BEWARE: Major spoilers!
Now that’s you’re alerted that you should continue reading this only if you’ve watched the final season of “Bates Motel” or don’t care about spoilers, let us begin.
The fifth and final season just landed on Netflix and thought it was released some two years ago, I’ve only watched it now.
This season finally brings us to the plot from the movie: as you can remember, Norman tried to commit double suicide in the fourth season’s finale but survived, so he went on digging up Norma and bringing her home. As far as I gathered from the fifth season, he didn’t do taxidermy on her and instead kept her in a freezer room in his basement.
So basically, this season starts two years after the death of Norma. Everything seems great: Norman is living happily with his mom and his dog (both are dead), Dylan and Emma got a kid and Romero is in prison. This is also a season where Marion Crane appears (played by Rihanna) with a twist. I can assure all the “Psycho” fans that you’ll get those omg moments when Marion showed up in the second part of the season. Apart from that, even though a lot is happening, it doesn’t feel as much. The whole season is a bit lackluster, especially when it comes to the characters and plots that don’t involve Norman and his relationship with his mother.
Dylan and Emma’s plotline is straight out boring. Ok, we got that they got a kid and congrats to that, but I couldn’t care less about their dialogues and scenes that lasted far longer than they should have.
Emma was horrible before and now it’s even worse. She’s always slow to talk and react and always looks half-lost like she doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing in the series and frankly, neither do we. In this season she even looked like Bellatrix Lestrange with that half-mad stare and facial expression (not to mention her hairstyle… her styling makes her look 20 years older than Dylan). Her plotline was always boring. With one Norman, we don’t need more crazy and/or ill people around the small town. I never cared about her and her lung problems (unless it was a way to raise awareness of her condition). I wanted to focus on Norman and Norma, not a town chick that has nothing to do with the original movie. It’s ok to add new characters but they should add to the story not take away from it. Emma was always a big character failure for me.
As for Dylan, the acting is much much better. He’s not boring to watch unless he’s with Emma and unfortunately, that’s half the time we see him in this season. So, yeah, I skipped almost all the parts with Emma. What I particularly liked about Dylan this season was his facial expressions when Norman would talk about Norma as if she was alive. Those expressions were a perfect mixture of bewilderment and horror. He was very genuine in his expressions. On one hand, he loves Norman because he is his brother and wants to help him and you can see it on his face. On the other hand, Dylan is also afraid of Norman and cautious around him which would be normal in real life. So, no exaggerated feelings, macho attitude etc. Kudos to realism!
I got the point that Norma was into Sheriff Romero and that now he’s seeking revenge on Norman for killing her. Still, Romero is too flat to be believable (unlike Dylan). He’s just a closed character you can find in every other movie/TV series and after watching dozens of such characters, I’d prefer to see something different. In that sense, Romero is another character that brings the show down.
The other major let down of “Bates Motel” for me was the drug plotline. As if Norman’s relationship with his mother wasn’t enough and they had to bring in the popular elements of the day – it seems that the director of the show though that to increase the interest they should bring in the drugs because, hey, Breaking Bad and Narcos had success with it so why don’t they mix the drugs in along the regular plot? It was a bad decision… Very bad decision. “Bates Motel” should have been only about Norma and Norman? Drugs were just a cheap (and greedy) way to increase popularity…
Now to the good side…
I’m absolutely and utterly impressed with Freddie Highmore’s interpretation of Norman Bates. Not only does he look like a younger version of Anthony Perkins, but his acting is also immaculate. He is very believable in his portrayal of young Norman. He’s a well-mannered kid with a mental illness and a passive-aggressive mother. He’s also awkward but is still a teen/young adult and wants all the stuff that people his age want (or, to be precise, he actually does want a normal life). His subsequent turning into Norma is at times portrayed as the “we all have different sides to ourselves” or “we have a dark side”, though that’s not shown as the main reason Norman is the way he is. Also, his turning into Norma and becoming her is portrayed in a more humane way. He’s not just a crazy kid who needs his meds. He’s seeking attention and control in his life like every other human being. And no matter how much he wants to be in control, grow up and be responsible for his actions, the voice of his mother is always there nagging and criticizing his decisions. We’ve all been taught bad and harming things that inhibit us to lead happy lives. We’ve all had our parents telling us stuff that later took years to overcome (most parents do this with their best intentions). And finally, we are all fighting against what we think others want us to be. There is no exception. This is why Norman is more relatable than it was just portrayed as a maniac with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). In a sense, if Norman hadn’t had DID and wasn’t prone to killing people, everyone would be able to find themselves in him. But of course, Norman is Norman.
Norma, on the other hand, is probably the best in this season than in the previous ones. She’s not super interesting, though, and not scary at all but now she is Norman’s version of his mother. The real Norma was slightly different as she was a different person from Norman. Now, she’s only his perception of her. She’s either a loving and caring mother or a criticizing and nagging one. She doesn’t have depth because she’s not a real person anymore; she’s the product of his mind.
I know many people praised Vera Farmiga’s portrayal of Norma. I’m not saying it wasn’t good but I can’t say it was the best either. It’s not Vera’s fault – she did a great job. Still, Norma is not convincing in her influence over Norman. Sure, there are scenes here and there where you could see that strong influence but generally, it seems that Norman’s madness is more the product of DID than his mother’s influence. Now, maybe that was the point all along.
And finally, the Marion Crane episode. I do get why Rihanna portrayed Marion: either she wanted it herself (maybe she’s a fan of “Psycho”) or the producers wanted a celebrity to increase the popularity of the show. To me, it’s more like a gimmick and I don’t think “Bates Motel” needed gimmicks. Rihanna is actually pretty decent (not to say average) but the fact that we know it’s her makes it impossible to see Marion. It’s simply impossible to unsee Rihanna. It takes away the credibility and makes it even more gimmicky. Still, seeing her getting into the shower brings you back to the movie. And here comes the twist that I personally like. Norman doesn’t kill Marion. Instead, he tells her that her boyfriend, Sam Loomis is actually married. She goes on to Sam’s house and smashes his car after which she returns to the motel where Norman comforts her and tells her to leave the town and not suffer anymore because of that evil man. Marion does and we never see Norman dressed as his mother kill her.
What does happen, though, is that Sam arrives at the motel and goes into room 1, the one Marion told him she was staying in. He gets into the shower to clean off (his wife threw some wine on him in rage). And here comes the legendary scene… while Sam is showering, Norman enters the bathroom and stabs him to death. Only this time, Norman is dressed like himself and is fully aware of what he’s doing. His mother helps him get rid of the body but Norman is so overrun by guilt that he decides to turn himself over to the police. Norma protests, of course, but Norman wants to do a good thing for once. And in prison, Norma “kills” Norman. So Norman finally becomes his mother, without the shred of his own personality.