The Walking Dead – Season 5, Episode 4: “Slabtown”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 5, Episode 4: “Slabtown”
Directed by Michael E. Satrazemis
Written by Matthew Negrete & Channing Powell

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Four Walls and a Roof” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Self Help” – click here
IMG_0265A change of pace in this episode, as we segue into where Beth (Emily Kinney) was taken after she and Daryl (Norman Reedus) were holed up in the funeral home. She wakes up in a clean room. An actual working clock counts through the hours. Although she’s locked inside, unable to get out. A woman named Officer Dawn Lerner (Christine Woods) and a man called Dr. Steven Edwards (Erik Jensen) show up, saying some of the other police came across her on the road; “surrounded by rotters” and now in the debt of these people, supposedly.
Yikes, I don’t like the look of this place one bit. Don’t dig that officer, either.
Note: One of my favourite minor things about the series is how everyone has their own term for zombies, such as walkers, biters, now rotters. Some people think it’s dumb to not say the word zombies. I think it’s perfect, because this doesn’t take place in a world where zombie movies are part of the zeitgeist, as many films usually don’t. So shut up complaining, dummies.
IMG_0266The hospital still runs with power, machines pumping, clocks running. They’re taking care of people. But there’s also a sinister undercurrent. The remaining police force in the city seem to be running the place, under commander of Lerner, of course. There are other normal people, too. Such as Noah (Tyler James Williams), mopping floors and doing various jobs; other patients in rooms, none of them seemingly eager to say much about their life in the hospital.
Beth: “If you feel safe enough to be bored, youre lucky.”
Beth’s finding out that living at the hospital is a give and take situation, of the worst kind. Eating food, you’ve got to pay in work; or worse, if some of those male officers had their way, I bet. I fucking hope nothing nasty happens. Else there’s hell to pay.
That’s the last of things. Officer Lerner and Dr. Edwards have a contentious relationship at times. He takes pity on Beth in private, though plays the part in front of the boss. He’s also more stable than her. When he knows he can’t save an injured man she slaps Beth across the face drawing blood, like a psychopath.
In general the hospital’s not a nice place. Other than Noah, who leaves Beth a lollipop and tries explaining how things work there. It’s not exactly how Officer Lerner paints the picture. You’ve got to escape to get free. Right now our girl is feeling the pressure from Dawn as she acts like the saviour only doing good for others.
IMG_0267Later, Joan – a woman who’s had an arm amputated after a bite – makes clear to Beth there are bad things going on. The men there, they are devious. Scary. And the boss lady feels it’s easier not to keep them on too tight a leash. Officer Gorman starts harassing Beth, clearly an animal, and Dr. Edwards steps in. This cop is doing awful shit.
The doc tells Beth about a guy named Hanson, Dawn’s previous boss; he went a bit nuts, before she took things over. Beth can’t accept that staying there is better than anything else. She’d rather be on her own than in that hell, especially if she could find her sister and the others again.
Beth gives a patient an injection, helping Dr. Edwards. The guy ODs, after which Dawn has to put him down for good. Noah covers, saying he accidentally unplugged a machine. Beth gave him the wrong drug – did she? – but he took a beating for it. Dawn knows, either way. This woman is over the edge, though. She thinks they’re going to rebuild the world while many others are merely trying to survive the next day.
Dawn: “Some people just arent meant for this life
Now, Noah and Beth are planning on leaving together, getting away from the hospital. They start enacting their plan to leave. But she gets found by Officer Gorman as she sneaks where she shouldn’t be sneaking in Dawn’s office. Looks like the cop wants to get nasty, he’s a true predator. She pretends momentarily, as Joan – lying dead on the floor behind the desk – reanimates and chews into his throat. CHRIST! Great practical makeup effects here.
IMG_0269Beth sends Dawn unknowing to her office while she and Noah head for the elevator shaft to flee. He lowers her down; at the bottom in the basement is a pile of corpses. Both of them reach the floor, though he does so with a fall. On through the darkness the pair goes, slow and steady. They finally make it outside, only to find more of the dead wandering free.
As Noah manages to get away, Beth’s take back by Officer O’Donnell (Ricky Wayne). They’ve, of course, found Gorman, gutted in the office. Beth calls out Dawn for letting bad things happen while she pretends things are fine, like they’ll all be saved soon. All for nothing, these horrors. This woman is fucking insane, too.
How long can Beth last here? How long can she stay alive?
Well, there’s a familiar face that just came in on a stretcher: Carol (Melissa McBride), of all people.
IMG_0270Nice to catch up with Beth, I can’t imagine what’ll happen next. If Noah somehow comes across her people, it might lead them to the hospital. “Self Help” is the following episode, hopefully showing us more of Beth’s situation, as well as pointing towards a way out for her, somehow, some way.

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The Walking Dead – Season 5, Episode 3: “Four Walls and a Roof”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 5, Episode 3: “Four Walls and a Roof”
Directed by Jeffrey F. January
Written by Angela Kang & Corey Reed

