Bates Motel rewarded my expiring patience with its fifth season by delivering a terrific sixth episode, “Marion.” As anticipated, Marion Crane (Rihanna) checked-in and took a shower. However, while there were many references to Psycho, creators Carlton Cuse and Kerri Ehrin, who also wrote the episode, managed to deliver something completely different. In fact, it turns everything we think we know about the relationship between Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) and his mother, Norma (Vera Farmiga) is turned on its head. We really don’t know what’s going to happen next.
They say that for something to work, you have to trust it. I lost my trust in the series a few weeks ago. I regret that now. Although I experienced the realization last week that the endgame for Bates Motel was probably not going to be the Psycho story with which we’re familiar, I wasn’t confident in what the endgame was actually going to be. What’s so amazing is that, with only four episodes left to air, we’re kept guessing. The simple switch of one word in a famous line has opened a world of possibility. Dare I ask it, but is one of those possibilities that Norman is going to escape from mental illness and end up the good guy?
At the very least, he’s a more sympathetic (and complex) character after “Marion.” I’ve often praised Farmiga’s acting in the show, but Highmore earns belated accolades here. From the revelation that he’s figured out what’s happening in his mind to telling his imagined mother that she doesn’t really exist, Norman is more tortured than ever. However, his strength lies just below the surface. Will it rise, or will it drown in insanity? He goes from lasciviously pulling his hot, sweaty hand out of his pocket after peeping in Room #1 to violently lashing out after facing his entire past. Is the violence a catharsis, or is it only the beginning of a new chapter?
As always, it’s not a perfect episode. I’m not going to write another word about the main plot this week. I will, however, say that Emma (Olivia Cooke) tells Dylan (Max Thieriot) about Norma’s death, Dylan and Norman have a heated phone conversation, and there is neither sight nor sound of Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell). While the time spent with ongoing stories remains unbalanced, it’s at least the perfect balance of the stories that interest me most. I’ve said it before, but if you’ve never watched Bates Motel, it’s not too late to start. I promise you will see something new and something unexpected. In and of itself, that comment is new and unexpected.