This Bates Motel review contains spoilers.
Bates Motel Season 5 Episode 2
“Norman, do you still like me?”
After last week’s excellent premiere began a tailspin into madness, Bates Motel’s second episode keeps the ball rolling. A lot of last episode revolved around catching the audience up to Norman’s new lifestyle without Mother. “The Convergence of the Twain” actually shows him going through the motions.
There are some really nice touches that slyly highlight just how broken Norman is. For instance, there’s a very full bowl of dog food that never loses any of its contents because its meant for Juno, Norman’s dead dog, who’s still alive and well in the fabricated reality that Norman’s living out in the Motel. Previous seasons mined material from watching Norman struggle with his inner conflict. For every moment that he seemed well-adjusted, there’d be some horrifying scene to balance things out. Those days are over now. Tension no longer comes from if Norman is going to slip up, but rather who he’s going to kill and when. It’s a powerful new perspective for the show to embrace in its final year.
This season continues to show that it’s going to defy your expectations by Norman already visiting Romero in prison and not wasting any time to distinguish his bullshit. Norman proves that he’s not afraid or fucking around here. Interestingly enough, Norman’s aggressive approach here might even end up pushing Romero to do something about all of this and retaliate somehow. He’s certainly losing it in prison, with a particularly brutal skirmish in there being proof of how Romero is slowly changing while in this cage. While it looks like Romero isn’t any closer to getting out this week, I’m still vying for a showdown between him and Norman to be in the cards by the end of the season.
As Norman continues to try and get through his days, the episode keeps pushing forward a narrative decision that I’m not exactly crazy about where Norma is actually alive and just faking her death as she camps out in the Motel. Elements like Norma boning up on her French while she waits in the wings feel a little silly. In fact, the whole “now I need to hide so people continue to believe I’m dead” angle is super sitcom-y. I felt like Mr. Roper was about to come in at any minute.
In spite of all of this, it’s appreciated that the premiere at least confirmed that Norma’s dead by showing her preserved corpse, rather than the series attempting to weave a sloppy double narrative (an angle that it’s gone with in the past). I get that this is meant to represent Norman’s tumultuous mental state and a rationalization for what’s going on, but the show doesn’t have to lean so heavily into it. If Norma was just gone when Chick rang the doorbell I’d have accepted it just as much as several sentences of dialogue explaining why she needs to hide. Once these pretenses are over the season will hopefully slide into an even more comfortable position. That being said, I suppose this show is all about a killer who doesn’t realize he’s a crazy killer, not some murderer who eventually learns to embrace who he is. It’s necessary that Norman’s psyche jumps through these hoops.
On the topic of Chick, he and Norman get into some sort of taxidermy relationship together this week that naturally has him investigating and becoming curious over what Norman’s keeping in his freezer. There’s also some pretty clever innuendo about Norman being a fan of “preserving architectural history” that becomes perfectly twisted when framing it around his mother.
A real highlight from this week—albeit a somewhat confusing one—involves a scene that’s cross-edited between Highmore and Farmiga where Norman is Norma in a bar, as “she” complains about her “son.” It’s a scene that works purely to show you how far Norman has fallen at this point. However, it’s also significant as Chick is seemingly turning all of this into some novel of his? I’d sincerely love it if Chick turned out to be Robert Bloch, with the scribblings that he’s putting down actually turning into his novel, Psycho, by the end of the series. It’d be completely insane and something nobody ever expected, but if Chick is going to be codifying all of this, that might as well be where they take this. This is a show that’s crazy enough to go through with such a thing.
The Psycho allusions also continue to mount up this episode, as Norman’s obsession over Madeleine Loomis continues to grow in both effort and ickiness. Madeleine talks about wanting to set Norman up with someone rather than being interested in him herself, which is a nice little spin as well as it allowing for more expendable bodies to mount up for Norman.
It also slowly might lead into a Norman and Madeleine romance, in spite of her very present husband. He’s already coloring outside the lines after all. The show wastes no time with this idea, with it pulling the trigger on this double date fairly quickly. The actual date between Norman and the Loomises is pretty on the nose and grating, as Norman takes every opportunity to make a subtle jab at Sam and emphasize the problems present in his and Madeleine’s relationship. This is all aided by the fact that it doesn’t drag something like this out over the course of a few episodes. This season certainly feels like this show has finally learned how to pace itself.
On the other side of the relationship spectrum, Dylan and Emma talk about raising their child in an honest world that might be short on family, but at least real and open. It’s a discussion that’s so sweet and pure that it almost feels offensive to be featured in the same program as one where Norman can be hacking and slashing people to death. Dylan and Emma’s struggle with Caleb continues, but also caps itself off. Caleb’s certainly not having an easy season so far. He learns about his sister dying right after Dylan and Emma kick them out of their home and tell him to move on.
The ending of this episode hits pretty hard and gains a little extra significance after Caleb is allowed to wrap things up between Dylan and Emma. The show continues to deliver on big, iconic visuals and this episode goes out on a great one. I truly don’t know what direction things are going to go in next with Chick and Norma(n), but if (s)he was going to murder him, I feel we would have gotten it at the end of this episode. Something much more twisted is definitely in the cards, with it looking like Chick might be going into business with both Norman and his mother, so to speak.