Review: Bates Motel: “Shadow of a Doubt,” A little spring cleaning

Cristina Solorzano

Norman (Freddie Highmore) waits outside his house. Photo courtesy of A&E at
Norman (Freddie Highmore) waits outside his house. Photo courtesy of A&E at

Episode Grade: B-

After “Bates Motel” opened last week with a tense season premiere, this week’s “Shadow of a Doubt” left much to be desired.

It seemed the sole purpose of the episode was to air out old plot lines, which, to be honest, weren’t even that great to begin with. Yet, the town’s secret business (which really isn’t so secret) of growing and selling weed came to a head after last week’s shocking final minutes when Bradley (Nicola Peltz) killed the head honcho, Gill (Vincent Gale), by putting a bullet in his head.

This week’s episode, in the wake of her kill, Bradley reaches out to Norman (Freddie Highmore) for help, hiding in his basement until she can get the hell out of dodge. But, unbeknownst to Bradley, her actions have stirred the already frantic town of White Pine Bay. Still rearing over the death of Miss Watson, Gill’s death causes yet another threat to the town as Sheriff Romero (Nestor Carbonell) believes the murder to be a “declaration of war” against the town’s drug trading business.

It also doesn’t help that the town’s business competitor Nick Ford (Michael O’Neill), who just so happens to be Miss Watson’s father, shows up around the same time, questioning Sheriff Romero about his dedication to finding his daughter’s killer.

Naturally, the town is desperate for answers on both fronts.

As the episode continues, the town takes action. We see the arrival of Gil’s replacement, Zane (Michael Eklund), whose determination to “clean up the mess” Gil left behind, find who’s responsible and settle the score creates even more of mess—a mess that Dylan (Max Thieriot), Norman’s older brother who joined the drug trade early in season one, has to help clean up.

Zane (Michael Eklund) roughs up a dealer in front of Norman’s older brother Dylan (Max Thieriot). Photo courtesy of A&E at
Zane (Michael Eklund) roughs up a dealer in front of Norman’s older brother Dylan (Max Thieriot). Photo courtesy of A&E at

Playing off the mystery of Miss Watson’s death (even though we all know it was Norman), Sheriff Romero finally gets a break in the Watson case, detaining a suspect whose semen was one of two samples found in Miss Watson (Is the other one Norman’s?).

While intriguing, the whole town drug trading plot detracts from the more important element—Norman. If there’s one redeeming quality about this episode, it’s the character development of both Norma (Vera Farmiga) and Norman.

Norma, still suspicious of Norman’s blackout, asks her gynecologist about them. After receiving the news that it is probably a sign of mental instability, Norma desperately tries to find a way to keep Norman close to her. Her worry escalates further when she finds Miss Watson’s pearl necklace hidden underneath Norman’s bed.

So, what better way to keep your son from murdering people than trying out for the town theater’s musical production?

In this very strange way, we see a lot of new development in both Norma and Norman. Who would’ve thought singing would do the show some good.

After storming out of the auditions (upset that he won’t be able to get Bradley to the bus station for her to leave town), Norman explodes at Norma’s suffocating presence, yelling that they live together, eat together, sleep six inches apart, with only a thin wall separating them, and it’s close enough. Normally, Norman acts the part of a mama’s boy, listening to everything his mother tells him to do, but in an awesome moment of character development, he asserts himself as his own person.

In true form, Vera Farmiga steals the show this episode. Surprisingly, Norma’s musical number is the most powerful scene in the episode. Singing Liza Minnelli’s “Maybe This Time,” her desperation to get her life on a good path, to keep Norman safe, drips from every syllable.

The conflict is so clear on Norma’s face. She wants to help Norman, but she doesn’t know how, and every second that she can’t help him is just another possibility for chaos in the future.

And after Emma Decody (Olivia Cooke), Norman’s only friend (who really hasn’t played a significant role thus far this season), tells them that Miss Watson’s killer has been caught, it seems Norma may have finally gotten lucky—her son is off the hook, so now she only has to worry about him not killing anyone again.

But in reality, the chaos is only just beginning, as the arrival of Norma’s brother is sure to bring new trouble.

Bradley (Nicola Peltz) hides out in Norman’s closet after killing her father’s murderer Gill (Vincent Gale). Photo courtesy of A&E at
Bradley (Nicola Peltz) hides out in Norman’s basement after killing her father’s murderer Gill (Vincent Gale). Photo courtesy of A&E at

Honestly, this week was a disappointing continuation of last week’s thrill. It’s like the writers just decided to do a little spring cleaning to get rid of plots and characters from the past season.

The town’s drug business makes for an interesting setting for the crazy life of the Bates, but it really doesn’t add anything for the overall plot (and really just made the episode drag on). However, the quick resolution to Bradley’s dilemma (she’s most likely left town for good) left room for the arrival of Norma’s brother which is going to give more insight into Norma’s character and her background. I can’t wait.

“Shadow of a Doubt” gets a B- for its lackluster beginning, but the overall character development of the Bates, along with the introduction of some key characters, has me geared up for all the twists and turns that I know lay ahead.


“Bates Motel” airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on A&E.