Bates Motel Season 5 Episode 7
Jodi Walker writes: The promise of season 5 of Bates Motel, and the utter thrill of last week’s episode, came with the all-important knowledge that the series would finally be catching up with its source material. And boy, did it catch up: About the time Norman chose to kill Sam Loomis at the behest of Mother, we shot right past catching up and cruised into a whole new stretch of narrative highway. Now here we are, completely off script in a post-Marion-Crane world.
Of course, it’s not as simple as rebranding this series, Bates Motel: 2 Fast 2 Furious, but Monday night’s episode goes to great lengths to show that we are entering brand new territory for this this classic story, and that’s because Norman is teetering on the edge of a new world himself. A world where there’s a little more truth than what he’s been allowed to see before. A world where Norman might be able to tell the difference between the love he had for his mother Norma, and the “protection” that Mother offers him in return. In this world where Marion lived and Norman killed Sam himself, Norman has the potential to realize that there’s no way out of the mess he’s made with Mother — but there could be a way through it.
That’s a lot of ground for a mentally ill young man to cover in a one-hour time frame, and this episode is a little eclectic as a result, though I’d say every plot-noodle that’s thrown against the wall just about sticks the landing. The front half of the episode, dominated by Mother, is full camp, featuring hapless body-ditchings, catfights in the car, and comparing finding out you have a homicidal dissociative personality in the form of your dead mother to finding out about Santa Claus. The latter half of the very same episode, once Dylan enters the scene, is a slowly breaking heart, both for the audience and for Dylan, two entities that have always been intrinsically linked.
Dylan has been a somewhat random character from the start, made utterly lovable by a vulnerable performance from Max Thieriot and a pretty swift pivot somewhere around season 2 from someone who had his mother saved as “Whore” in his phone to someone who just wanted to love and be loved. As a result, Dylan has often felt a bit like a character being dragged through this mental marathon as a lamb being fattened for the slaughter. Once he was paired with angel-pixie-dream-friend Emma, I assumed it was to absolutely destroy us when Norman murdered them dead. But after tonight’s episode, the question must be asked: Has Dylan been fattened up for five seasons — one weed adventure, complex incest plot, and precious baby daughter at a time — because all along he’s been Norman’s only hope of being saved?
Because Mother is right: Dylan has never understood the relationship between Norman and his mother. And that is because Dylan generally serves as Bates Motel’sheavy dose of reality, and the reality of the relationship between Norman and his mother is, at best, twisted, and at worst… well, whatever cylinders it’s firing on now. I mean, this opening scene is b-a-n-a-n-a-s. It starts with a close-up on the bloodied face of Sam Loomis, the man Norman has recently stabbed to death. Norman stands overhead, splattered in blood, looking shell shocked at his life choices. Mother enters the scene in her cleanin’ scrubs: “Jesus, Norman, turn the faucet off, you’re wasting water!”
Meet Mother, who in this episode officially transitions from any remaining semblance of her inspiration, Norma Bates, to the full villainy, violence, and manipulation of Psycho‘s be-bunned shrew of a woman (bun still MIA, hopefully forever). Mother tells Norman, “You wanna play with the big kids, honey, you gotta act like a big kid,” which means pulling on some rubber gloves, folding the man you just killed into your trunk, and driving him out to the lake to dump his body. Like a big kid, Norman!
In the car though, Norman is still having trouble reckoning with the fact that he just murdered someone. Mother tells him that he can’t ask her for the truth and then freak out when she shows him. Norman responds that the “truth” is just kind of a lot. They pull up to a familiar looking entrance to the lake… and find police lights. Norman pulls the car into the woods, and they watch from a distance as a body is pulled from the lake. It’s a beautiful shot of Norman and Mother as they watch reality catch up with them outside in the winter twilight — and then Norman keels over and vomits. It’s perfect.
Back in the car, Mother scoffs, “It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with us,” and Norman screams back that it is almost certainly Jim Blackwell, the man the sheriff keeps coming ’round to question him about! So Mother slaps him — and Norman slaps her back! It’s soapy slapstick madness, and these two are absolutely losing it. Mother says since they can’t use the lake this time, they’ll just have to choose between the cliff or the woods. Norman, finally catching on: “This time? How many times have we done this, Mother? How many bodies are they going to find in that lake?”
Mother gives a pitiful little whimper and tells Norman if they link these crimes to him they’ll kill him or put him in a mental institution: “Whichever it is, it’s going to be the end of us.” In that moment, behind the fear of losing Mother welling up Freddie Highmore’s already quivering eyes, there’s a hint of something else: perhaps the spark of a realization that, despite what’s sitting next to him in this car, the end of Norman and his mother has come and gone. As hard as he’s tried to hold on to her, and as much as she controls his every waking moment, Norman Bates lost a long time ago. … (read more)