Bates Motel (2013) / Drama-Thriller
Season 1: Episode 9: Underwater
Cast: Freddie Highmore, Vera Farmiga, Max Theriot, Olivia Cooke, Jere Burns, Ian Tracey, Nestor Carbonell, Nicola Peltz, Keegan Connor Tracy
Director: Tucker Gates
Teleplay: Carlton Cuse, Kerry Ehrin
1.9 - "Underwater"
The penultimate episode of Season One is much more loose and comical than you'd expect for something meant to set up the season finale. Most of what you do see probably won't even be dealt with in the next episode, as only a smattering of moments in this one elude to the showdown between Norma (Farmiga), her sons, and the man who calls himself Jake Abernathy (Burns) that is sure to be the big brouhaha in Episode 10.
Much of the episode deals with Norma desiring to just uproot again and get out of town to start over somewhere much less crazy than White Pine Bay. She's being threatened, the townsfolk are weird, the authorities suspicious of her, and with the main thoroughfare likely to move away from the motel, the chances of her business getting off the ground seem bleaker by the day. Unfortunately, Norman (Highmore) likes it here, so he's asserting himself in front of Norma that he just won't go.
Much of the rest of the episode deals with Dylan (Theriot) and his newfound friendship with Norman's one-time fling, Bradley (Peltz), and with Norman's English teacher, Miss Watson (Tracy), encouraging him to pursue his writing more, as he definitely has a vivid imagination.
All in all, "Underwater" is a decent episode of the series, and somewhat refreshing in its approach, as it allows the characters a bit more room to breathe before we come to the big finale that will likely, as is the norm for series that intend to come back, with a bit of a cliffhanger. There is a comical aspect to this episode, especially in the way Norma is constantly flustered at every turn, whether it be from her real estate agent, the sheriff (Carbonell), her son, or the new group of potheads staying in the motel rooms flaunting their wares.
If there is a downside, it's that Abernathy doesn't quite feel like that formidable villain we're supposed to view him as. True, digging up Deputiy Shelby's body and dumping it in Norma's bed is a heinous, repulsive act, but it seems like it would pose more of a threat to him than Norma if the cops aren't on the take. Of course, in this town, that is a very dubious 'if'. Nevertheless, had Abernathy been built up from earlier in the season instead of just showing up for three episodes, he'd be seen as more of the criminal mastermind than just a resourceful psychopath with a few underworld ties and a chip on his shoulder.
The writing by show creators Cuse and Ehrin shows that they know these characters and where they want the stories to go inside and out, and while nothing spectacular in terms of style of substance, this is the best episode Tucker Gates has turned in thus far, keeping the tone riding the tricky rail between comedy and menace in a way that makes both plausible without wrecking the episode.
"Underwater" mostly exists to set up Season Two much more than it does Episode 10, but it does both jobs quite well. We enter the season, not at a fever pitch, but still highly intrigued at the outcome of not only one story thread, but the others as the series continues in Season Two.
For other episode reviews, check the Bates Motel page.
Qwipster's episode rating:
©2013 Vince Leo