A&E’s Bates Motel
Season 5, Episode 6: “Marion”
Directed by Phil Abraham
Written by Carlton Cuse & Kerry Ehrin
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Dreams Die First” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Inseparable” – click here
Marion Crane (Rihanna) is just pulling in to the Bates Motel, where Sam Loomis (Austin Nichols) once took her. And waiting, as always, is Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore). We’re in prime Hitchcock-Bloch Psycho territory now!
In checks Marion to a quaint room, and Norman, he seems to recognise her, or something about her. He puts her right in Room 1, too. Y’know, to keep an eye on her real close, through his nifty little peephole. But Marion’s also hungry. And so we’re set up for that classic Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins sandwich scene, just slightly different. One of the reasons I love the series, the adaptation is so snappy. Always familiar yet also fresh.
Problem is that mother (Vera Farmiga) comes around, criticising, trying to make all of Norman’s choices. He’s accepted, as much as he can, that he is “insane” and forgets things, he dissociates from himself. He and mother are at odds, after he discovered her supposed secret. So, he’s accepted his insanity. He knows she isn’t there, but… she is, sort of. He still sees her because of Marion’s arrival. Mother disapproves of attractive women traipsing around her son. What we’re seeing here is a devastatingly sad plea from the inner part of Norman, the part that doesn’t want to be crazy. He insists on proving that mother isn’t real, which is only going to bring Norma out in worse, more full force.
Norman: “But the world is full of mad people who function, many of whom are heads of state, so I think I can manage running a motel.”
Emma (Olivia Cooke) reveals to Dylan (Max Thieriot) she found out Norma died, an apparent suicide. However, her estranged son doesn’t believe it. Despite her troubles Norma was a fighter, against all odds. It doesn’t surprise me that others would be suspicious.
At the motel, Norman brings Marion a sandwich. They sit in the back of his office, with the retro decor and the taxidermy. They talk a little, about the taxidermy; he explains it’s a way to honour the animals. Creepy, no matter how you cut it, Norman. Then eventually they come to talk of family. He says he lives with his mother. She lost her mother early on, her father didn’t want to keep her. A life on her own, essentially. He ruminates on love, caring for others – are the ones you love really the people you think they are, deep down?
Norman: “It‘s hard to be lonely, but it‘s also hard to love people.”
Sam can’t get away, unable to tell Marion he’s married to Madeleine (Isabelle McNally). But he has other problems. His wife, in spite of being angry with Norman for his intrusion on their marriage, isn’t happy that he’s been stepping out. And Marion’s still left in that motel.
Tsk, tsk, Norman. Naughty boy. Using that peephole to spy on his guest as she undresses. Mother’s not going to like this, not one bit. His internal struggle is so disturbingly realised visually, audibly, as he tries not to go insane listening to mother whisper in his ear. All the while Marion steps into the shower. Uh oh.
But there’s no Bernard Herrmann score, no stabbing. Marion decides to go to reception, she wants to see the registry. To find Sam. Now, Norman knows where he’s seen her before – right there at the motel with her clandestine boyfriend. Likewise she finds out about the dude’s wife, even if she doesn’t want to believe it right away. Then Norman gives up the address, and she sees for herself. An interesting, exciting twist to the Hitchcock plot we know so well.
Marion’s pissed. She smashes up Sam’s car for good measure before heading out, which puts Sam on the bad side of both his wife and mistress. Serves him right. I wonder where this mess is headed.
That night Dylan calls Norman, they argue over what happened to Norma. “You never knew her that well,” the younger brother scolds. I can see Dylan eventually coming back to White Pine Bay, he knows something isn’t right. In the meantime, Norman’s still got mother kicking around making his mind a tough place to be. Rather than let mother make supper, he makes his own. He tries his hardest to deny her presence. She throws the place into disarray until he admits she’s real. He’s lost ultimate control, and I don’t think there’s any going back. Not at this juncture in his psychosis.
At the motel Marion’s distressed, and Norman goes to see her. He tries comforting her what little he can. She’s double fucked because her boyfriend is a piece of shit, plus she also stole from her boss(/his client). Maybe triple fucked. Considering she’s sitting on a bed next to Norman; not the rebound man she’d like to get involved with, ideally. And unfortunately for her, in the predicament between Sam and her embezzlement, she’s like a perfect victim for psycho Norman. But the good part left in him, he tries to rush her away. He knows mother is lurking. Then off into the night goes Ms. Crane.
And Sam comes looking at the motel, to find an empty room. She even tossed her cell out the window off the highway, so he can’t reach her. In the back of the office, Norma talks to Norman about his father, and then they get real. As psychosis to psycho. Mother was a tough front against things he “couldn‘t stand to feel.” But she says that now, he must feel those things. Knowledge is a double-edged sword. After she indoctrinates him to the truth of his life, Norman is convinced that Sam Loomis is a bad, bad man. Just like his father.
Norma: “We are two parts of the same person. Both are very real.”
Well, looks like we’ve found our new shower scene.
Norman goes into Room 1 while Sam showers. And while Roy Orbison’s “Crying” plays, rather than the iconic Herrmann score, a semi-lucid Norman stabs him to death. Blood spraying. Roy wailing in the background. Sam pulls the shower curtain down, too. What a magnificent, sick adaptation! Wow.
Norman: “Oh, mother. What have I done?”
This is now my second favourite episode of the series. Downright fantastic stuff! I keep saying the adapted writing is spectacular. Ehrin and Cuse pull out all stops here. Truly great work, all around. Love how we thought Marion was going to die as she did in the film, then they switched it up perfectly. I can’t get over it, honestly. Excited for “Inseparable” next week.