After last week’s nearly perfect episode of Bates Motel, it’s inevitable that this week’s, Unbreakable, would be a little bit of a letdown. There’s just no way to sustain the same level of horrifying suspense week after week. But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad episode.
It begins where last week’s ended: a bloodied Annika (Tracy Spiradakos) careens into the motel parking lot, stumbles out of the car, hands Norma (Vera Farmiga) a thumb drive and dies in her arms. The rest of the episode revolves around this thumb drive. What’s on it? Why did she have it? Who wants it? Why did Annika tell Norma to use it for her and her son?
Norma immediately calls Sheriff Romero (Nestor Carbonell); however, she keeps the thumb drive to herself and later tries to access it in a variety of creative ways. (No, “SEXCRAZED” is probably not the password.) It ends up with Dylan (Max Theriot), who hides it inside a timer at his marijuana farm.
In between, though, Bob (Kevin Rahm) admits his knowledge of it, Romero searches Annika’s room at the motel for it, and two thugs ransack the motel office looking for it. When Dylan interrupts the thugs, he warns them that if he sees either one of them there again, he’ll kill them. One of them replies, “OK. But you’re not always here.”
Coming down from last weeks’ spectacular outburst, Norman (Freddie Highmore) is confused and asks if he killed Annika. (Interestingly, when trying to calm him, Norma tells him to step outside his body.) Romero witnesses this and asks Norma what is wrong with her son. She replies, “You mean the fact that he had a normal, compassionate reaction to someone dying in our driveway?”
Romero then states the obvious, “Chaos seems to swarm around you, Norma.”
Dylan also happens to witness Norman’s confusion and bonds with Norma in trying to take care of him. This dynamic adds a degree of jealousy and paranoia to Norman’s state of mind. He asks his mother, “Do you still like me?”
Norma: “What kind of a silly question is that?”
Norman: “Things have changed between the two of you and the two of us and it’s different.”
He uses Emma (Olivia Cooke) to lash out. When he hears his mother in the other room, he begins kissing Emma. When Norma appears, he gets more passionate with Emma, while at the same time glaring at Norma over her shoulder.
Later, Norma asks her son, “You know you can’t sleep with her, right? She’s ill; you could kill her.” When Norman and Emma later go on a picnic, he once again backs off when the two are making out. He explains what Norma told him, which infuriates Emma. “I didn’t think your mother was coming on this date with us.”
Meanwhile, Norma encounters the psychology professor at the library and, over coffee, admits to him, “My son and I have always been close… probably too close. But things seem different now. I just don’t trust him now and that makes me feel really lonely.”
After the weekly argument/makeup session between Dylan and Caleb (Kenny Johnson), which includes the latter taking a tumble off the top of the barn, Caleb speaks honestly about his incestuous relationship with Norma. He explains how they were two kids raising each other. “You can’t help who you love. I wish I could say I’m sorry. She doesn’t have to forgive me; I just want to tell her.”
He may have the opportunity, because Norman follows Dylan to the farm and sees Caleb. “Does Mom know he’s here? Is this what you’ve been whispering about? Is she allowing this… harboring my mother’s rapist?” The episode then ends on somewhat of a cliffhanger as Dylan implores Norman to keep quiet, “If you tell her, it’ll ruin the rest of your life.”
And Norman responds, “You’ve betrayed mother and she needs to know.”
Unbreakable is a little “soapier” than most episodes of Bates Motel. Instead of dealing so much with Norman’s actual mental issues, it deals more with his relationships with others. However, he’s still prone to outbursts and has not regressed to the innocent victim state of the previous two seasons. All of this contributes to his eventual downfall, and I suppose we shouldn’t be too eager to get there.