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“BATES MOTEL: Season 3, Episode 5” (TV Review)

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While this writer had his doubts here and there, there’s no denying that BATES MOTEL is in a full upswing in their third season, taking a patient yet effective approach of tying together the obligatory White Pine Bay drama to that of the Bates family. Yet over the course of the fifth episode, entitled “The Deal,” the show hits on two essential themes that will likely usher in the horror of the show sooner rather than later. The first theme would be that of growth, with Dylan and Norma both taking large steps in improving their social and emotional standings, at least to a certain point. The second theme would be that of descent, with both Romero and Norman finding themselves on a downward slide into utter desperation. And in the middle lay those on either side of the fence, whether it be Emma, Caleb, Bob Paris, or Chick Hogan.

On one hand, “The Deal” is Norma’s show, giving her relationships to Norman, Dylan, Romero and potential love interest James Finnigan all time to flourish (and in some cases, eventually crumble.) With Norman, Norma learns that his “blackouts” are becoming more frequent, which fuels her necessity to strike a deal with Bob Paris in exchange for the safety of his secret ledger. With Dylan, Norma confides in him at her most desperate and scared state, only to about face on this dynamic once Caleb’s name enters the picture. And Norma’s uneasy friendship and partnership with Romero becomes necessary to strike her deal, with Romero benefiting from a power play against Bob Paris as much as Norma does as a businesswoman. Yet at the end of the episode, after Dylan and Norman attempt to talk to Norma about Caleb’s presence in town, all that growth goes out the window as Norma’s sense of betrayal causes her to storm away from the motel.

In the big picture, “The Deal” is an episode that reminds the audience of the big, incestuous elephant in the room: Norma and Caleb’s relationship before Dylan was born. In Norma’s eyes and accounts, Caleb was a remorseless rapist who forced himself on Norma and impregnated his own sister. However, from “Unbreak-able,” Caleb told his side of the story, in which the two- abandoned by their parents- fell into a loving relationship that Norma one day ended in light of the social and emotional ramifications. And to complicate their “he said, she said” past are the telltale signs of instability of each: Norma’s touchy-kissy relationship with Norman is far from normal, suggesting that Caleb may be telling the truth, yet Caleb is also known to hide what he needs to hide, suggesting his emotional and mental state aren’t likely the most trustworthy.

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But at the end of the episode, most everyone is in a bad spot: Norman’s last emotional crutch has crumbled under his arm, as Dylan loses an almost-repaired relationship, Romero learns how far Bob Paris will go to protect himself and, by the looks of Norma’s gun, Caleb and Norma’s reunion might get homicidal. Assuming the next episode will pick up right after the last ended, the fall out of the revelation will likely tug at the strings of all the other subplots, whether it be Norma’s burgeoning courtship or Emma’s relationship with Norman. And of course, then there’s the matter of the enigmatic Chick Hogan, whose weird definition of friendship is planting the seeds for something absolutely unpredictable at this point.

“The Deal” also provides the strongest performances on this season to date, with Vera Farmiga and Nestor Carbonell knocking their respective roles out of the park at their quietest and loudest. Highmore, Johnson and Theriot all deliver as well, with Ryan Hurst finally showing another side to Chick that is more than welcome. It seems that the only one underserved by this episode would be Olivia Cooke, as Emma is sadly and minimally used this episode, with most of her appearance relegated to offer psychiatric exposition to Highmore’s Norman.

Overall, “The Deal” is one hell of an episode for BATES MOTEL as the season nears the midway point, with the drama having never been stronger and the tension ramping up to a fever pitch. With Paris bringing bloodshed, and more potential bloodshed on the way, one thinks that the interpersonal problems between Norma and Caleb will only be the beginning of what tears apart the Bates family. And with Norma separating herself from Norman as his psyche cracks, chances are that the road to “Mother” is much shorter than we might imagine.

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About the author
Ken W. Hanley

Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel “THE I IN EVIL”, and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.

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