BATES MOTEL - SEASON 2 - Episode Guide and Reviews
Episode 1 - Gone But Not Forgotten
Director: Tucker Gates
Writer: Carlton Cuse, Kerry Ehrin
Summary: Four months later, Norma learns what happened to Norman on the night of Miss Watson’s murder while Bradley sets out to discover who killed her father.
Norma receives an automated phone call from Principal Hudgins informing parents of Miss Watson’s murder. Distraught by the news, Norman tells his mother that he does not remember what happened after Miss Watson offered him a ride home from the dance. Norman has a breakdown during Miss Watson’s funeral. Norma begins worrying that Norman is obsessing over his teacher’s death. While alone, Norman rolls a string of Miss Watson’s pearls in his hand. Clutching her father’s love letters from his mistress along with a bottle of booze, Bradley drives to a bridge and jumps into the bay.
Four Months Later – Norma pulls Norman away from his taxidermy hobby in the basement to help Emma in the motel office. Emma hands Norman a stack of unopened letters marked “return to sender” that he had sent to Bradley while she was staying in the mental hospital following her suicide attempt. Norman learns that Bradley is being released. Dylan offers to pay Norma rent, but she refuses because Dylan’s money comes from the town’s weed industry. Norma and Norman bicker with each other as she assists him with driving lessons. Norman pulls into Shepard’s View Cemetery to visit Miss Watson’s grave. Norma worries that her son is fascinated with death. On their way home, Norma discovers that ground is being broken on the highway bypass.
Norma vows to argue against the highway construction at an upcoming city council meeting. Bradley visits Gil to ask about her father. Gil avoids her questions, but intimates that he might be open to discussion if sex were involved. At home, Bradley finds a handgun in a box of her father’s possessions and turns it on herself before being interrupted by a visit from Norman. Norman tells Bradley that he will always be there for her, no matter what. Bradley is mostly unresponsive towards Norman and he leaves feeling dejected. Norman visits Miss Watson’s grave again and sees an unfamiliar man in front of her tombstone. Norman begins snapping pictures of the man with his cell phone before being chased away.
Gil tells Dylan that he does not want Bradley asking any more questions about Jerry Martin. Remo tells Dylan that Gil’s girlfriend was Jerry’s mistress, Blair Watson. Norman takes his pictures of the man in the cemetery to Sheriff Romero. Romero ends up questioning Norman about the night of Blair Watson’s murder. White Pine Bay city councilman Lee Berman shuts Norma down about the highway construction at a public meeting. His cavalier dismissal of her sparks an angry tirade from Norma in front of the assembly.
Dylan tells Bradley to stop questioning Gil about her father and Miss Watson. He also tells her that he never responded to her emails while she was in the hospital out of respect for his brother. Sheriff Romero tells Norma about the visit he had from Norman. Norma confronts her son about his obsessing over Miss Watson and he confesses what really happened the night of the murder, but admits that he blacked out for a portion of it.
Bradley returns to Gil’s place. Bradley begins seducing Gil in order to ask him about her father, but she ends up producing the handgun and shooting Gil in the head. Bradley takes the gun to the Bates house and asks Norman if he meant what he said about always being there for her if she needed his help.
New characters are teased and new plotlines see their first threads go through the needle’s eye, but the second season premiere shows that Norma and Norman are very much the heart still beating at the center of “Bates Motel.” Over the course of an hour, their mother-son dynamic works the usual seesaw of veiled flirtation and familial frustration, though the emphasis is currently shifted into a gear of concerned parent and troubled teenager.
Season one took the character of Norman Bates from the cross-dressing schizophrenic loner that Anthony Perkins’ made familiar and reset him into somewhat of an awkward lady-killer of the figurative variety. Norman may be a social outcast in light of not having any high school guy friends, but who needs them when he could attract Bradley, Emma, Miss Watson, and possibly even Norma?
“Gone But Not Forgotten” sees the series living up to its premise of digging into Norman’s madman descent by dipping him slowly into increasingly morbid and withdrawn behavior. Norman has quickly gone from his glory days of having three and a half ladies on his hook to having zero.
Emma is still giving Norman her cold shoulder since the dance. Following a failed suicide attempt, Bradley has sent back every one of Norman’s letters of concern unopened. Mother is busy fretting about the new highway bypass groundbreaking, and Miss Watson has been decomposing in a buried coffin for four months. Stitching dead animals in his dark basement taxidermy lab is now the only activity giving Norman any comfort. Morbid and withdrawn indeed.
Norma no longer has time to crawl into her son’s bed for a cuddle or to give him a peek of her lacy nightgown, as she is preoccupied with being in full-on Mother mode. Writers and co-creators Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin have previously demonstrated both balance and restraint in how they depict Bates family interactions and their canny ability is on display here, too. “Pinup playmate” and “best gal pal” Norma are cooling off in the icebox while “stern guardian” Norma vocalizes all her concerns about Norman’s increasingly strange behavior, boiling over into a humorous backseat bicker session while giving Norman a driving lesson. Or driving lecture, as it were.
Other son Dylan has far less to do this episode, struggling to find a storyline it would make sense for him to participate in. When Bradley pesters Dylan’s boss Gil about her father’s mysterious murder, Gil offhandedly remarks that he doesn’t want the girl barking up his tree any more, even if she looks good while doing it. This gives Dylan a chance to intervene redundantly, since Gil was already clear with Bradley the first time she came knocking. His warning is pushed aside with little consideration anyway, just like the rent money Dylan offers Norma in another subplot whose exact value is unknown.
Admittedly, the start of the second season seemed initially off to a slow build. Norma stumps at a city council meeting regarding urban planning. The Bates family is rained on during a funeral. Sheriff Romero gingerly sips a coffee during chitchat with Norman. Until the final scene, it appeared as though Norman tumbling in the dirt while fleeing a mystery man in the graveyard might be the extent of the episode’s physical action. Bradley’s feet first dive into White Pine Bay before the opening credits notwithstanding of course.
Yet something that the “Bates Motel” team has always been good for is subtle winks and not-so-subtle nudges, usually in the form of callbacks to “Psycho.” This time however, I cannot help but think that someone in the writer’s room haphazardly suggested starting off the season “with a bang” and the rest of the team took it literally, making that their latest in-joke. Though given how reliably clever “Bates Motel” has been, that lame pun was no doubt far beneath them. Instead, their episode ender killed premature concerns about the direction for the new arc steering towards Dullsville. If anything, that singular moment after Bradley’s impromptu lap dance highlights just how unpredictably fearless the show can be when it comes to cranking up the conflict.