This Bates Motel review contains spoilers.
Bates Motel Season 5 Episode 6
Well Marion, it was nice while it lasted.
“Marion” is certainly the most fun that Bates Motel has had in a long time. Picking up right where last week’s Rihanna-tastic episode of the show left, we might have met Marion last episode, but now Norman gets to as well. As the series is smack dab in Psycho territory at the moment, it deliciously leans into moments from Hitchcock’s film. The camera lingers on Norman deciding which room key to give Marion. There’s the classic “eye through the painting hole” visual, discussion about birds, and Norman even offers to make Marion a ham sandwich like in Anthony Perkins’ rendition of the role. All of this is being done to lull you into a weird sort of safety. “Marion” wants you to think you know exactly where all of this is going so by the time it gets to the iconic shower scene it’s able to really knock you on your ass.
Marion Crane is pretty much the driving force of the narrative this week, much like the episode’s title might indicate, and the bulk of the episode revolves around her. Norman and Marion get a few scenes and plenty of time to get to know one another. The two trade stories and ruminate on love and loneliness where exchanges like this can take place:
“It’s hard to be lonely. It’s also hard to love to people. I think that’s the trap.”
“Yes, the little private trap that everyone lives in.”
Highmore vibrates with this material as Norman now seems enlightened and about to enter his final form. Rihanna on the other hand largely feels like she’s sleepwalking through a lot of her material. The episode also draws up a nice parallel where Norman compares an unfaithful boyfriend to that of having an imaginary Murder Mother in the sense of how can you really know “when someone is real”?
On the topic of that Murder Mother, Vera Farmiga is also looking her absolutely crone-iest as she glares disapprovingly down at Norman as the comely Marion stays in their motel. I mentioned earlier in the season that the year’s second installment has played the most like a horror film so far, but there are shots of Norma in this episode that are downright terrifying. With the season now in its second half, it’s nice to see the actors going for broke—especially Farmiga. None of this cast has unfortunately garnered any Emmy wins so far, but it’d be nice to see the show’s swan song finally break that tradition. Farmiga floats between vengeful and ethereal in the most menacing sort of way as Norman gets farther and farther away from her.
It feels appropriate to touch on in some capacity that after the painful trust session that Emma and Dylan went through last week, the two push further in their quest for answers. They learn that Norma is dead, information that is surely going to send the two of them headed right back to Norman in time for the finale. It’s a decision that’s certainly understandable on their end, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating. Even if it has felt like these two have been in their own little bubble this year, it’s been nice unequivocally knowing that they’re safe. That security’s about to go out the window. Enjoy the bagels while you can.
After the bombshell reveal that Norman has been apparently sleeping with men for some time while in Norma mode, this acts as fuel to keep Norman and his mother at odds through most of this episode. What’s all too tragic here is that after Norman’s talk with the good doctor as well as his reality check in the bar, he appears to be lucid about what’s going on. He defiantly tells Norma that she isn’t real and the only reason he’s seeing her at the moment is because of the new tenant that’s in the motel.
“You see? I’m starting to understand it all now,” he tells her. He’s spot on in that respect, but unfortunately that insight doesn’t do Norman any good at all as he heads down the rabbit hole this week. If anything, Norman trying to prove he’s not a slave to the voices in his head is exactly what sends him to his doom. Later on he admits “I’m completely losing my mind,” but it’s over the wrong thing. We get to see Norman literally warring with his psyche this week and it’s just devastating that his moments of clarity come hand-in-hand with sweeping valleys of madness. PS: How similar is Norman’s relationship with Mother to David’s relationship with the Shadow King over on Legion?
And on that note, let’s get back to that shower scene. Marion gets in there with the scene playing exactly how you’d expect…until nothing happens at all. There’s no murder. No hand tearing down the shower curtain. No blood down the drain. It’s at that point that things get really interesting because it’s clear that someone—likely Marion—is still going to get murdered from what all of this has triggered, but now it’s capable of happening at any time. Series creators Kerry Ehrin and Carlton Cuse script this episode and you can tell that this is the installment that they’ve been waiting for. Rather brilliantly, Marion gets away and lives to have her happily ever after, with instead the much more suitable victim, Sam Loomis, stepping up to take her place. Ehrin and Curse do some brilliant work by revealing to their audience that yes, you are going to get that iconic shower scene after all. It’s just going to be a gender swapped version that connects all the way back to Norman’s childhood.
The script is officially out the window for Bates Motel and with Norman now fully realized, I can’t wait to see what these final four episodes hold. Madeleine Loomis better be careful.