TV REVIEW: ‘Bates Motel’ – Season 5

After years of twists and turns, the series evolves into "Pyscho" in its final ten episodes.

| April 26, 2017

Spoiler Warning for the fifth and final season of “Bates Motel,” as well as all previous seasons.

Vera Farmiga as Norma and Freddie Highmore as Norman Bates. (Photo courtesy of A&E Networks)

The time to check out of “Bates Motel has finally arrived after years of twists, turns and of course, murder. The story of Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) and his mother Norma (Vera Farmiga) has been captivating from the very beginning, but the final season really kicks it up a notch as all of the rules go out the window and every character is on the chopping block. These final episodes show the transition into the remixed storylines of the original “Psycho” film, which the series is a modern-day prequel of. With its all-star cast and gripping story, “Bates Motel” goes out on a high note, proving itself to be one of the most underrated series on television.

From the beginning of the series, everything had been building up to the death of Norma, an event that ultimately happens in the penultimate episode of Season 4. This moment changes everything and serves as the catalyst for nearly everything that happens in this final season. Set two years later, Norman is living by himself in his large house while managing the motel; at least, from the outside he is alone, but Norman believes that his mother is still alive, just hiding from the public. This creates great conflict with Norman as he prevents himself from inviting others into his home, out of fear that Norma will be discovered; her corpse is being kept in the basement alongside an eerie shrine. Vera Farmiga is still a large part of the story as she appears in Norman’s hallucinations as a slightly different version of the lovable character of Norma; although, she does still have her entertaining bouts of screaming. Over the course of the season, Norman does find himself becoming closer to Madeleine Loomis (Isabelle McNally), a local store owner who bears a striking resemblance to Mother. The introduction of Madeleine sets in motion a major story arc that involves a certain famous singer playing the role of an iconic “Psycho” character.

Rihanna as Marion Crane. (Photo courtesy of A&E)

The “shower scene” from “Psycho” is something that fans have been eagerly anticipating for years; this season, the scene finally comes to the small screen, but plays out far different that many expected. Marion Crane (Rihanna) enters the series as the mistress of Sam Loomis (Austin Nichols), who is married to Madeleine. Sam and Marion check into the Bates Motel several times, leaving Norman extremely suspicious and forced to keep the affair a secret from Madeleine, who he has developed a friendship with. The Marion story arc only spans two episodes, but is an enjoyable homage to the original film. Marion steals a large sum of money from her boss in Seattle before driving down to White Pine Bay to start a new life with Sam; she stops at the Bates Motel and officially meets Norman before settling into her room, giving Norman the opportunity to spy on her through a peephole he created. Many of the camera shots in this storyline are the exact same as those featured in “Psycho,” utilizing Alfred Hitchcock’s film making style. After a tense confrontation between Marion, Sam and Madeleine, the iconic “shower scene” finally plays out, but Marion is not the victim in a shocking turn of events. Yes, you heard that right; Marion Crane survives her stay at the Bates Motel (the series does do a quick fake out where Marion is shown in the shower in a near recreation of the original film). Instead, Sam finds himself covered in water and blood as Norman/Mother brutally stabs him. Talk about a plot twist.

While the Marion storyline may have been a major highlight, this season also features several developments for the other characters. During the two-year time skip, Norman’s brother Dylan (Max Thieriot) and Emma (Olivia) have gotten married and had a daughter while still living in Seattle. They are completely unaware that Norma has died, but this doesn’t stay a secret for long. While some of their material does feel like filler, it is incredibly important in establishing the fact that Dylan and Emma have escaped the toxicity of White Pine Bay and the Bates Family. Their situation is complicated when Dylan’s dad Caleb arrives (Kenny Johnson) to reconnect with his family, but ultimately leaves to reunite with his sister Norma. Over the course of the season, Dylan and Emma learn what has happened to Norma, but also discover that Norman’s illness has worsened and that he may have killed people, including Emma’s mother. This creates tension between the young couple as Dylan expresses his desire to be there for Norman, something that Emma disapproves of. I didn’t think I could like Dylan more, but this season proved me wrong.

Isabelle McNally as Madeleine Loomis and Max Thieriot as Dylan Massett. (Photo courtesy of A&E)

This season also follows Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) as he escapes from prison and tries to enact his revenge on Norman for killing Norma, the love of his life. This particular storyline is rather anti-climactic and plays into some of my problems with the finale (this will be discussed later in the review), but also serves as a major point of character development; Alex transforms from a sheriff upholding the law to a ruthless widow who is willing to do whatever it takes to carry out his revenge plot and kill Norman. There are also some significant developments with the character of Chick (Ryan Hurst), showing a tighter bond between him and Norman; when Chick discovers Norman’s many secrets, he begins writing about what he sees, placing him in the role of the writer of the novel that “Psycho” is based on. However, this ultimately fizzles out when Chick is killed by Romero in the eighth episode, never to be mentioned again, making his death feel like its purpose was to solely to shock the audience. There is also a growing intensity as Romero’s replacement, Sheriff Jane Greene (Brooke Smith), begins snooping around the Bates Motel and residence before finally arresting Norman, setting the final few episodes in motion.

All great stories must come to an end and “Bates Motel” is no different. The series concludes with its 50th episode in a problematic hour of television that does provide closure to the viewers. A major problem with the finale is the sudden death of Romero at the hands of Norman; Romero acts somewhat out of character to allow for a shock factor moment; however it does serve the purpose of making Alex an even more tragic character than he originally was. Norman flees the scene and essentially resets back to where he was at the beginning of the series when he and Norma first moved to White Pine Bay and opened the motel, with flashbacks/hallucinations accompanying the montage. For some odd reason (likely plot-convenience), the police aren’t waiting at the Bates residence and take a full day to show up. The climactic end shows Dylan and Norman coming face to face, leading to a heartbreaking twist as Dylan is forced to shoot his brother, effectively ending his suffering and the town’s reign of terror. Norman and Norma are reunited in the afterlife to live together happily ever after, just as they always wished. The same goes for Dylan, who is able to return to Emma and their daughter, although he will surely be haunted by the tragic loss of his family. In an show that was regularly grim and dark, the end shows a bit of hope with life continuing on after tragedy.

“Bates Motel” may have never been a huge phenomenon, but the fantastic storytelling and acting proves that not all great television shows end up becoming massive hits. The performances of Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore as Norma and Norman respectively are absolutely out of this world and their on-screen chemistry is some of the best I’ve ever seen on screen; The Emmys would be ridiculous to not recognize the talent of these two. Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin have taken the classic story of “Psycho” and expertly adapted it into a modern setting, while keeping the tone and overall creepiness. The final season of “Bates Motel” is incredible, moving the series away from the first four seasons and placing the series on a completely different level. This series is truly something special and there may never be a show like it again. “Bates Motel” has always stood out and that likely won’t change even in death.

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Category:Arts and Entertainment, Television

Jeffrey Kopp is the Arts & Entertainment Editor of the Niner Times. He is a junior double majoring in Communication and Political Science, with a minor in Criminal Justice. His interests include writing and keeping up with an excessive amount of television shows. He is also the go-to expert on all things “The Walking Dead.”


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Jeffrey Kopp is the Arts & Entertainment Editor of the Niner Times. He is a junior double majoring in Communication and Political Science, with a minor in Criminal Justice. His interests include writing and keeping up with an excessive amount of television shows. He is also the go-to expert on all things “The Walking Dead.”