Bates Motel Ep 1.07: ‘The Man in Number 9’ is the best episode yet

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Bates Motel Season 1, Episode 7 ‘The Man in Number 9’
Directed by SJ Clarkson
Written by Kerry Ehrin
Airs Monday nights at 10pm ET on A&E

How about we start with the stray dog. Lately, we’ve been getting more glimpses of Norman’s darker side and while watching Norman crouched down, hammer-in-hand and calling for the pup, I’m pretty sure most viewers were fearing for the dog’s life. It isn’t a big secret that the victims of serial killers are usually animals at first, but would the show be pushing Norman on the “textbook” serial killer course so early on? Story lines seem so quickly resolved in Bates Motel, and in what is already a short season, that possibility was left open. Thankfully Norman remains somewhat a sweet kid, even if confused most of the time, and alas all Norman wants to do is take care of the lost pup. And why wouldn’t he? The dog in a sense mirrors Norman himself: angry, confused, lonely and in desperate need of affection.

The episode ends revealing the cracks developing within Norman’s fragile psyche. Norman heads over to Bradley’s home hoping the two of them can finally sit down and discuss their relationship, or lack of one. To Norman’s surprise, Bradley doesn’t return the love and Norman nearly slips into a dangerous trance. The brief and creepy monologue Norman spouts out when he mimics the exact same words his mother uses to warn him about pursuing a relationship with Bradley, speaks volumes about both Norman and Norma. Norma has such a strong grip on Norman that he carries on their conversations everywhere he goes, while talking to himself in his mother’s voice. Dead or alive, Norma takes hold of Norman completely. No wonder this shy, bright boy grows up to dress in his mother’s clothes while impersonating her. It also becomes clear throughout the episode that Bradley in some ways, is a carbon copy of Norma, and thus Norman’s way of temporarily denying or at best avoiding his attraction to his mother. And Norma seems to know this. When peering through the window of the Yoga shop and carefully observing Bradley, Norma herself has a disturbing fantasy of her son’s one night stand with Bradley. Her imagination even mirrors Norman’s sexual dreams early on, and with some fine writing, better acting and strong direction, viewers who may not be familiar with Hitchcock’s 1960 masterpiece should by now understand how destructive Norma’s hold on her teenage son is. “Norman”, a child dependent on his mother; “Norma”, a possessive mother who kills anyone who threatens the illusion of her existence; and “Normal”, a (barely) functional adult who goes through the motions of day-to-day life. Norma dominates Norman, forbidding him to have any friends and flying into violent rages whenever he feels attracted to a girl. If you’re waiting for the formation of the quiet nice young man with an affinity for blondes, and who practices taxidermy, episode seven of season one sends Norman straight down that path.

“Stay away from that dog, you don’t know where she’s been,” Norma warns Norman. The balance that Norma strikes between well-intentioned parent and a mad jealous mother is a testament to how captivating Vera Farmiga’s performance is here. The nature of her relationship with Norman is incredibly disturbing. In the end, when Norman loses both the girl of his dreams and his new best friend, he winds up back in the arms of his mother. I’m not sure what was more devastating, the death of the dog or the death of what remained of Norman’s innocence.

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What makes Bradley such a great character is that the writers of Bates Motel haven’t reduce her to a stereotype. Emma’s description of Bradley is perfectly expressed, “She’s nice, so you can’t even hate her.” And truthfully we have reason to dislike her. Norman is right when he says Bradley has been through a lot and is dealing with the recent death of her father, but he’s also living in denial in believing they’re a couple only after only one night spent together. Bradley reached out to Norman in a time of need, without thinking about the consequences. It was heart-breaking to watch Norman go through all the motions of a boy who doesn’t realize the girl he likes, doesn’t like him back in the same way. Even more, Bradley avoiding Norman is no different than Norman avoiding Emma. I believe they call this the “rules of attraction.” The final moments that Norman and Bradley spend in the woods really shows how explosive and unstable Norman truly is. And once again, Freddie Highmore rises to the challenge demonstrating that he can embody the dangerous side of the character just as much as the better side of Norman Bates. Thankfully for Bradley, she snaps him back into reality with a simple hug. Norman is just like his mother, desperately craving physical love and the need to feel wanted. And when they don’t get what they want, they snap.

Things begin to turn dark yet again for the Bates family. With a number of plot lines floating around this series, the creators of Bates Motel end one storyline, and kill off one supporting player, only to quickly introduce another. This brings us to the man in room number nine, an ominous figure (played by actor Jere Burns), who makes Norma an offer she can’t refuse. We’ve just barely moved past the double-homicide and Norma welcomes the creepy man into her life. One would think she’d be able to put two-and-two together at this point but I guess she’s desperate for business. The good news is the man without a name brings a much needed mystery to a series which has already revealed most of its secrets. The bad news is, he seems connected to Keith Summers and the infamous sex-slave ring. Still, “The Man form Number Nine,” is the best directed episode in the series yet, and director SJ Clarkson knows how to pull all the strings to keep the audience guessing and squirming. This is one genuinely creepy episode that builds with an even creepier performance from Burns. Seven episodes into the first season, and “The Man from Number Nine,” is the best yet, a rewarding experience with some flaws, but stands head and shoulders above the rest.

– Ricky D

Other Thoughts:

One of the main stories of the first season of Bates Motel is wrapped up in the opening scene. Personally I really didn’t care since I was never interested in Deputy Shelby, and I’m glad that story-line is over and done with.

Dylan is understandably disappointed that the most heroic thing he’s ever done will never be acknowledged nor spoken about.

Sheriff Romero was suspiciously all too ready to cover the Deputy Shelby storyline. I wonder what secrets he is hiding?

What is with the exchange between Bradley and Dylan? Are they simply sending off some of those “sexual locomotive” vibes, or have they met before?

This episode also allows us to see a, somewhat, sweet side to Norma by taking Emma out for lunch. Sure Norma is using Emma to learn more about the girl Norman likes, but she still clearly likes Emma, and who can blame her. Emma is without a doubt the most loveable character in the show, but at the same time, Emma isn’t a threat to Norma considering Norman has no interest in her.

Emma: “She’s like a locomotive of sexual energy.”

 

 

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