Bates Motel Season 5 Episode 9: “Visiting Hours”
Directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi
Written by Scott Kosar
Created by Anthony Cipriano, Carlton Cuse, Kerry Ehrin
Starring Vera Farmiga, Freddie Highmore, Max Thieriot, Nestor Carbonell, Olivia Cooke, Ryan Hurst, Isabelle McNally A&E
Air Date: Monday, April 17th, 2017, 10pm
We arrive at the penultimate episode of A&E’s Bates Motel, what has become one of my favorite shows on television. As excited as Bates fans are for the conclusion to Norman’s saga, one can’t escape this bittersweet feeling.
Warning! Spoilers below for Bates Motel!
Last week, the ripple effects of his murder confession got wider. Norman (Freddie Highmore) had admitted to killing Sam Loomis, and Norma (Vera Farmiga) needed to take over completely. She immediately played it off as a lapse of medication and a cry for help, to deal with loneliness and unrequited love from Madeleine (Isabelle McNally). But less and less people are buying the stories now and soon Sheriff Greene (Brooke Smith) officially charged him with murder. Later cops pulled bodies from the lakes and found the drain pipe. By the end of the episode, it seemed not even Norma(n) could save her son from facing justice. Poor Dylan (Max Thieriot) just wanted his brother to receive the help he desperately needed, hiring him a top notch lawyer (Natalia Cordova-Buckley). That might not fly so well with Emma (Olivia Cooke) since one of the bodies fished from the lake was ID’ed as her mother. And then there’s poor former Sheriff Romero (Nestor Carbonell), who in his pursuit for revenge against Norman, had amassed an impressive criminal record, adding the murder of Chick (Ryan Hurst) to the list, shooting him after finding him in the Bates cellar readying his novel.
Spoilers below for this week’s Bates Motel:
The opening post title sequence is brilliant. Light pop music plays in the background as cops and forensics patrol every inch of the Bates estate, digging up everything from Emma’s mom’s luggage to Chick’s body. There’s a poignant scene between Dyl-Emma after where Emma reflects on “how sweet” Norman was when they met, and I’m instantly taken back to season 1 where they were high school teenagers who flirted with a romance. Now Dylan is trying to show sympathy for his wife, but she wants none of it, you know since her brother-in-law MURDERED HER MOTHER.
Dylan is in the proverbial rock and hard place. On one side, his brother may face the death penalty for serial murder if he doesn’t cooperate with the defense. On the other is Emma, grieving for her mother… this a life altering choice for Dylan. Put yourself in his shoes. What would YOU do?
You really see and feel the impact Norman Bates has had on White Pine Bay. The realization is that his journey is essentially done. He is in jail with only two real options left, the death penalty or life in an institution. But Dylan and Emma, and Madeleine – their lives are irrevocably changed. They have to clean to up the mess created, a mess maybe they all helped create from their interactions with Norman. Is that fair to place some of the blame on them? Perhaps not. Madeleine lays the guilt hammer down hard on Dylan, and when you consider he knew or at least had notions of what his brother was capable of, but he chose to disappear with Emma for years… she may have a point.
Then there is Romero. Nestor Carbonell does a fantastic job at portraying the descent down the rabbit hole of madness. He genuinely fell in love with Norma, and that love became twisted into hate for Norman upon finding out she was dead. He is a loose cannon with only one thing on his mind, and at the end we see how far he’s willing to go.
There is another aspect I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about during this last season, and that is how we as family members and society deal with mental illness. Since Hitchcock’s Psycho in 1960, Norman Bates has been associated with villainy. In 2003, the American Film Institute listed Norman Bates as the #2 ranked villain of all time. #1 was Dr. Hannibal Lecter from Silence of the Lambs (1991) played by Sir Anthony Hopkins. Lecter is a genius sociopath who lures victims to their death to fulfill a cannibalistic desire. Norman is essentially an early 20s undiagnosed schizophrenic with D.I.D. It’s not really a fair comparison. In its essence, Bates Motel shows this much better than Psycho did, albeit it had 5 seasons to do versus 2 hours. You feel sympathy for almost every character in this story because you are watching them be torn apart by a disability that if treated, could have prevented all the heartache and violence along the way. As a teacher who has worked with special education students, this aspect of Bates Motel is hard to ignore as we approach the finale.
As a penultimate episode this was perfect. There is really only one character left who has conflict and that’s Romero. Everyone else is forced to deal with the situation around them. The acting is, as always, on point and the writing and creative music choices made this an especially satisfying episode. I’ll be anxiously and sadly awaiting next week’s series finale.
The final episode of Bates Motel premieres next Monday night at 10:00pm ET only on A&E.