the end, aren’t we?”
As always, the final act of Bates Motel was full of dramatic craziness. Norma checks in on her son to see that he’s packing to leave…with Bradley Martin. This scares her even more, because she believes Bradley is dead. Norman packing and berating mother is fantastically portrayed by Freddie Highmore. We see that Norman still isn’t clear on which Norma is real and which is imagined. As the two struggle with Norman’s suitcase, Norma takes a tumble down the stairs. When that doesn’t stop Norman, she bashes him the way he bashed Keith Summers in the series premiere. When she drags him to the fruit cellar and ties him up—it’s clear that those jinky knots aren’t going to keep anyone restrained. Norma calls Dylan, telling him that Norman has completely gone insane. He arrives home and soon, reveals that Bradley’s suicide was faked. I was glad he didn’t hide that information from her. Can I just say, I’ve never been a fan of the trope of knocking someone out only to have them emerge fine an hour later. That crap almost ruined LOST for me. It’s just not realistic.
Bradley left without Norman, but then came back for him. That’s when something amazing happens. As they drive away toward a new life together, Mother appears in the back of the car. Norman speaks to her as if she’s there, confusing the hell out of Bradley. When Norman pulls the car over (he wasn’t driving but didn’t let that stop him), what follows is incredibly well handled. Norman gets out of the car, and as he walks around to the driver’s side, he becomes Mother. It’s Vera Farmiga who pulls Bradley out of the car and murders her, bashing her head repeatedly on a rock. When it’s over, Norman returns to himself, horrified at what Mother has done. RIP Bradley. You weren’t a very good character.
One could argue that Norman’s transformation is complete. But it can’t be—not while Norma lives. We watch Norman cover up Mother’s deed by loading Bradley into the trunk of the car—presumably with the * ahem * forty-thousand or so dollars in cash and prizes. Fans will know that $40K is the amount stolen by Marion Crane before she meets Norman at the Bates Motel. Once the car sinks (after stopping for just a few seconds), Mother appears. They reiterate their Season One conversation from Jane Eyre, about there being an invisible cord between their hearts. They never will remember that Jane Eyre is a romance, and these two are Mother and son.
Despite Norma’s crazy insistence on staying alive, this was a pretty good finale. Not great though, sadly. The performances were outstanding, but that’s nothing new. The writing, IMO, just wasn’t there. Romero and the DEA storyline have glaring flaws, and dammit, Norma is still alive. There’s no doubt though, that I’ll be back next season. In the mean time, be sure to check out my reviews of Ripper Street, Game of Thrones, and Showtime’s Penny Dreadful.
See you’s then!