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Strangers” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Slabtown” – click here
IMG_0259The Terminus cannibals are juxtaposed well visually with the zombies, tearing human flesh between their teeth. These people were essentially just waiting for the world to end, so that they could become who they were; I don’t care what happened to them at Terminus, they didn’t have to eat anybody. It’s just how they chose to deal with the post-apocalypse landscape. They weren’t strong enough, they’re weak and nasty people.
Gareth: “You join us, or feed us.”
Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr) is minus a leg from the knee down. He has to listen to Gareth (Andrew J. West) go on about what type of people he likes to eat; most people like women best. Gross. “I think pretty people taste better, too.”
But suddenly Bob erupts in laughter at them, cackling in mockery. He’s officially getting the last laugh in this situation. Back at the food back last episode, he was in fact bitten. They’ve been eating his “tainted meat.” And this evacuates some of their stomachs pretty fast. Whoa.
IMG_0260Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) worries about her man, so she goes looking. Tyreese (Chad Coleman) and Rick (Andrew Lincoln) meet up with her, also worried about wherever Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Carol (Melissa McBride) took off. They go back to have a talk with Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), wondering if he has something to do with the disappearances. They want to know what he did, what secrets he’s hiding. Turns out he wouldn’t let people from his congregation inside, leaving them to the walkers outside his door.
Then they find Bob, leg gone, lying out in the grass, left alone. He tells them of the cannibals. As well as shows them his bite. More tragedy. Meanwhile, Abraham wants to get gone, to get Dr. Eugene Porter (Josh McDermitt) to Washington. Rick and the rest won’t go, not yet. It’s a bit of a clash between the two, until Glenn (Steven Yeun) negotiates a bit more time for them to stay together.
Sad to see Sasha having to let go of Bob already, as he’s one foot in the grave. They were only starting to get into their relationship, falling for one another. While the others are preparing to go out, she wants to go. But Tyreese suggests she stay, take what time she has left with Bob. Except she tasks him with staying, putting Bob out of his misery when the time comes. I tell ya, poor Ty gets roped into some shit, man. He’s expected to be tougher than others, simply because they know he can; that he is tougher.
IMG_0261So off goes Rick & Co, looking for the cannibals to dole out revenge, some real justice. However, Gareth and his people are watching closely, and they slink out of the forest when the crew leaves. Oh, fuck me. Only a few people remain, one of which is Carl, along with Rosita (Christian Serratos) and a couple more.
Judith’s crying alerts Gareth, but quickly Rick and the others are back. Silenced pistol shots blasting through heads, before he commands the cannibals to drop their guns and kneel. “We used to help people,” Gareth pleads like any cowardly monster would in his position; blaming his transformation on others. A couple seconds later Rick and Abraham and Sasha are murdering the cannibals, viciously, taking out what revenge they can in a few strokes of gun handles and machetes. Oh, and Michonne (Danai Gurira) gets her sword back! Yeah, girl.
On his deathbed, Bob thanks Rick for assuring him there are good people remaining in the world. Thankful for being taken into the group. Terminus offered salvation and sanctuary, whereas Rick and his people genuinely deliver survival. Afterwards, Sasha must watch Bob slip away. Then her brother offers to put him down, so that she doesn’t have to be responsible.
IMG_0262Abraham, Rosita, Eugene, Maggie, Glenn – they’re heading out on the bus for Washington. Although Rick and the rest confirm they’ll meet them again. Somewhere down the road. For now it’s a goodbye, or a see you later.
One important look at the humanity remaining in the survivors is how Rick and Tyreese dig graves outside for the dead. They’re still keeping to tradition, to the old way of things. And I think within these small rituals there’s a way to remain in touch with oneself, hopefully something that will help these people retain their humanity for a long while.
That night, Daryl comes back. Without Carol, or so it seems. Where is she? What’s happened?
IMG_0264Another great episode, especially seeing as how we’re privy to the revenge against the Terminus cannibals. That’s a refreshing thing to see, instead of any further terrorising. Makes that villain plot quick, succinct, rather than dragging it out too far. Perfectly written, this arc.
“Slabtown” is next, where we get a glimpse of a familiar face we haven’t seen for some time. And we get the scoop on whatever’s going on with Daryl and Carol.

The Walking Dead – Season 5, Episode 2: “Strangers”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 5, Episode 2: “Strangers”
Directed by David Boyd
Written by Robert Kirkman

* For a recap & review of the Season 5 premiere, “No Sanctuary” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Four Walls and a Roof” – click here
IMG_0251Terminus has fallen. Our survivors are out on the road like before, though they’ve certainly discovered some things about themselves. Rick (Andrew Lincoln) is back in the saddle, he and Carl (Chandler Riggs) reunited with Judith. Tara (Alanna Masterson) ends up talking with Rick, who says he talked to her at the prison because he knew she didn’t want to be there. So the group’s getting bigger, more cosy. Trusting one another better. Carol (Melissa McBride) and Tyreese (Chad Coleman) bond further, as he pushes for everyone to accept what she did to Karen and David at the prison. But they decide on not saying anything about Lizzie, Mika, what happened at that cabin: “I need to forget it,” Tyreese says.
Moreover, Rick tells Carol he owes her his life. All the same he admits not totally liking what she did, likewise admitting she knew things he didn’t at the time. Plus she’s proved herself as one of the ultimate survivors, she was out there alone for a long while with only herself to rely on. Daryl’s (Norman Reedus) glad to have her back. They share an intimate connection, both the victims of abuse in their own right. It’s nice to see them sharing the same space again.
The group doesn’t realise, though… someone is nearby, watching them.
IMG_0252Daryl picks up on this and tells Rick in the morning while they move onward. This pleases Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), he’d like to get back to the streets and out of the woods. When they get further they come across a priest, Father Gabriel Stokes (Seth Gilliam), being attacked by a group of walkers. They dispatch the dead and save him. He’s scared out of his wits, even pukes a good one. Not armed: “Word of God is the only protection I need.”
They’re all naturally sceptical of the priest. Although he has a church; something that could prove useful, for shelter at least. Rick gives him the three questions, it appears Father Gabriel follows the Bible to the letter and hasn’t killed anyone; or anything.
When they make it to the church the group inspect the place, finding no one else. Nothing but scripture, the holy word in its various books transcribed by hand. THOU SHALT NOT KILL in boldest of letters. There’s something strange about it all. They’ve got one particularly good thing to use – a short bus to fix. Plan is to gather food, water, any ammunition possible. Abraham’s itching to leave, except for the fact most everyone else would rather follow Rick.
The priest tells everyone about a place nearby where there may still be supplies. A group, along with Father Gabriel, are heading out; dad leaves Carl behind with Tyreese to look after Judith. He explains to his boy that he is “not safe” despite wherever they may be, whoever’s there, any of that. There’s never safety in this new world.
IMG_0253At their destination, Rick & Co discover a building and its storage area flooded, zombies water logged and bloated. The gang get down into the flooded area to scavenge, using shelves to block the dead. Father Gabriel panics when one of them come for him, freezing. Rick manages to get to him before he’s chomped. Poor Bob (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) nearly gets a bite, too. Barely coming out unscathed. All in all, they make off with a bunch of goods.
Back at the church, Carl’s found scratches on the outside windows. Somebody trying to get inside. He also found found a message left for the priest by some angry people. That night they’ve all got full bellies, eating better than they have in a long, long time. The Sarge makes a toast to “the survivors” leading into a speech about going to Washington.  Will they all go? Or choose to stay and take their chances long as they can in that church? “Were in,” Rick says after Judith leads.
IMG_0255 Afterwards, the former sheriff speaks with Father Gabriel. He knows the priest is hiding something. He doesn’t want his secrets to hurt their group. At the same time, Carol and Daryl run into each other. They wind up seeing the car that took Beth (Emily Kinney), so off they rush in a vehicle to give chase.
Worst is that Bob is knocked out while in the woods by himself. He wakes to Gareth (Andrew J. West), a still living Martin (Chris Coy), and a few others. They’re still eating people. This time, they’ve taken a portion of Bob’s leg. A good campfire meal.
Gareth: “If it makes you feel any better, you taste much better than we thought you would.”
IMG_0258This was a solid follow-up to the premiere, a deafening blow. Lingering on the Terminus cannibals, now out in the wild, is a treat. Because it’s some of the most vicious stuff we’ve seen the survivors up against.
“Four Walls and a Roof” is next, continuing the stories of the cannibals, our survivors, and the new addition Father Gabriel.

