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“BATES MOTEL: Season 3, Episode 8” (TV Review)

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Say what you’d like about BATES MOTEL, especially during its problematic first two seasons, the show certainly finds strength in building tension. Few shows can build up a confrontation or carry a foreboding atmosphere as well as BATES, especially a show that puts its character drama ahead of its horror. Yet with that tension comes the inevitable: sooner or later, Norman is going to become the psycho we all know and love.

With the third season almost near the end, the eighth episode, entitled “The Pit”, puts those skills to work, especially in addressing Norman’s relationship with his mother. In the show’s favor, “The Pit” boldly addresses Norman’s sexual desire for Norma, which is further solidified as we watch Emma break up with a seemingly nonplussed Norman, who then slinks off into a deeper, darker headspace. But the biggest testament would come with Norman’s vision after Norma admits to letting loose their secret, in which “Mother” appears as a sultry vision and later as an iconic watching shadow in the window. If there’s anything that’s going to bring Norman into full-slasher territory, this eerie avenue is one the show has no qualms to exploring.

On the other hand, tension is also built elsewhere in the show to a fever pitch. After a near-romantic experience, Romero seems to have turned his back completely on Norma after catching her in a lie, while Bob Paris’ desperation has put James Finnegan in the crosshairs, bringing out one of the shows most explicitly violent scenes in quite some time. Meanwhile, Dylan and Caleb find themselves in the middle of a shootout after Chick Hogan’s gun-running job went wrong, and chances are the book is far from closed on Chick, considering Caleb’s temper and Dylan’s determination to help Emma. And then there’s “The Pit” itself: a looming hole whose purpose is as of yet unknown, although one might assume that someone (dead or alive) might find their way down there.

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With “The Pit”, BATES MOTEL is lining up the last two episodes of the series to deal with mysteries in likely bloody conclusions. As much as this writer would like to see BATES’ third season with Norman giving Paris, Finnegan and Romero the Lufthansa treatment to keep his darkest secret, BATES isn’t that type of show, and if Norman is going to go full-PSYCHO sooner rather than later, he’s likely going to decide that there’s only room for one “Mother” in his life. And as for Dylan, well, there’s only so many ways his story does not end in tragedy, whether it be for Emma (who is, at this point, a walking talking surprise death scene waiting to happen) or for Caleb, whose reckless behavior is more likely to save Dylan’s life at the expense of his own.

BATES MOTEL also is able to do all of this thanks to the once again strong level of performance given by its cast. While this episode largely belongs to Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore, Nestor Carbonell also delivers an excellent and truly understated performance as Alex Romero. Likewise, Max Thieriot, Olivia Cooke and Kenny Johnson also offer solid, organic performances this week, especially the former two during their playful semi-courtship. And a special note should go to Joshua Leonard this week, who brought a memorable performance in the likely last appearance of literally tortured therapist James Finnegan.

At the end of the day, BATES MOTEL is at least keeping its ominous wheels turning in a big way, and with many characters now in compromising positions, there’s a chance that the dramatic tension will explode in a big, terrifying way. There’s certain things known about the PSYCHO mythos, and with that said, many of our heroes are going to have to go sometime. And now with Bradley back in the mix, there’s a chance for Norman to strike back against Bob Paris as well, with the potential for an even greater body count lurking beneath the surface. With the season almost at an end, BATES MOTEL is either going to deliver a lion’s roar or a wolf’s growl, and in any case, don’t be surprised if there will be lots and lots of blood.

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About the author
Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel "THE I IN EVIL", and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
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