Bates Motel spoilers follow:
Monday night’s episode of Bates Motel, “Trust Me”, featured a few WTF moments: Norma is arrested for the murder of Keith Summers, the sex slave in Officer Shelby’s basement wasn’t actually there (or was she?), and Norman and his half-brother Dylan finally bond over a bottle of whiskey. But the biggest WTF moment occurred when Norman gets invited over to his crush, Bradley’s, house late at night and they end up… ahem, “doin’ the nasty,” as they say. Norman Bates, having sex.
Ever since the opening shot of the first teaser trailer for Bates Motel featured Norman listening to ear buds; I didn’t expect this show to have a religious adherence to the original film. However, with this latest shenanigan, the producers of Bates Motel have eliminated what was a core motivation in the nature of the original character. Norman Bates doesn’t have sex. Furthermore, he’s never had sex. This is what makes him go insane.
The Norman Bates of 1960’s Psycho was a completely sexless character. Not asexual, mind you – the implicit sexual threat of Bates is what drives much of the tension in the moments leading up to the infamous shower scene. Indeed, it is by a very conscious effort that Gus Van Sant included in his shot-for-shot remake the depiction of Norman masturbating while he spies on Marion Crane in the shower.
It was implicit also that the Norman Bates of the original film was a virgin — his confusion on the mechanics of sex and its resultant stress and guilt causing the fugue state in which he becomes his mother and substitutes the physical act of copulation with the swing of a knife against flesh. Norman Bates’ being a virgin is an essential element which causes him to go “psycho” and hastens his identity confusion. How will that dynamic play out for the future of Feddie Highmore’s Norman?
It is perhaps too earlier to tell what the meaning of the sex scene in Monday night’s episode means. Is this Norman’s one bite at the apple before his mother shames him away from sex forever? Will it transform into a traumatic experience? Is Bradley manipulating him? Will she end up dead because of their association? Additionally, with the establishment of Norman regularly experiencing hallucinations, it is also entirely possible that the love scene between him and Bradley didn’t happen at all.
With this episode the producers of Bates Motel have taken an enormous risk and as far as I’m concerned a major deviation from the original character.
And by the way, what’s with Norman pursuing two romantic interests at once? As of now he socially functions as a normal 17-year-old, albeit it with rage blackouts and occasional hallucinations. I could not imagine Anthony Perkins’ Norman Bates chasing girls as a teenager. He’s always been the quiet, reserved type. Perhaps the producers decided you can’t have one with the other, and thus threw out the baby with the bathwater when they started having Norman bringing girls flowers.
I can swallow the town’s secret Asian sex slave-driven economy. I can tolerate Norman having a half-brother. But I don’t know if I buy a sexually active Norman Bates. That, simply, is a bridge too far.