The Walking Dead – Season 5, Episode 1: “No Sanctuary”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 5, Episode 1: “No Sanctuary”
Directed by Greg Nicotero
Written by Scott M. Gimple

* For a recap & review of the Season 4 finale, “A” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Strangers” – click here
IMG_0236In that railway car where last we saw Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and the gang, we see Gareth (Andrew J. West) and his own friends. They hear the sounds of screams outside somewhere. Obviously, their standing changed. Drastically.
Now we hear our survivors talking, Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) telling of what happened when they arrived at Terminus, Daryl (Norman Reedus) speaking of the car which abducted Beth (Emily Kinney). As they prepare with anything possible – belts, a scrap of metal, whatever’s near – to fight off the people who’ve taken them captive.
But they’re ambushed, taken into a building where bodies are being cut up. Bins marked FEED, BURN, WASH. Blood. They’re cannibals. Rick and his people are lined up on their knees in front of a trough. This is where they crack people in the head with a baseball bat before slitting their throats, draining the bodies. The first? The young man, Sam (Robin Lord Taylor), who Rick ran into while he and Carol (Melissa McBride) were scavenging together.
Before Glenn (Steven Yeun) can meet his comic book death, Gareth interrupts with menial numbers, counting shells they’ve used up. Then he questions Rick about the bag he buried. The former sheriff tells him straight: “Theres guns in it.” He even lists the various weapons in there, too. Telling Gareth there’s a machete in there with his name on it. Terminus runs on a tight schedule, in order to appear welcoming, as sanctuary. So the killing needs to be finished.
Only it doesn’t get done. An explosion sounds outside, the building shakes. Somebody’s attacking Terminus.
IMG_0238Carol and Tyreese (Chad Coleman) are on their way up the tracks with Judith. We see how much more used to surviving Carol is juxtaposed with everyone else, simply because she had to survive an abusive husband. Although I’d argue she and Tyreese are a good pair; he’s had to survive being black in America, now all this shit. Soon, they hear gunfire up ahead, which luckily draws away a horde of walkers that was heading for them.
They bump into a man named Martin (Chris Coy) and take him hostage, he says they’ve got the “boy and the samurai” and the group attacked their people. Carol is prepared to go killing while Tyreese is left with Judith, watching over their captive. She prepares to head on by covering herself in a zombie’s guts. Meanwhile, Martin chips away at Tyreese, taunting that he and the baby are “going to die today.” But I wouldn’t be so sure about that, despite the guy making a couple good points. No reason to keep him around, and that’s the difference between Tyreese and these people at Terminus. He’s not willing to kill indiscriminately. Not yet.
At the Terminus fence, Carol sees Rick and the others bound, carted off elsewhere. She readies her rifle, scoping out the surroundings. Locating a large propane tank, a group of walkers closing in on the compound. She blows a hole in the tank, then sets off a firework to light the blaze. This was the explosion we heard.
Now the fence is open, walkers are headed inside, and she’s given her friends a fighting chance. Carol moves in, covered in guts, like a goddamn bad ass.
IMG_0240Terminus is falling, fast. Inside, Rick cuts himself free then opens up the remaining men. He gets the others loose, though in the railway car the rest of the gang are worried, hearing the madness just beyond the doors. Although Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Carl (Chandler Riggs) assure the group they’ll be okay, long as they’re ready to fight when the time comes. And Michonne (Danai Gurira), she looks ready as ever!
Glenn makes clear to Rick they have to save people locked in a shipping container in the yard: “Thats still who we are. It has to be.” They do, and only one insane man is left inside. He ends up bitten by walkers. Seeing Glenn insist on keeping their humanity, coupled with Tyreese’s mindset, there’s rays of hope throughout the violence and the insanity. To know human beings CAN keep themselves, despite it being a hard battle.
Rick commandeers an assault rifle, as he and Daryl make their way across the yard to Glenn and Bob at the container. In the compound, Carol finds Daryl’s crossbow and other items, as well as the shrine-like room with all the names of the dead written in a circle. As well as one of the leaders, Mary (Denise Crosby). The two women end up fighting tooth and nail, until Carol gets the drop on her; Mary tries explaining herself, but fuck that. She’s left with a bullet in her and some zombie friends.
Mary: “Youre the butcher, or youre the cattle.”
IMG_0241At the cabin, Martin gets his hands on Judith while Tyreese looks out the window at a pack of walkers. He forces Tyreese to go outside. Holy fuck. Soon enough our man busts open the front door, crawling on top of his captive with a knife. Choosing to beat him brutally instead. To death.
Those left in the railway car prepare, and they’re also curious about Dr. Eugene Porter (Josh McDermitt), his information about the possible cure. He says he was involved with the Human Genome Project, knows how to take out “every last dead one ofem.” And this gives them all a boost, a feeling of wanting to survive. Just as Rick opens the door for them to lead the escape. They get themselves over the fence, into the woods. Safety not guaranteed anymore, as if it ever were before. Rick wants to kill the remaining people at Terminus, though the others want to leave; I say kill anyone still breathing.
Then, a reunion – Carol comes out of the trees, into the arms of Daryl. She and Rick making amends for all that’s behind them. And the best one of all? Rick and Carl find Judith again with Tyreese, who has his own moment with Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) after so long. More of the beautiful light left in this ugly, new world.
Now it’s on the road again, onto the tracks. Anywhere but there. Before they go Rick makes sure to write NO SANCTUARY for anyone who might happen to pass. We also get another look at long ago, when Gareth and Mary and their people were surviving the monsters at Terminus; the people who turned them into the monsters they later became.
IMG_0243Intense episode, a great way to start off Season 5. Assures that along with the character growth and the tense plots we’re also going to witness more of the gruesome side of the post-zombie apocalypse, again exemplifying how the humans are worse than the walkers.
“Strangers” is next and moves us into the next phase for Rick & Co.

