Bates Motel Season 5 Episode 1 – TV Review
Did you really think death would keep Norma down?
And now she doesn’t even have to pretend to be civil. Because homicidal alter-egos don’t have to keep up appearances.
She’s off the leash.
TL;DR Norma, as part of Norman’s psychosis, is as forceful as ever, and has murder on her mind; Norman struggles with how aware he is of his own insanity; Dylan and Emma’s suburban bliss is interrupted by Caleb’s return; Romero hits the gym, and personal ads for hitmen, while in prison.
So it seems time has marched on (about a year?) since last season’s finale, and we re-enter the life of Norman Bates, hotel manager, loving son, awkward flirt, and total fucking psycho. In Norman’s mind, Norma didn’t actually die, but they faked her death, so now she has to stay inside the house. Norman sees things with sunny perfection, whereas the reality is much darker and grimier. But even when she an idealised projection of Norman’s, Norma’s sass and fury cannot be suppressed, and the strain of this “cover” they’re keeping soon shows its cracks. This is exacerbated by a friendly hardware store girl of which Norma is predictably jealous. Oh, and also the fact that Norma has fucking killed a dude, which strikes horror and confusion into Norman when he finds out. The true level of Norman’s understanding of his reality is kept ambiguous as mother and son band together to dump the body. Meanwhile, Dylan and Emma are still in Seattle and now have a baby, officially ascending Dylan to DILF status. Caleb turns up for a prospective new life near his son, but despite Dylan’s revelation to Emma about how Caleb got the money together to save her life, Emma suggests it would be best if Caleb left forever, lest Dylan needing to explain to their daughter why grandpa is also uncle, right? And Romero isn’t taking his imprisonment lying down, and is keeping himself in top, Norman-punching shape. But wait, there’s more: he also hired the guy who tried to kill Norman. Which is the guy Norma killed. And, to close out the episode, Norman finds out about it.
The battle lines are drawn.
I’m going to take this moment to reiterate that Season 4, for all it was trying to set up, was kind of a snooze. Yes, Norma’s death was operatic and monumental and heartbreaking. But Season 4 started out with such a bang, but then sagged and limped through a marathon of tedium to get to the good stuff at the end.
This season’s opener isn’t even starting with a bang so far. I’ll give the Bates Motel team the benefit of the doubt, because even their worst (Season 4) was still very good television.
But wouldn’t it be a shame if the show that was constantly better than it needed to be (see Damien for a direction this thing could have gone) came to an end marred by disappointment?
Let’s hope Rihanna has taken some acting classes.
Why I hate this episode:
There are no big issues or red flags yet. It was just kind of a bit boring. Let’s hope it’s just Episode 1 place-setting, and we can get to the good stuff soon. Because we’re running out of time, remember.
I know pretty much anything to do with Norma’s personality and Norman’s behaviour can be explained away with a quick “because insane,” but why would Norman imagine Norma as being obstructive and rude to him? It’s odd.
Now that Dylan and Emma have a baby, I’m worried Bates Motel won’t be vicious enough to kill them off, anymore. As devastating as it would be, I was looking forward to Norman inevitably murdering them. But is this show really going to leave a baby without its parents? I don’t know.
Hell, will Dylan and Emma even reintegrate into the major Norman plot, or will they be sidelined in Seattle suburban shit forever? Good God, let it not be so.
Dylan and Emma’s lack of knowledge about what’s happening with Norman and Norma is handwaved away with a paltry “We don’t talk much, anymore.” Lazy.
Oh, and Norman mentions that the bypass eventually went up. So how is the motel making any money? It was struggling before the bypass, wasn’t it?
But it’s not all bad:
Fewer customers means more time for Norman to masturbate while watching adulterers through a peephole. Bates Motel went there. Ew. But in a good way.
My greatest relief is that Norma won’t stop being the one-woman hurricane she was in life. It’ll be a shame to lose the sensitivity and humanity of Real Norma, but this Norma has already shown signs that she’ll be more than just Norman’s murder persona. When she reveals the body of the would-be assassin in the freezer, and Norman’s mind can barely handle the stress of it all, she also screams in exasperation that she doesn’t understand what’s happening and what’s wrong with them. The iciness of past Apparition Norma was enticing, but I’ll give it to Bates Motel to make a murderous alter-ego emotionally three-dimensional.
Her rudeness towards Norman is still there, though, so don’t worry about that. She complains about having to stay in the house all the time. And she interrupts his masturbation. And she is not at all pleased with Norman’s interactions with Hardware Hussy. Slay, queen. Literally.
When Norma was telling Norman about how she killed Romero’s hired gun, I suspected she was lying, and fabricating a tale of a man trying to shoot Norman as a way to justify a random murder. But when his phone rang and Norma answered it to Romero asking about the hit, I was shocked. Romero’s gettin’ dark.
And surely no denial of parole or dead Craig’s List assassin will stop his rampage of revenge against Norman. Romero keeps a photo of Norma in his prison cell. He will not stop. I look forward to it.
Norman’s grasp on reality is murky, as we see him creep down to the basement and seek solace from Real Norma’s embalmed body. Will Norman be able to figure out what’s going on in his head? Would he even have the capacity to grasp it?
Points to Bates Motel for turning Caleb from my most maligned character into a sympathetic, tragic figure. Emma’s kick to the curb is crushing, and amplified by the reasonableness of the request. Having Caleb around would be too much emotional weight for Dylan to bear. And it’s also difficult for Emma to have to force the man who saved her life away from his son, and only happiness. Powerful.
Oh, and I wasn’t kidding about the DILF thing.