This Bates Motel review contains spoilers.
Bates Motel Season 5 Episode 7
“You wanna play with the big kids, you gotta act like the big kids.”
As much as Bates Motel has been a show about the twisted relationship between a boy and his mother, it’s also been a show about the family around that relationship and the toxic effects that it can have. Even before Norman and Norma were developing something unhealthy together, Norma was already seeing the safety net of family being perverted with her brother. In spite of Norma’s death, there’s been no shortage of Norman and Norma scenes this year, but Dylan has largely felt like he’s been floating off in an island, making mandated appearance when the show deems it fit. This episode finally brings the disparate members of the Bates family back together, with this strong installment being a great reminder of the beating heart of this show.
Bates Motel continues to tip its hat to Hitchcock this week, with its opening shot starting on Sam Loomis’ eye and then spiraling outward. What’s even better though is that Bates Motel allows you to watch the immediate aftermath of Norman’s “first” murder, something that Hitchcock’s film doesn’t give you the luxury of doing (although the underrated Psycho II does). After it appeared like Norman was making headway into fixing himself last week, he’s now never been more committed to the illusion in his head. Furthermore, the version of Mother in his head now has become her most survival-based yet.
She’s not all about pampering Norman. She’s there to slap him into action and play the role of clean-up crew in his brain, which is something that Norman very much needs at the moment (also, how funny is it that when Norman goes to dump the body of his freshest corpse, he’s interrupted by the cops pulling out his previous victims from the lake?). With three episodes left to go, it’s only appropriate that the series has reached the point where Norman can say, “I killed someone today, Mother,” without having any dispersions about what’s gone on. The “two” are really going for broke now, with it giving each of Norman’s scenes an extra bit of urgency. Really anything can go down in these final episodes (as the episode’s conclusion indicates) and that’s very exciting.
This episode also marks the return of the recuperating Romero. I kind of would have dug it if his caretaking situation actually turned into a sort of Annie Wilkes Misery thing that he had to escape from. The guy’s been through enough though, and Romero having someone who’s actually nice to him isn’t the worst thing in the world. Beyond getting a reminder that this character exists, there really isn’t much significance to his limited screen time this week.
These final installments of the series begin to imagine what sort of future Norman is capable of at this point. His increased murder count is clear evidence of him unraveling, but he’s also extremely cautious about not getting caught. Not because he believes what he’s doing is right (on the contrary, he even talks about wanting to turn himself in), but because any future where Norman gets caught is one where he and his mother can’t be together. Ironically, this episode that’s all about Norman and Norma staying together forever features him needing to ditch her body as it’s kind of crazy incriminating evidence. It’s also curious that the sheriff that’s likely going to save the day is such a new, unestablished character that the audience has very little connection to him.
On the topic of family, with Norman never being more concerned about losing his mother, it’s the perfect time for Dylan to come visit. I honestly don’t know if it would have been better for Dylan if he came a week earlier, or if his current “clarity” is actually helpful to Dylan. It’s all too bittersweet when it looks like Dylan’s visit might actually just be about the two of them catching up. Maybe Norman learning that he’s an uncle is enough to temporarily cure him while his brother is visiting. But then all of a sudden Norma appears and that pit in your stomach returns just like it does for Norman when you understand the only possible direction that this can go in.
It’s all the worse when Dylan says that he’s going to stay a few days to watch over Norman, even though he’s doing the right thing for his brother. Even without Norman telling him that “every day is a small century,” he can see how deeply and thoroughly broken his brother is. The moment in which Dylan breaks down and apologizes to his dead mother over how he wasn’t able to steer Norman in the right direction and unburden her is just devastating (this episode also features some of Max Thieriot’s best work to date).
The episode’s final set piece is just absolutely chilling. The music playing in thebackground even feels warped and dream-like as Dylan tiptoes through conversation with his brother. It’s the perfect sort of scene that makes for an even stronger conclusion than last week’s iconic shower murder because you don’t know what’s going to happen here. The entire scene is covered in dread and tension, and once Norma starts talking through Norman it gets even worse. It’s scenes like these that are going to make Bates Motel’s final season its best yet.