TV: 'Bates Motel' Braces for Tragedy, 'Game of Thrones' Averts One

‘Bates Motel’ – Season 4, Episode 8 – ‘Unfaithful'
Micro Synopsis: Norman’s (Freddie Highmore) homecoming sends all of ‘Bates’’ central characters careening towards total oblivion and utter tragedy.

The Rundown: Nightmarish tonality summoned a defining moment for ‘Bates’; ushering the series into its final two episodes of the season. The inevitable sense of imminent catastrophe hung heavy in the air with an electrifying foreboding that was almost unbearable to witness. There was an evident and seismic shift, felt like never before as Norman’s faltering mental state became grossly apparent to everyone around him. At this point, the consequences are all that is left to watch.

One of the hour’s more quiet tragedies was the death of Dylan’s most fervent hope and dream. He did not directly articulate it but it was easy to see that he considered Norma aiding in Norman's release; a betrayal of both him and their relationship with another choice that put Norman ahead of him. He slightly alluded to this when he said he would not miss looking from the outside in, at his brother and mother’s dysfunctional relationship.

Despite many valiant attempts over the past 3 seasons to close the distance between them, he finally came to terms with letting go of the family he has worked so hard to form a relationship with and against the towering hurdles constantly thrown in his path.

The dream he had expressed endless desire for and seemed to have almost salvaged against all odds last season, disappeared once and for all in this episode. The tragedy of watching him admit defeat for his familial vision was wrenching in a lot of ways. Like so many moments on this show, they tend to kick harder than expected and resound deeper than could have been anticipated and this was no exception. It also marked a closing chapter for the series as a whole, as the one character that has never lost faith in any capacity, admitted he had.

Impressively written by series’ star Freddie Highmore; ‘Unfaithful’ featured the shattered illusions our central characters had been carrying not only about themselves but their relationships with the ones closest to them. The indelible realization at the depth of Norman’s unhinged state and the implications it has for all of those around him took center stage. In a scene brimming with laser subtext, Norman gave his blessing to a recovering Emma (Olivia Cooke) and her relationship with Dylan.

As they sat in Norman’s room together, the light was all but drained from it and in the shadows sat two characters so diametrically opposed and yet so similar, both at their core good people who have been ravaged by illnesses outside of their control. For Emma the light at the end of the tunnel, after a long fought battle appears too close to believe she can walk through it. As for Norman, his prognosis is fatal, for himself and everyone around him.

Romero (Nestor Carbonell), one of the last characters to truly grasp how dangerous Norman is, became well acquainted with his stepson’s disease and his reaction was brave, if not overly optimistic. Norman’s futile attempts to end his mother’s marriage and maintain his previous way of life were thwarted and the desperation he exuded is not a symptom that will be going away anytime soon. Episode Rating: 9.5/10

Side Notes/Burning Questions: A devastating hour that set the final pieces of the “Psycho” mythos into motion. “Unfaithful” was easily the most unnerving hour in “Bates Motel’s” storied history as a climax no one wants to see’s aftermath comes to bear.
‘Game of Thrones’ – Season 6, Episode 2 – ‘Home’
Micro Synopsis: There were returns to kingdoms and characters, we have not seen in a long time. As Ser Davos (Liam Cunningham) devised a plan to bring Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) back to life with the help of Melisandre (Carice Van Houten). 

The Rundown: Theon’s (Alfie Allen) inexplicable decision to leave Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Ramsey’s (Iwan Rheon) predictable murder spree were vastly overshadowed by the rebirth of Jon Snow. With a single breath “Game of Thrones” exhaled the last of its “anyone can die” hook. Now we have the possibility that any old soul can be brought back to life no matter how permanent; their fate might appear. It was a plot point that was expected, popularly predicted and heavily debated and in the end, a bit disappointing to see transpire. 

The series put itself in a very difficult position by interpreting George R.R. Martin’s book-mandated cliff hanger as it did. On the one hand, they played the shock and awe of killing one of its most off-limits characters to believable effect and enjoyed the deserved buzz it generated. It was an opportunity no series could afford to pass up.

Nearly a year was spent with fans pondering Snow's definitive fate and after the writers, producers and its star continually claimed he was dead, one would have been a fool to not at least believe them, for a second. On the other hand, they attempted to sell viewers on a fantastical plot point that ardent non-believers never bought and jeopardized their credibility, in the process. To get the short term shock at such a steep price was in a lot of ways, not worth the expense.  Episode Rating: 7.5/10

Side Notes/Burning Questions: Why did Theon leave Sansa? That was one of the few character-driven arcs that seemed primed for interesting maneuvering. How many more times are we going to have to watch Arya (Maisie Williams) get wacked by that crazy girl? Are you excited that Jon Snow is back from the dead?

Photo Credit: "Bates Motel"/A&E, "Game of Thrones"/HBO