Bates Motel – Season 5, Episode 10: “The Cord”

A&E’s Bates Motel
Season 5, Episode 10: “The Cord”
Directed by Tucker Gates
Written by Kerry Ehrin & Carlton Cuse

* For a recap & review of the penultimate episode, “Visiting Hours” – click here
Pic 1Here we are at the series finale! The title of the episode refers to Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) talking to Mother (Vera Farmiga) about “the cord” between their hearts connecting them. Well, I bet it’s about to be cut, or snap in two. One way or another.
Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) has Regina (Aliyah O’Brien) and Norman in the car, heading to where the young man put Norma while he was off taking care of everything else. No telling how far the vengeance will go, or if it’ll even happen. Who knows where any of this is headed.
I know it’s nowhere any good. He lets Regina go, then he and Norman are left to trek in the woods by themselves.
Pic 1ASheriff Jane Greene (Brooke Smith) is picking up the pieces after Romero’s daring break-in to find the object of his revenge. She brings Dylan (Max Thieriot) in to tell him what happened, as well as to try figuring out where they may be gone. “He took him somewhere to kill him,” says Dylan with grim confidence.
What’s super interesting about the back half of this final season is how the older brother is concerned for the younger’s mental health. He knows he’s dangerous, but also there’s the knowledge that Norman is mentally ill; there is something wrong with him and there has been a LONG TIME. No one ever helped, Mother made it worse, now he’s a lost cause. Much like real life many want to only concern themselves with the crime, instead of paying attention to the terrible reasons for why it happened. And not always as easy done as said, which Dylan understands.
In the snowy woods Romero starts seeing the disconnect in Norman’s brain, between him and Mother. Although, unfortunately, he doesn’t quite comprehend it yet. Not enough to save him, as Mother takes over duties and remedies their situation. Once Alex helps uncover the cold corpse of Mrs. Bates he lets his guard down long enough to get himself killed by having his head smashed followed by a couple bullets from his own gun. In his dying words the former sheriff taunts, and Mother comes to tell Norman she has to leave. There’s no longer any need for her to protect him.
The cord’s been cut.
Romero: “You killed your own mother. You cant hide from it.”


Norman wakes up to Mother, next to him in bed. Things are bright and sunny and beautiful. She isn’t dead, they’re together. She makes breakfast for them. Only it’s all illusion; or, better put, delusion. He’s still in the snow bleeding, remembering happier times with Mother before they moved away from their old home. What a creepy sequence. As if he and Mother are first heading to White Pine Bay all over again, the beginning of a new life.
After all the horror, Norman Bates has gone back home.
In town, Dylan gets together with his old pal Remo Wallace (Ian Tracey), who’s still working for a marijuana grow op but a bigger, better one. They reunite, reminiscing on happier things. Remo’s brought him a little package: a gun. What for, exactly? Protection? Perhaps it’s a tool, a permanent and fatal medication for his ailing brother.
Speaking of Norman, he’s literally lost in delusion. Believing it’s the first time they’ve come to the motel, that he’s setting the pace up for business. A woman and her kids come to stay, which already scares me. With him hallucinating, forgetting, remembering things as current day, it’s a volatile place to be; anywhere near the Bates Motel for that matter.
Norman calls Dylan and this makes his delusional mind even clearer, saying that they’ve gotten to the “new house” and so on. Jesus. It’s just another reason for Dylan to think about whether he should help solve his younger brother’s problems permanently.
Pic 3Mother’s corpse is put away in her room, as Norman prepares for dinner with his brother. This is a tense moment leading up to their meal. We can feel Dylan struggling within. He calls up Emma (Olivia Cooke) and tells her what’s happening. She, obviously, suggests to call the sheriff, but he thinks it’ll end with cops rushing in, his brother dead. Their phone call is devastatingly emotional, as it could be the last time they ever talk. W’re about to find out.
Dylan readies himself to go up there with his gun. He also sees there are guests in the motel, whom he goes to warn. After they flee Dylan goes to the house, where Norman is happy to greet him, busy cooking supper. He tries to break through the psychosis, the delusional thought. However, it becomes terrifying for him once he sees that Mother is literally there for dinner with them, dead and half frozen at the head of the table. Actually makes him vomit.
Then everything gets intense. Dylan pleads with Norman to see the truth. Afterwards, young Bates grabs a knife and goes toward his brother who takes out his gun. “I just want to be with her, Dylan,” he says. When he charges at his brother with the blade Dylan is forced to shoot him. As Norman slips away he sees a vision of Norma, alive again, waiting for him out there in the forest with open arms, together once more.

Pic 4CA rendition of “Dream a Little Dream of Me” plays while the cops flood the Bates Motel, the woods where they locate Romero’s dead body. We see the motel go up for sale all over again, that old, eerie house with all its secrets sitting up on the hill, waiting for new owners to give it life. Emma and Dylan are still together, living happily after all the terror. And out in a quaint graveyard sits the Bates grave, Mother and her boy eternally in the ground. Noticeably, his side is a little empty while hers is filled with praise. Oh, Norman.
Pic 5What a great series! Loved the end. Even though I expected Dylan to be the one to finish off the legacy, I also didn’t know how it would go down. Great stuff, horrific and dramatic and all around excellent. An amazing adaptation, as I’ve said time and time again. Kudos to the entire cast and crew for a job well done.

