Season 5, Episode 6
Brian Tallerico writes: Few scenes in the history of film are as iconic as Norman Bates stabbing Janet Leigh to death in the shower. To audiences today, that famous scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho may seem somewhat standard, but it’s hard to overstate how shocking it was to audiences in 1960. Not only was it unheard of to kill off your protagonist halfway through a film, but the decision to do so essentially changed the way we watch movies, with Hitchcock himself encouraging viewers to watch the film from the very beginning or risk ruining the experience. When it became clear that A&E’s Bates Motel was hurtling toward the same historic moment in its final season, fans started to wonder: Would the show subvert the shower scene, or fall under the weight of Psycho’s legacy?
It turns out that series co-creators Kerry Ehrin and Carlton Cuse had a few surprises up their sleeves, playing with audience expectations and even transposing gender roles in a powerful way. In 2017, Marion Crane isn’t killed by a hormone-fueled Norman Bates. In fact, she’s empowered enough to get away with her crime, not karmically punished for it like in the original film. It makes sense that the crime that would demand punishment in this iteration of Norman Bates’ world is infidelity, and so it is not Marion who lays dead-eyed on the bathroom floor at the end of this episode, but Sam Loomis, the cheating cad for whom she ended up in White Pine Bay in the first place.
For the majority of “Marion,” the team behind Bates Motel work masterfully with tension, from the minute we see Marion Crane (Rihanna) knock on Norman’s (Freddie Highmore) door. It’s pouring and he’s kind to Marion, giving her a room for only $60 — a funny touch given all those complaints about the $120 rate given to Sam a few episodes ago. He apparently had the Asshole Rate. Or she has the Rihanna Discount. Either way, Norman gives her Room #1, right next to the office. They make chit-chat as he leads her to her room. She wants a bite to eat, but there’s nothing open in the middle of the night. We get a quick shot of the shower, and Norman offers to bring down a ham sandwich. Marion smiles and laughs at his folksiness. He can be almost adorable when he’s not homicidal. Speaking of that, Norman spies his mother (Vera Farmiga) in the window of the house, looking down on them.
What’s most interesting about the timing of Marion’s arrival in the arc of the series is that it comes as Norman realizes the scope of his psychoses. He says to his mother, “I’m insane,” and he acknowledges that she is dead. He even understands that “Norma” has appeared to him because he’s sexually attracted to Marion. This is Norman at his most self-aware, almost as if he can control his homicidal impulses and keep his mother at bay.
The truth about Norma is about to come crashing down on Dylan (Max Thieriot). Emma (Olivia Cooke) is reading about her “suicide” when he comes back from his walk. She shows him the story, and tries to comfort him as best she can. It’s an emotional moment, well-directed and well-performed, and it fits thematically. … (read more)