Bates Motel, simply put, is the story of a relationship that ended horribly. One day on this show, Norman Bates will kill his mother and occasionally take on her identity to murder others. Relationships don’t end much worse than that. But of course there are more terribly relationships that lead to this inevitable conclusion as we see in “The Escape Artist,” an episode that sets up all sorts of relationships that have no way of ending good for anyone.
Norman has been spending far too much time with Cody for Norma’s liking, even calling her a weed that grows in such an awful environment, she’s destined to go nowhere. Yet it seems like maybe Cody’s present is too similar to Norma’s past, as we see that Cody’s home life is filled with what looks like an abusive father. Cody takes Norman to her own secret treehouse, where the two of them make out, and possibly more. Now Norman has told Norma that once the play they’re both working on is over, that he’ll stop seeing Cody, but this now is easier said than done. Norman has confided in Cody that he sometimes blacks out and doesn’t remember what happened, so this surely will come back to bite him when he eventually claims he can’t see her anymore.
Young love is also brewing with Emma, who is now pretty much seeing the young pot dealer that is staying at the hotel. She asks Norma about losing her virginity, to which Norma is all optimistic, even though she lost her virginity by getting raped by her brother. Emma meeting this boy and losing her virginity is a sweet story in a show often lacking those moments, but poor innocent Emma is bound to be hurt by this situation. I mean, right after Norma lectures Norman about how seeing certain types of girls could get a girl pregnant, trapping him forever, we cut to Emma losing her virginity. Doubtful this is a coincidence.
But Norma should also take her own advice about who she spends time with. Her co-conspirator in taking down the bypass—Nick Ford—is actually deep in the town’s drug business. Even more conspicuously, when Norma mentions a city council member she believes to be the main reason the bypass is being built, he is found dead the next day. Also sure to catch up with Norma is while delivering an environmental impact report to the city council, she intentionally called out the dead council member, so she’ll likely be considered a possible murderer. (Side fun fact, the biologist Norma gets the report from is named Bryan Fuller and is I believe played by Hannibal creator Bryan Fuller. Another connection, Fuller’s show Dead Like Me also featured an episode called “The Escape Artist.”)
Proving that not every relationship looks like bad news, there’s the one between Norma and Sheriff Romero. Now that Romero’s house has burned to the ground, he is staying at the Bates Motel for the foreseeable future. Already we’ve gotten some romantic tension between these two, and considering how much fun they are to watch, this is a great move.
Even the town’s drug business is getting a bit more interesting as Romero goes to drug boss Zane and beats the crap out of him, even though it doesn’t look like Zane was responsible for Romero’s house. I assume the rival drug dealing team caused the inferno, knowing that Zane would be blamed for it. When a drive-by nearly kills Zane, Dylan shoots at the car, which turns around and hits Dylan, sending him to the hospital. While there, he meets Zane’s sister, who turns out to be his real boss.
“The Escape Artist” is a relatively slow episode of Bates Motel, yet it’s setting the table for the dark turns these characters will go through in their new relationships for the second half of the season. We’ve seen dark before, but it looks like things are going to start getting a lot darker real soon.
Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.