This Bates Motel review contains spoilers.
Bates Motel: Season 5, Episode 4
“I don’t like how we’ve become lately.”
Psycho (1960) is one of the most accomplished horror films that you’ll ever come across. Bates Motel is a prequel to Psycho. With that logic, you would think that Bates Motel would also lean into horror as its dominant genre. This isn’t always necessarily the case, with Bates Motel certainly wearing many hats (and dresses and wigs), with horror simply being one of the show’s interests. However, this week it strips off the rest of those genres and does its best impression of a psychological horror film and the results are not disappointing.
“Hidden” hits the ground running with Norman and Chick having to deal with a dead body at the start of the episode. I did sort of love that Norman apologies to Norma, rather than Chick, about Caleb’s death. I also loved watching Norman wrestle with the idea of calling the police over Caleb, while the other “two” people around gang up on him and steer him away from doing the right thing. I suppose Norman is far past doing the right thing at this point anyway. This all opens up the larger issue that Norman finds himself being very unhappy lately. He’s disposing of far more bodies than he’d like to be and this paradise he was envisioning is quickly beginning to fracture. Something that helps move that fracture along is the show’s introduction of White Pine Bay’s new sheriff, Sheriff Green.
It feels like Bates Motel is beginning to hint at what its end game might be. Norman slowly grooming Madeleine to become Norma 2.0 as he decks her out in his mother’s old dresses is sufficiently creepy (“I’m offering you my dead mother’s clothes. I must be going mad”). The idea of this series ending on the note of some twisted happily-ever-after where Norman and Madeleine are married and the inevitable carnage to come just hangs over them like a guillotine blade is quite appealing to me. While many people are quick to think that the show’s conclusion will mirror that to Psycho with Norman exposed and in some sort of incarceration, this show’s motive is all about subverting expectations. I wouldn’t be surprise if things end up somewhere else, with Madeleine being the key to it all.
Digging deeper into the Madeleine matter, it’s so bittersweet to watch these two getting closer together. Norman is absolutely giddy when he gets off the phone with her and the fact that she thinks Norman might be some sort of rescue from Sam is pretty depressing. Yet, these two have crazy chemistry and the Madeleine and Norman scenes are quickly becoming what I look forward to most in each episode (she was also wanting Norman bad this week. If something hadn’t happened there I would have been concerned). As much as I hope that Madeleine gets to stick around, the fact that Marion Crane is joining the scene rather soon might mean that somebody’s leaving.
As Norman continues to huff and puff at his mother, they find themselves in cleanup mode from their antics over the past few episodes once Sheriff Green begins to prove she’s rather competent at her job. The episode toys with the idea that Norman might be looking to get caught at this point, with everything after Norma’s death just being self-destructive fallout. While I still think that Norman’s goals center around some impossible paradise, the episode spends enough time on this other premise. It continues to add to the idea of the tug of war going on in Norman’s brain. There’s a wonderful moment during Norman and Norma’s argument (and when the real horror of the episode reveals itself) where Norma briefly flashes to her corpse version. It’s a disturbing element that appropriately creeps Norman out, but it also implies that Norman warring over what is actually reality might become a component as the season goes on. The truth is already starting to seep into his fantasy world.
Curiously, the series’ own Max Thieriot is in the director’s chair this week and he doesn’t feel out of place directing this visual show, especially as a first-timer (obviously he was taking notes from Wes Craven during My Soul to Take). There’s a particular shot that takes place while Sheriff Green is investigating the motel’s guest list where Norman impossibly cranes his neck into frame, peering at what’s going on. It’s a small touch, but it highlights Norman’s true slithery nature and how his reptilian brain will click on during moments of scrutiny like this one. But it’s also some of the best direction of the season so far, so kudos to Thieriot here. On that note, Dylan and Emma sit out for another week, which isn’t the worst thing. I’m sure the show will return to their story when it needs to, which is much better than it forcing some unnecessary narrative with them to bubble underneath the Norman material all year.
The situation that Romero finds himself in after getting shot last week is pretty ingratiating, but it should act as a good example of the hoops that he’s going to have to jump through this season in order to get back to Norman and hopefully set things right. You have to admire the guy’s craftiness though. He seems to be making off pretty well for a man on the lam with a ghastly wound. I don’t think I needed Norman getting tipped off that he was on the loose, but now at least Norman’s got a heads-up in the matter.
“Hidden” cleans up a lot of what’s happened on the series and moves these characters into position for what’s to come, but it still manages to turn up the creepy while going to interesting places with the women in Norman’s life, Norma and Madeleine.