“BATES MOTEL: Season 3, Episode 10” (TV Review)News Ken W. Hanley
To be honest, I’m a bit torn on how to feel about the BATES MOTEL third season finale. On one hand, there was a sense of satisfaction in seeing certain PSYCHO vines bearing fruit, such as the first depiction of the murderous “Mother” and the closing moment homage to the iconic swamp sequence from the original film. And with the season being largely an improvement over the previous seasons in terms of character development and the raising of stakes, the fact that the season ended on such a definitive note allows for the fourth season to essentially start anew in an established, organic location.
However, this writer’s main problem with the finale is that, while there is satisfaction, it’s also so incredibly safe for a show about Norman Bates, especially one that so often pushes the boundaries of taste. Bob Paris being killed by Romero? Safe. Bradley’s short comeback ended so predictably by “Mother”? Safe. Dylan and Emma finally kissing after a season of build-up? Safe. There’s no sense of danger in any of the resolution, nor does it build any tension to fueled the narrative for the next season; in essence, BATES decided to end with a whimper instead of a bang.
Make no mistake, BATES MOTEL’s finale (aptly titled “Unconscious”) isn’t bad, but it is frustrating, considering how rock solid most of the season had been up to the very end. In fact, for all the drama and politics that go on in BATES MOTEL, Norman’s turn at the end was among the most outright horror moments in the series history. And to see Highmore and Vera’s shared performance as “Mother” work out with such devious syncronicity, especially in how Highmore’s foul-mouthed and vengeful “Mother” differs from Norma, the all-too-motherly bowl of nerves who raised Norman.
But when it comes down to it, this writer wishes BATES MOTEL was less afraid to truly shock the viewers in its final episode of the season. All the deaths that occurred were exactly everyone who were innate disposable upon their introduction this season, and in doing so, an entire season of eccentric antagonists and building conflict were essentially swept under the rug. What results is an ultimately not as fun product from a series which largely gets its appeal from wicked, mischievous fun, and even the normally incredible cast can’t save a disappointing anticlimax.
Speaking of the cast, they are at least the sole consistency among the third season as the actors are spot-on in “Unconscious.” Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore are truly excellent, and remind viewers exactly why they are the ones front and center on the show’s advertisements. Nestor Carbonell is also great in the episode, and the change in his character’s motivations has truly shown another face in Carbonell’s repertoire. And the supporting cast, while mostly sidelined in this episode, are great as well: Max Thieriot, Olivia Cooke, Kevin Rahm and Nicola Peltz deliver strongly when needed.
At the end of the day, this writer can’t help but feel this to be a weak finale to an otherwise strong season, and one that will lead to some truly batshit insane work in season four. The good news is the series is definitely going in the right direction, and if the PSYCHO influence gets even more present in the narrative, I’d love to see if the show goes to bizarre places its relatively straightforward presentation would never initially suggest. The bad news is if the show continues to keep pulling back at the cusp of greatness, even the most terrifying aspects won’t be able to make it worth the wait.