Bates Motel – Season 5, Episode 9: “Visiting Hours”

A&E’s Bates Motel
Season 5, Episode 9: “Visiting Hours”
Directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi
Written by Scott Kosar

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Body” – click here
* For a recap & review of the series finale, “The Cord” – click here
Pic 1Norman (Freddie Highmore) is being booked into the police station, going through processing. Well, Mother (Vera Farmiga) is there, too. Love the excellent use of the idea of the double personality. How we see both Mother and Norman in the frame at once, as others only see the latter. Mother’s not happy to hear about the next steps, that her boy is likely headed to jail. Sweet, young Norman wouldn’t do well behind bars.
Emma (Olivia Cooke) and Dylan (Max Thieriot) are finally back together. She didn’t want him to be alone dealing with all the madness. Now, she also discovers her mother is dead, dredged from the lake. Murdered. And Dylan knows “it was Norman.” It’s not just the fact her mom is dead. It’s the fact Emma lived there in White Pine Bay, being around Norman and Mother so long, and she had no idea that this budding psychopath lurked in his skin. That one day he would do something so horrible. Such a feeling of deception, a truly deep betrayal.
Pic 1AThe Bates Motel is a scene of massive interest, various law enforcement teams searching the grounds, metal detectors, crime scene investigation. Sheriff Jane Greene (Brooke Smith) and a team are inside the eerie house, where Mother’s room remains untouched, and obviously her son’s been sleeping in her bed like a creep. A veritable house of horrors, if there ever were one. Outside they find luggage belonging to Audrey Decody, Emma’s mother. Downstairs, there’s poor Chick (Ryan Hurst), shot in the head by the still fleeing jailbird former Sheriff Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell).
Speaking of Alex, he’s like a man with nothing at all whatsoever to lose. No telling what his next move is, part of the fun.
Meanwhile, Emma reels from the news about her mother, about Norman. I also feel bad for Dylan because, despite his own troubles and mistakes, he never wanted any of this, for himself or Emma. “You didnt bring Norman into my life,” she tells him. Things between the two of them aren’t easy, and she isn’t sure what this means for their relationship.
Lawyer Julia Ramos (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) visits with Norman/Mother. They speak of the coming trial, what he/she ought to expect. They have to discuss their “approach.” Y’know, keeping Norman alive. She wants to go for an insanity plea. Love this sequence, too. The editing cuts us from Mother speaking to Norman taking over. There’s a real battle happening inside that one body.
Norman: “Everyone has multiple personalities, Julia. We pull out what we need when we have to.”


The trouble between Dylan and Emma is compounded by the fact Julia wants him in court to sit behind Norman, to support his brother. It’s very difficult for him to turn his back. Not that a serial killer deserves sympathy. But this is the enjoyable part of this Psycho adaptation, is that Norman isn’t only this disturbed killer, we’ve seen a much more expanded, complex vision of who Norman Bates is and how he reached this destination. Because slashers are great, I personally love them.
But Bates has always been a more interesting character than a slasher; Hitchcock’s film and Peeping Tom from Michael Powell gave birth to the genre. He’s had more to him even in the little we get to see his psychosis through Hitchcock. Which is why I think Bates Motel is a worthy piece in the makeup of Norman Bates as a character, as it doesn’t squander the prequel. It does the story and the characters justice.
Alex is still out on the run. He gets gas and runs into a man interested in the late ’60s-era car he’s driving. Just a friendly thing, but enough to fuel more paranoia for a man escaping the law. And everywhere he goes he’s still reminded of Norma, the fact that Norman is a killer, so on.
In court, Dylan shows up to support his brother regardless of the trouble it causes; hard to turn your back on family, particularly the crazy ones. A preliminary hearing. First up is Sheriff Greene on the stand, who talks about the murder of Blackwell, as well as Sam Loomis and Emma’s mother. To see Norman listen to the recounting of his crimes along with others, probably the first time he’s actually faced them, it’s chilling. Now we’re seeing people heap blame on Dylan, for knowing there was something deeply wrong with his brother and not doing something about it. That’s unfair as a judgement.


Emma says goodbye to her mother in a quick cremation ceremony. She brings the ashes out to the woods and scatters them on the open air. Sort of a fitting tribute for a woman who so obviously lived a travelling lifestyle, away from her family. Sweet, but definitely simultaneously bitter. She and Dylan keep putting their best foot forward together, though it’s unclear how well that’ll work in the long run.
Before leaving Emma goes to visit Norman. It’s a painful thing, as he puts on his best act. Although it’s all but clear Mother is operating the controls for that conversation. Not accepting the blame, the best defence. And Emma knows, she asks: “Wheres Norman?” Then the conversation shifts with Mother talking directly to her. Ah, the psychosis is so very evident, in full view for the first time for her.
Not long later Alex puts a gun to Julia in the parking lot, pushing his way inside the station. Closer to Norman. He puts everyone at gunpoint, making the officers hug the floor. He takes things slow, being careful, disarming them. Another officer shows up and gets a bullet to the shoulder.
Romero gets to the cell, then Norman is taken out as the officers are locked inside. He almost chokes the young man to death before letting go. He piles himself, Norman, and Regina into a car, then they’re headed to wherever the son put Mother’s body. Shiiiit.


What a spectacular penultimate episode to this series! Wow. I’m consistently amazed by this series, and now and then it really takes me for a perfect ride. I think Season 5’s been my favourite of all, honestly. They’re swinging for the fences and producing the best Norman Bates prequel that they could have done. Last episode is “The Cord” and I believe that’ll be in reference to the cord connecting Mother and Norman, the figurative umbilical cord still attaching the boy to his mom? Maybe. We’ll see.

