TV Review: Mother of All Twists Rocks 'Bates Motel,' 'Reign' Makes 'Strange Bedfellows'

Bates Motel – Season 4, Episode 9 – ‘Forever‘

Micro Synopsis: 

As Romero (Nestor Carbonell) and Dylan (Max Thieriot) take a stand to get Norman (Freddie Highmore) re-committed to the mental institution, Norma (Vera Farmiga) makes the fateful decision to stand by her afflicted son. (Major Spoiler Ahead...)

The Rundown: 

I once heard a story on morning radio. A caller said that she loved sleeping with her pet python, lying in the bed beside her. Eventually she started noticing her beloved snake lying completely vertical, stretching itself to its fullest length.

Alarmed, she asked the vet about this odd change and they explained the snake’s behavior. It was physically preparing itself…to eat her. This is in a lot of ways, the perfect parable to describe what became of “Bates’” tragically flawed, central figure in the penultimate episode of its fourth season.

Norma knew she was in the company of clear risk, could see all of the signs that her son was desperately unwell, had been forewarned countless times over his dangerous behavior and still, chose to lie with him. Unlike that caller, she did not heed the warning of wise council and she might have paid for it with her life.

In all of the hour’s relentless foreboding one could not have seen those final minutes; that crushing shocker coming. Like Norma, this audience member remained none the wiser to it, until Romero stormed into the Bates’ house and encountered the awful sight.

The how and the why were all right there and like Norma, it was impossible to fathom. Few shows can leave an indelible mark the way, an episode of showrunners Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin’s flawlessly scripted “Psycho” prequel can. It is a show that depicts absolute tragedy at its most raw and saddening pinnacle.

When you think of tragedy, the notion of a horrible thing befalling a good person quickly rises to the mental forefront and there is a sickening quality to that, which is nearly impossible to bear. What so often happens on “Bates Motel”, to its cache of mesmeric characters, most certainly fits that bill.

Norma is/was not a perfect person but her heart has always been in the right place. She has fought so hard to survive horrible circumstances and thrive despite them. To see her lose would be nothing except tragic. Too see her suffer the ultimate consequence for her decision to stand by Norman is not inconceivable but is rife with horror, all the same.

“Bates” is a masterful series. Always has been, most likely always will be. It has the capacity to draw you so far in to these characters and their circumstances that you can completely lose sight of what is around the corner and even if you have had a week to contemplate what that might be; chances are you will probably be off base. As certain as it seemed that Dylan would lose his life, it is his mother who might have paid the price; the only person who ever had the power to do anything and chose to do nothing; whether it was from ignorance or pure volition.

As shocking as her possible demise is, her scene with Dylan had all of the hallmarks of a foreshadowed farewell. Words were spoken encased in ugly truths, harsh feelings and searing sentiments you would never want to see them end on. In a lot ways coming full circle to how we first found them. 

Her and Norman’s journey was fated from the beginning, darkly inevitable. While her and Dylan’s offered a counterbalance of hope to that sinister prognosis. To see them strengthen and struggle, come together and fall apart, was heartbreaking in its finality. To think, just a few episodes ago the outset for these characters was so much brighter; infinitely lovelier and how quickly it came crashing down. Well, it is safe to say “happiness” has long since checked out. Episode Rating: 9.7/10

Side Notes/Burning Questions:

The hardest episode to watch in “Bates Motel” history. Props to Romero for not falling for the wire; he is way too smart for that. Did anyone else think that Norma would accidentally kill Dylan in the struggle for that earring? The acting on this show is among the greatest, television has ever seen and if skeptics needed any further proof of that, “Forever” solidifies the case.

When it gets some, Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore are usually at the heart of the series’ mainstream acclaim. In “Forever”, Max Thieriot’s performance was every bit as remarkable as his co-stars, proving yet again; why he is long overdue for recognition alongside them.

[Image by The CW]

Reign – Season 3, Episode 13 – ‘Strange Bedfellows'

Micro Synopsis:

Mary (Adelaide Kane) works to protect Elizabeth (Rachel Skarsten) from the Vatican’s assassination plot and Gideon (Ben Geurens) from her cousin. Greer (Celina Sinden) hits a massive roadblock in the adoption proceedings of her unborn child, as a blackmailer tries to extort her.

Leith (Jonathan Keltz) and Claude (Rose Williams) team up to help Greer. Bash (Torrance Coombs) investigates the Red Knights’ threats against Catherine (Megan Fellows). Robert Dudley (Charlie Carrick) arrives in French court to meet his arranged bride.

The Rundown:  

While the plot surrounding Mary and Elizabeth’s dubious double crosses and ample scheming took center stage throughout the hour, it was Greer’s subplot that provided the biggest ray of sunshine.

A reprieve from court politics (not that they are not fun to watch) offered a chance to focus on a more intimate conundrum, as the conflict over Greer’s plan to give her baby to her sister and brother-in-law to raise, spilled over in unexpected and rewarding ways.

Of especially pleasant note is that the storyline gave Leith and Claude the amusing opportunity to play detective. They are such an adorable duo and it was nice to see a couple working together to accomplish a common cause for a change and Claude’s willingness to help Leith’s ex out without pouting or demonstrating any vestiges of jealousy was refreshing. How Greer will solve her maternal dilemma is anyone’s guess.

After ‘Strange Bedfellows’ one would not be completely out of sorts to presume that Elizabeth might be psychotic, ordering one of the most barbaric executions in human history, be imposed on her distant cousin, Joseph Tudor (Adam Langton). To the series credit, as it continues to address the time period’s gender politics and women’s position in society, it has been fair in exploring what it means to be a woman in a man's world and vice versa, demonstrating the dueling genders’ equal capacity to carry out acts of utter brutality.

That is what makes the narrative of “Reign” so unique. It does not cut corners or sanitize the times. It is fair and while it explores the past through the lens of today’s sensibilities, it does not ignore their implications. Episode Rating: 8/10

Side Notes/Burning Questions: 

Robert Dudley's blink-and-you-missed-it stay at French court could have lasted a bit longer. His trip back and forth between France and England, being portrayed with such swiftness, gives the sense that Elizabeth and Mary are living in closer proximity than they actually are. Is anyone else upset that Lord Castleroy (Michael Therriault) is still suffering in prison?

Gideon and Mary are still underwhelming as a couple. As obvious as it was that Dudley would not be sticking around in France forever, his interaction with Mary gave a glimpse into an intriguing chemistry.

[Featured Image by A&E]