'Bates Motel' Opens a Vault, 'Blacklist' Gets Trippy - Plus, 'Vikings' Mid-Season Finale

Bates Motel: Season 4.Episode 6 – “The Vault”
What Happened: Norma (Vera Farmiga) struggled to find a way out of Chick’s (Ryan Hurst) blackmail scheme. Norman (Freddie Highmore) In his session with Dr. Edwards (Damon Gupton), he was told for the first time that he has D.I.D. (dissociative personality disorder). Dylan (Max Thieriot) told Norma he was moving to Seattle with Emma (Olivia Cooke).

The Rundown: When it gets down to it, “Bates Motel” has always been about a mother and the differing relationships she shares with her two sons. “The Vault” was special in a lot of ways, and one of those aspects was in how it centered more on Norma’s relationship with Dylan and finally clarified the sordid history between her and her brother, Caleb (Kenny Johnson). Norma, Dylan, and Norman might share different last names, but they are all connected as Calhouns.

In this episode, we learned more about their pre-motel days. How Norma’s abusive marriage to Norman’s father splintered her relationship with her eldest son and the psyche of her younger one. Since the show began, they have been slowly finding their way back to each other, rebuilding as a family unit. As this episode pointed out, reunions for the Calhouns are often rife with painful conflict.

Having recently found more happiness than she has ever experienced on the series, Norma dealt with a veritable sword of Damocles. As Chick threatened to expose Dylan’s paternity to Romero (Nestor Carbonell) and his speculation regarding the true nature of her relationship with Caleb. Norma had a decision to make: take a leap of faith and come clean to Romero or keep the truth buried as long as possible. She bravely chose the former.

Two scenes really stood out in “The Vault.” First, the harrowing flashback sequence revealed the horrific abuse Norma suffered at Norman’s father's hands. In an excruciatingly heartrending scene, Norman simultaneously reached out to his mother to comfort her, and she -- him.

The second came at the end of the episode when Norma (Farmiga in another tour de force performance) opened her heart to Romero and bared her soul’s darkest secrets to him. With the newlyweds finally hitting their stride, this secret threatened to destroy them, and in true Nomero fashion, they overcame it.

There were so many profound aspects to her speech, but the one that registered with the most profundity was her assertion that she had not had a person she loved enough, to be honest with until Romero. It was a remarkable scene that will forever rate as one of “Bates Motel’s” most outstanding, providing an astonishing showcase for Vera Farmiga. A powerful moment for Norma and an equally magnificent one for the Nomero relationship.

Side Notes/Burning Questions: Props to the series for showing Dylan pulling off the road to take his phone call. Caleb and Norma’s scenes were quietly heartbreaking. One of the things “Bates” excels at the most is saying so much without saying anything at all, and that scene provided a prime example of that. Romero’s closing line after Norma told him to pack his bags was one word; perfect. Episode Rating: 10/10
The Blacklist – Season 3.Episode 19 – “Cape May.”
What Happened: A crestfallen Red (James Spader) made his way to an ominous beachside property where he encountered a mysterious woman (Lotte Verbeek) with ties to his past.

The Rundown: “The Blacklist” surprised again by taking a demure detour in the aftermath of its previous episode’s enthralling pace and shocking ending. “Cape May” was not the follow-up one was expecting. It was slow, confusing, and spooky. Red’s mental state appeared to disintegrate from the blow of Liz’s (Megan Boone) death, leading him to reconnect with the past unconventionally, to put it mildly. It is hard to say any firm knowledge about his connection to Liz was gleaned in this episode. It was filled with way too much hazy dialogue that could be interpreted in various ways to makes heads or tails of anything definitive. 

It certainly did not rule out any of the main theories, nor did it add any new ones to the mythos. Red still might be Liz’s father. He might be her uncle. He could be a close friend of her mother, who has taken it upon himself to look after her. Personally speaking, the former is still the most likely. Was this episode a bit of a letdown? Not necessarily. It was unexpected, and it gave James Spader the entire hour to himself. If there was one surefire lesson to be learned from this episode, it is how crucial Liz is to the show's chemistry. She is a faultless counterbalance to Red and him her. Without her, the episode lacked equilibrium.

Side Notes/Burning Questions: What has Tom (Ryan Eggold) done that is so horrible he deserves to die? Red’s vendetta against him has become beyond puzzling. The ending action sequence was “Home Alone” meets the first “Bourne” movie. Will we ever learn the true connection between Red and Liz? There is no way Red has done what he has for “Masha,” and she is not related to him in some way.

It just makes no sense. The show blaming Red for what is clearly the person who attempted to kidnap her fault is frustrating. Red is not to blame for why they came after her, and he did everything he could to save her. Is Liz really dead? No way. Episode Rating: 7.5/10
Vikings – Season 4. Episode 10 – “The Last Ship”
What Happened: The Vikings suffered another major defeat at the hands of Rollo (Clive Standen) and his Frankish army. A time jump into the future revealed a shocking development.

The Rundown: Speaking of unexpected, “Vikings” gave viewers another spectacular battle sequence, which stood out from its previous ones in an exciting way. It was a skirmish on the sea! The naval clash included a rather epic showdown between Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) and Rollo (Clive Standen). Both brothers walked away with their lives, though neither was left physically unscathed. The biggest casualty was Ragnar’s ego. In the last 25 minutes, we learned that Rags was so devastated by his loss to Rollo that he left for parts unknown and had not been seen or heard from in years; leaving his young sons to grow up without his influence and Bjorn (Alexander Ludwig) to man the home front. 

While time jumps are commonplace for “Vikings,” this was absolutely gobsmacking because what it revealed was so out of character for Ragnar. No matter what defeat he suffered, he would not abandon his sons to lick his wounds. If you thought the show was setting up a “where’s Ragnar?” storyline for next season, the good news is the prodigal Viking returned in the episode’s final minutes to challenge his sons for the throne. Okay then.

The finale featured the series’ signature; action sequence sign-off. It just left everything hanging in a surprising lurch. Simply put, skipping forward as much as the series did, cost it a chance to explore several interesting storylines, disappointing. 

Side Notes/Burning Questions: The good news is that despite fervent fan speculation, Ragnar survived the season. Why was there not a follow-up on Lagertha’s (Katheryn Winnick) condition or Bjorn learning his stepmother’s lack of attention caused the death of his daughter? Were you shocked by the awkward time jump? Will Ragnar ever divorce Aslaug (Alyssa Sutherland)? For the second season in a row, a time leap disrupted the fallout of the Vikings returning home defeated. Until the second half of the season, stay strong “Vikings” fans! Episode Rating: 7.7/10

Photo Credit: "Bates Motel"/CW, "The Blacklist"/NBC, "Vikings"/History Channel