Bates Motel – Season 5, Episode 8: “The Body”

A&E’s Bates Motel
Season 5, Episode 8: “The Body”
Directed by Freddie Highmore
Written by Erica Lipez

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Inseparable” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Visiting Hours” – click here
Pic 1Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) has turned himself in, as Dylan (Max Thieriot) was nearly consumed whole by his psychosis. Now Sheriff Jane Greene (Brooke Smith) is at the house, asking questions, while Norman begs for his medication, to be taken away from that place where Mother (Vera Farmiga) lurks in the shadows. He is all but literally screaming out for help. This is another reason why I love the adaptation of Hitchcock and Bloch’s Psycho(s), because it’s twisted into something very familiar yet wholly unique. Whereas the Norman we saw in Hitchcock was utterly insane, his life as Mother basically hidden from his own view, Highmore’s Norman is one who recognises he is crazy and wants that to change, or at the least be contained.
So on he goes to the station where Sheriff Greene interrogates him about Blackwell and an unidentified corpse of a woman. The young man’s mind is fractured into so many pieces it could take years before all of it comes as a proper puzzle. But right now, he can’t even get help. The sheriff thinks he’s a “child” who adopted an “adult affect” and that this story’s a made-up, tall tale.
And what a microcosm of modern mental health! The guy is calling for someone to aid him in combating his own thoughts, his own dark mind. All she can do is believe it’s a cry for attention. Norman knows, though; he knows that he has killed, more than once.
Pic 1AThey lock him in a cell for the night. He gets his medication, thankfully. I only wonder, how will even a night play out stuck in such a tiny space with Mother yapping? Well, she antes up and sticks her fingers down her boy’s throat to make him spew the pill. Can’t have him being medicated, away from her influence. Then, as Mother, he bashes himself unconscious; or at least that part
Note: Highmore directed this episode, and right away in this scene he does this interesting shot where Norma cradles Norman, and they’re framed through the upright toilet seat, as if the world is enclosed with the frame itself, a world where only the two of them exist.
At the diner, Dylan talks with an attorney, Julia Ramos (Natalia Cordova-Buckley), about his brother. He mentions that Emma’s (Olivia Cooke) mother showed up at the motel, then suddenly disappeared. Highly suspicious, to any eyes.
With Mother calling the shots she’s out demanding to leave the station. Using all her powers to persuade Sheriff Greene. This doesn’t work. The sheriff puts Norman under arrest, and Mother’s LIVID!


Ah, my man – Charles ‘Chick’ Hogan (Ryan Hurst). He’s back and listening to John Denver. He sees that the Bates Motel is awash in law enforcement of all kinds: “Oh, deary, deary me,” laments the big guy. He was there to bring over a bit of taxidermy, only to find the place in upheaval. He’s glad to hear Norman isn’t dead, that’s one good thing.
Julia goes to speak with Norman, hired by Dylan. Things are difficult due to his apparent confession. Compounded by the fact he gave them places to look specifically for bodies. Norma’s still operating the controls, hoping to figure out how she and her boy can weasel out of the confession; you can see the wheels turning, as Mother smiles back through Norman’s eyes.
And Dylan; oh, Dylan! I want him to get back home to Emma and the baby. It scares me the longer he’s in White Pine Bay, away from his family… too close to Norman, and Mother.
So we’ve got Julia doing her best to represent Norman. He’s so different when in his Mother persona, even Sheriff Greene sees that but just can’t explain it. Norman talks a good game about being in love with Madeleine Loomis (Isabelle McNally), then seeing Sam cheating behind her back. He says Madeleine came to her one night, telling him Sam was dead, out in the woods. WOW! Mother’s actually trying to pin this on the innocent wife, shedding tears through Norman and everything. What manipulation.


The sheriff goes to speak with Madeleine about her husband. To investigate the bizarre claims of Norman. Things are about to get quite interesting, especially once the cops go looking around at the old well in the forest.
Dylan gets a visit from Sheriff Greene. They’ve identified the corpse of the woman in the lake – Audrey Ellis, Emma’s mother. His worst suspicions confirmed. “I understand loyalty,” the sheriff tells him, advising that families can be destroyed by far less than the darkness that’s swallowing his whole currently.
In other news, Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) is leaving Maggie’s (Jillian Fargey) place. He found his gun. Only, what’s next for him? What is his endgame? He’s already back at the motel, staring up at that creepy house. He goes inside, seeing the ghost of Norma on the stairs, the painful memories everywhere.
When he goes downstairs he finds Chick, typing away working on his book, listening to the tapes he made of Norman. Alex demands to know why he’s there, so Chick explains the friendship he had with young Bates. After their talk, Romero’s curious where Norman put Mother’s body. Then he puts a bullet in Chick’s brain.
Police have come across the well Norman/Mother spoke of, where he says Madeleine rambled about putting her husband’s dead body. Sure enough, there it is, right where they left the thing. Too many weird pieces for Sheriff Greene to understand yet. She goes back for another chat with Norman; only brief, to say he’s been charged with killing Blackwell and Emma’s mother, as well.
Shit. Mother’s plans didn’t work out like she expected.


This was a fantastic episode directed by Highmore! A talented young gentleman, I hope he directs some films eventually. Lots of promise in the direction here, a good eye.
Up next is “Visiting Hours” and we’re getting so close to the grim finale. I can’t even imagine how it’ll play out at the end.

Bates Motel – Season 5, Episode 7: “Inseparable”

A&E’s Bates Motel
Season 5, Episode 7: “Inseparable”
Directed by Steph Green
Written by Freddie Highmore

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Marion” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Body” – click here
Pic 1Now that Norman (Freddie Highmore) has killed Sam Loomis, there’s a little of issue of disposing of the body with which he has to deal. Luckily he’s got Mother (Vera Farmiga) to help. She’s old hand at these kinds of things. The two split psyches each take their own respective duties, as she handles all the bloody, messy bits. To help protect her boy from the nasty truth. Regardless, he’s having trouble with the entire situation.
Norma: “You wanna play with the big kids, you gotta act like the big kids.”
Worse is the fact the pair find that in the nearby lake, their dumping grounds, a body’s pulled from the water. Norman worries about Jim Blackwell’s corpse being found, that Sheriff Jane Greene (Brooke Smith) will catch them. While Mother and her boy argue, they slap one another across the fact, and the large wedge between them opens up, as Norman finally figures out this isn’t the first time they’ve been out dumping bodies under cover of night. They dump Sam in a well in the woods, but it feels too rushed.
Pic 1ABack at the motel Norman runs into none other than Sheriff Greene, who’s there to talk about what they found in the lake. “Multiple bodies” and one of them Mr. Blackwell. So Norman plays his game trying to keep his secret life under wraps, as the sheriff’s still wondering about all the connections, as well as whatever Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) is up to since his escape. A tense conversation between Greene and the young man. He’s just barely hanging on to the mask.
Speaking of Romero, he’s recuperating in bed at the home of an old friend. She’s taken care of his wound, now he’s on bed rest and eating breakfast. Lucky for him he has anyone, particularly after his early exit from jail.
More every minute, Norman worries about what’ll happen if the authorities come snooping around. He has to figure out what to do with Mother, so that nobody finds her body. An awkward moment; almost like the roles have reversed temporarily, and Norman is shielding Mother from the harsher truth of having to move her body. Such a strangely compelling scene. And of course any time we see the body it’s a – I swear this isn’t meant to be a pun – cold reminder of what is really going on inside that creepy house. Either way he takes Mother’s body out to a special place in the woods where the ground is nice and cool, to preserve her until she can come home.


