This Bates Motel review contains spoilers.
Bates Motel: Season 5, Episode 5
“You deserve the world. I just want to be the one to give it to you.”
It’s Marion Crane time, ladies and gentlemen!
Now that Bates Motel is officially at the halfway point of its final season, its true endgame can begin and this show can really start to have fun with all of the Psycho connections. Playing around with Madeleine and Sam Loomis from Hitchcock’s film has been plenty of fun so far, but these characters have largely felt like stand-ins for absentee cast members like Dylan, Emma, and (largely) Romero. Marion Crane (who is played by freakin’ Rihanna) is given a lot more emphasis though, with her appearance feeling like the start of something bigger.
Admittedly, I’m not sure if Rihanna was really the best choice to play Ms. Crane in this adaptation, but it was surely a move made to generate headlines and bring in viewers. I’m not opposed to a very left-field casting choice for the role, it’s merely that Rihanna is simply doing a fine job at this point. Let’s see what she brings to the shower—I mean table—in the coming installments where she really gets something to chew on.
This entry starts off with Sheriff Green suspicious of Norman all of a sudden on the topic of Romero’s recent prison break, with Norman getting all sorts of twitchy accordingly. Green’s chat with Norman isn’t entirely to place blame; she also seems to be genuinely concerned that Romero might break into Norman’s home and kill him in his sleep. This scene between the two of them is their first exchange that really pops and begins to hint at the cat-and-mouse game that the back-end of this season could become for the two of them. Green has mostly been a figurehead up until now, but she’s finally tugging on Norman’s thread and is going to end up discovering the colossal ball of yarn that he’s hiding. It’s going to be awfully shady if White Pine Bay loses two Sheriffs back-to-back.
The show returns to Dylan and Emma this episode too and while their stories haven’t been pressing enough at this point to justify weekly appearances, checking in with them bi-weekly feels about right. It’s still a very reliable release valve to the pressure cooker that is everything inside Motel Crazy. That being said, it’s a little depressing to see how quickly Dylan and Emma’s marriage is beginning to sour.
It’s far too melodramatic that Emma is pushing Dylan towards going back home—a decision that would ultimately kill them—or him snapping at his wife and becoming a brute of a husband whenever his family is brought up. Things do improve some when Dylan comes clean to Emma about Norman’s questionable history (including what happened to her mother), with her reaction just being heartbreaking. Every scene with their baby has me dreading that he’s going to end up an orphan. Or maybe that’d be a good thing?
On the topic of snapping at people, Norman is going through much of the same motions in his pseudo-relationship with Madeleine. The episode taps into another bittersweet vein as Madeleine continually tries to insert herself into Norman’s life, with her only crime being that she’s just lonely. In any other situation she’d be doing the right sort of thing and be entering a bright new stage of her life, she’s just happened to end up getting a crush on the worst person imaginable.
Coincidentally, just as Norman is telling Madeleine that he caught Sam having an affair of his own, the episode shows Sam doubling down with Marion to run away and live happily ever after together. The episode doesn’t pull the trigger on this all right away, but it’s admirable to see how quickly it gets around to Marion cutting and running with nearly half a million dollars. Bates Motel has been open about how it’s going to subvert and play with the expected Psycho mythos, so the fact that Marion still does take the money (and even gets pulled over by police for speeding, just like in the film) only feels like misdirection for what’s to come.
A welcome surprise is the return of Dr. Edwards this week! He was always one of my favorite elements of the show’s fourth season and someone who saw a unique side of Norman that very few have. We only get a taste of him in this episode, but even in the few moments between Norman and Edwards, Highmore’s performance hits some phenomenal levels. I’m very curious what role he’s going to play in all of this, especially with Norman being the one who called him.
Edwards might be back, but Romero sits this installment out. In spite of this, Nestor Carbonell is the one behind the camera this week. It’s sweet to see the show letting so much of its cast get to direct in its final year (Highmore is not only directing, but also writing a separate installment), but also impressive that the cast has gotten such a handle on these characters and this universe after five seasons.
“Dreams Die First” does a lot to move along the many pieces of this season, while also introducing a major character into play. It’s not the year’s sharpest episode and some of the more emotional moments go a little too far, but it’s still pushing a narrative that has me very excited for how all of this is going to end. The final moments of the episode put Norman in quite the disturbing situation that helps illustrate not only to the audience, but also to himself, just how broken he is. It’s unclear if the revelation is going to act as a wake-up call for him or just push Norman deeper into his denial.