Two episodes were provided before broadcast.
In its fifth and final season, Psycho prequel series Bates Motel will finally catch up with the timeline of its cinematic precursor. What the show’s creators choose to keep or change from the original film looks to be half the fun of this season, making it especially exciting for fans of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 seminal masterpiece and grandfather of the slasher genre.
Last season’s shocking penultimate episode saw Norman Bate’s (Freddie Highmore) attempted murder-suicide result in the death of his mother (Vera Farmiga). If there was any question as to the presence of Norma Louise Bates going forward, those are answered quite emphatically during the opening moments. Jumping in time almost two years since the end of last season, we begin with Norman and Mother having breakfast together. The meeting clearly shows Norman is no longer himself but a combination of both mother and son.
This relationship has always been at the heart of Bates Motel and it’s being taken to the next level here. Vera Farmiga’s brought us one of the most layered, multi-dimensional female characters in television for the last four seasons and she’s a big reason why the series has remained a crowning jewel of the horror genre’s television explosion over the last half decade. Her take no nonsense approach to issues big and small combined with her often times inappropriate co-dependent nature with her son is now magnified and her desperation is making way for the most chillingly disturbed portrayal of Mother that we’ve seen yet.
Freddie Highmore, meanwhile, is moving and sounding more like Anthony Perkin’s original Norman. It’s so creepily good and serves to showcase what an outstanding evolution the actor has gone through over the course of the series. His blackouts have increased exponentially, too. Mother is slowly becoming the more dominant persona. She’s ever present and more controlling of Norman than ever before. We’re watching Norman become the man that the psychologist spoke of during the monologue at the end of Psycho. Two people at once, with either taking control at any given moment.
The first character from the original film to appear in the series besides Norman is Sam Loomis (Austin Nichols), and he’s no longer the money-less sap stuck paying alimony to his ex-wife. This iteration of the character is a cheating real-estate mogul married to Madeleine Loomis (Isabelle McNally), a woman who bears the striking resemblance of a young Norma Bates and shares a mutual interest in Norman. This represents a fascinating departure from the original story and proves that the season won’t just be a cut and paste affair.
Who’s to say that we aren’t witnessing a slightly skewed version of reality with Norman, though? In Psycho, Mother accused Marion Crane of flirting with Norman when she most obviously wasn’t. We may be seeing a similar scenario playing out with Madeleine Loomis. Are her advances an exaggeration of Norman’s mind? Now that Norman has taken on the persona of Mother, it will be interesting to see if the writers take advantage of the unreliable narrator, and we all know what Mother does to the women her son takes a liking to.
As is the case with final seasons, story threads will need to be tied up and secrets revealed. This season already seems to be doing a great job with bringing plot lines to a natural close though while also setting up new potential conflicts. The show moves at a faster and deliberate pace this time around as it hurtles forward with purpose, but still, it’s not afraid to take a breath and give us a tense scene suffused with subtle rage between Norman and Sheriff Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell), or a heartbreaking scene such as one with Caleb (Kenny Johnson). A man who can’t decide whether he should run from or atone for his sins, his character represents another quality of Bates Motel that should not go undervalued – the ability to go to controversial places with incredibly complicated characters while always remaining rooted in the exploration of the broken family.
Season 5 of Bates Motel gets off to a great start as the show continues to build its own legacy as a re-telling and not a remake. The writers look to be taking story threads from Psycho and merging them together, and by having the series go on a different path and not remain stubbornly beholden to the source material, it should keep us guessing right up until the inevitably bloody end.
Bates Motel season 5 is an exciting and refreshing take on the Psycho mythology and continues to be a showcase for the outstanding cast.