Dylan (Max Thieriot) has come back to White Pine Bay, after hearing of his mother’s supposed suicide. Being back in the house is like a punch in the gut for him, knowing there is more to the story of her death. Walking around the house, he can feel his mother there. Her presence isn’t gone, barely even a bit. The place is a mess, dishes in the sink, and Norma’s high heels are kicked off in front of one of the chairs. One truly eerie shot there. Dylan tries to act normal with his brother, not immediately throwing suspicion and guilt around. They actually act like brothers, for a moment. Until Mother comes lurking in the background. Big brother does express his worry for little brother living alone, not seeing his doctor, and he wants to stay a few days to help Norman smooth life out. Hmm, not sure how that’ll play out with Mother creeping. Her room is virtually untouched, like a shrine.
In his friendly hospice, Alex wants to find his gun, but his friend hides it from him. She doesn’t want him running off and doing more stupid shit to dig his hole deeper. They’re friends from growing up in White Pine Bay, she knows him through and through. And she can tell this has to do with Norma Bates.
At home, Mother worries about having Dylan around. She calls him “misguided” and plays the Him v. Us card. That he’ll make things too difficult, he can’t be part of their life now. Just Mother and her little boy, that’s the way it was intended. Will he go along with it? Can he convince Dylan that everything’s swell and he can go on back to his life with Emma and their new baby?
Out trying to get his brother more medication, Dylan discovers Norman’s doctor has been missing for over a year; there’s no way his brother had coffee with him recently. Yikes. Everything gets trickier when Dylan also runs into Madeleine Loomis (Isabelle McNally). She’s looking for Sam. The missing people on the possible list are piling up.
Pic 3Norman’s cooking a nice dinner for he and his brother. Life seems grand, music plays. All appears right. Certainly Dylan can’t shake what he knows, or what he thinks he knows. He brings up Sam Loomis, they have a conversation about what Norman remembers. He makes up a little(/tall) tale. It all devolves as the younger of the two gets upset over his older brother “meddling with the truth.” All Dylan wants is to protect him, to help him heal and get better. He tries convincing Norman to take his pills again.
Then it all goes haywire. Mother comes out to speak with her oldest boy. She doesn’t want her baby taking the medication, effectively making her go away. Unfortunately, there’s only room for one of Norma’s children. She tries to kill Dylan, Norman holding back the knife in her hand. The two personalities wrestle, as Dylan watches on in horror. Norman manages to overcome her.
He goes to the phone. Dials 911. And he reports himself for the murder of Sam Loomis before Mother can stop him.
Pic 4WOW! Just, damn. I didn’t see that ending coming. This puts the last few episodes into a wild frame, not exactly positive what the endgame is but I’m excited to watch it unfold. The next episode is “The Body” and I’m wondering if we’re about to see some truly disturbed, insane acting from Highmore once he and Mother are under lock and key.

Bates Motel – Season 5, Episode 6: “Marion”

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
Pic 1Marion 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.
Pic 1AProblem 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: “Its hard to be lonely, but its 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 “couldnt 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.

Bates Motel – Season 5, Episode 5: “Dreams Die First”

A&E’s Bates Motel
Season 5, Episode 5: “Dreams Die First”
Directed by Nestor Carbonell
Written by Erica Lipez & Kerry Ehrin

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Hidden” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Marion” – click here
Pic 1Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) is gradually figuring things out about himself. The more he falls into the delusion of mother (Vera Farmiga) still being alive, the farther he falls into a dark headspace, half knowing he’s mad, half unable to stop the process. He wakes up with scratches on his back, not exactly sure where they came from, but Norman goes on to face the day. Only Norma’s nowhere to be found.
Where could she have gone? Clues are all he has, including a matchbook from a bar. Then Sheriff Jane Greene (Brooke Smith) calls him up, says she has something they need to talk about. Hmm.
Pic 1AEmma (Olivia Cooke) finds one of her mother’s earrings kicking around, though Dylan (Max Thieriot) claims it was his mother’s jewellery. Ah, the truth on that end has yet to come out. And building that new life of his, all honest and proper, I don’t think Dylan’s going to be able to let that sit. Not forever. I suspect this will have something to do with the last few episodes, and the fate of what happens to Norman in the long run.
Sheriff Greene wants to try prying more information about former Sheriff Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) – who he knew, his friends, hobbies, anything. Of course Norman only offers that he was a “lonely, very unhappy man.” She knows there’s a reason Romero has escaped, to come back to White Pine Bay and finish some previously unfinished business. She’s too smart, and Norman is up against more than he can handle, for now. He can’t simply bullshit his way out of this one, not with Sheriff Greene.
Again at home Norman can’t find mother. He seethes with rage, believing that she’s hiding or avoiding him. So he calls up the White Horse Bar, from the matchbook. Apparently Norma left her car there last night and the bartender has her keys. Has Norman been actually going OUT dressed as mother? Yikes, that is an escalation.
When Emma brings up the earring to Dylan they talk of contacting Norma. He doesn’t want any part of it, getting a bit angry. But it’s more so the fact he’s pretty sure his brother killed his mother-in-law.


Later on, Madeleine Loomis (Isabelle McNally) calls Norman to apologise for their previous evening. Her husband’s off in Seattle. She offers to drive Norman over to pick up his car; the longer they’re in contact, the more I worry for her. Especially the cold, detached way he acts, which gets worse as he tangles with mother’s influence. Still, he offers good advice for Madeleine – talk to her husband, figure things out. Soon Norman finally reveals to her that the first time he met Sam the guy was bringing a woman to the Bates Motel. She doesn’t respond well, unwilling to believe what he’s told her. Hurt, angry, she leaves.
Norman: “I sure understand what it is to be lonely, although I dont have a choice.”
Except Sam Loomis (Austin Nichols) is rolling around in bed with Marion Crane (Rihanna). More than that they’re in love, deeply. She doesn’t even care about his shitty debt. Now she’d like to come down to White Pine Bay for a visit, though he’d rather she not. This starts to setup a revisiting of the plot from Robert Bloch’s (/Alfred Hitchcock’s adaptation of) Psycho. From what I see so far, Rihanna will make an interesting Marion, a totally different version from Janet Leigh, and there ain’t nothing wrong with that. She has the sort of mysterious, alluring look the role requires.
We get a brief look at Marion’s life, her work as a notary, having to deal with arrogant men around her in the financial industry. All working towards her eventual getaway.
Pic 3Norman gets to the White Horse Bar and picks up the keys to his car. Pretty sure the bartender remembers him, probably from wearing a dress, a blonde wig, et cetera. Such a creepy, unsettling conversation, as it’s clear the guy doesn’t realise that Norma and Norman don’t know they’re the same person. Just a fantastic scene! Norman’s really going to pieces.
We’ve come to it – Mr. Lowery gives Marion the hundreds of thousands of dollars to deposit, so that it isn’t sitting at the office over the weekend. He’s also dismissive of her talent, being a bit harsher than needed. And this all but mentally seals the deal for Marion. Sitting next to the briefcase you can see the wheels in her brain turning.
Driving in the street, Norman comes across Dr. Gregg Edwards (Damon Gupton). They have a cup of coffee together. Norman thanks the good doctor for his help. He lies about taking his medication, not having blackouts. Then Dr. Edwards mentions his “coping mechanisms” for dealing with trauma – a.k.a becoming mother – and this all but sends the young man into a trance. He knows that he sees mother when she’s “not really there” and that he becomes her. And certainly Norman denies all of this to the doc, saying it never happens anymore. Yeah, right. Even a blind man would see through that.
Jumping in her little red Mazda, loaded to the gills with cash, Marion hits the highway. What I love is that we’re getting all the same plot points about Ms. Crane, only that they’re adapted to make things a little different and fresh. When a cop pulls her over, she isn’t sleeping like Janet Leigh, she’s got a coat sticking from the trunk; the cop is also played by series producer Carlton Cuse. Tense moment when she pops her trunk, worrying all that money will be found. Then, nothing. She heads on further to White Pine Bay.
Not only that, she’s calling Sam who isn’t pleased to hear she is on her way. Plus, it seems Marion isn’t in on the fact he’s a married man. What a double dealing bastard. This puts Marion in such a terrible position, essentially driven out there to him and only to soon find her way into a horrific situation at the Bates Motel.
Pic 4Dylan sits Emma down and tells her about why he cut off contact with Norma. He explains about Norman, his mental illness. That he could “do anything” in his fits of rage. He talks about Blair Watson, Norman killing his father. Then he brings up the earring, that Norma was holding onto it. Eventually, Dylan says he believes it was possible something bad happened to her mother at the motel, obviously freaking Emma out and upsetting her for not knowing sooner.
Searching for answers, Norman goes to the White Horse where he’s recognised. This is another aspect of the adaptation I love! He isn’t just going into a psychosis at home, hurting people. He’s out living a life crossdressing as Norma, hitting the bar and meeting people. This isn’t merely a way to dissociate into a state where he kills, this is a full on identity crisis. He isn’t dressing up as mother: he is LIVING as mother. Even having sex as a mother. Yowzahs, Norman! He winds up having an episode in the bathroom after encountering the man he hooked up with the night before. One of the single eeriest scenes ever on Bates Motel.
Norman: “I need my mother
That night when Emma Googles the Bates Motel, she discovers that Norma was found dead of an apparent suicide. This will definitely start bringing Dylan back into the mix of Norman and mother’s fucked up lives.
And Marion, she’s pulling up to the Bates Motel to meet Sam. While Norman is in the midst of a state of terrible psychosis. What will happen next?


Jesus, do I ever love this show! The series gets better all the time, and now with the Psycho plot in motion I’m incredibly interested in how the series will do its swan song in the final episodes. Lots to look forward to, and I do think Rihanna will impress as Marion Crane.
Next is the aptly titled “Marion” in which we’ll witness her arrival at the motel, as well as whatever that brings.

Bates Motel – Season 5, Episode 4: “Hidden”

A&E’s Bates Motel
Season 5, Episode 4: “Hidden”
Directed by Max Thieriot
Written by Torrey Speer

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Bad Blood” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Dreams Die First” – click here
Pic 1Now that Chick (Ryan Hurst) is officially in on the body count, how will things unfold for him going forward with Norman (Freddie Highmore) and Norma (Vera Farmiga)?
First of all, they’ve got to deal with the corpse of Caleb (Kenny Johnson) that’s sprawled in the middle of the road. Norman wouldn’t mind calling the sheriff, though the other two aren’t so sure about that option. And clearly Chick isn’t keen on that for being the one to have hit him. Seeing Norman navigate conversation between a dead woman and a living man is delightfully disturbing. Then Chick takes the corpse, Norman takes the groceries, and that’s that!
Can’t forget about Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell). He’s been shot on a farm while heading back towards White Pine Bay. He pleas with the kid who shot him for a bit of first aid, so on. Not like Alex is going to the cops, having escaped a police transfer last episode. What motivates him seems to be just an utter need, a burning desire to get home and deal with Norman, once and for all.
Pic 2I love Chick. He’s so weird and quirky, but not too much. He is way out there. Not so far that it’s annoying or that it doesn’t fit. Sort of nice to see someone amongst this cast of characters over five whole seasons who isn’t the same typical White Pine Bay resident like all the other greasy, crooked people that exist in their small town.
Speaking of their community, there’s a new sheriff: Jane Greene (Brooke Smith). What a mess she’s inherited.
At home Norman isn’t happy with “how things are.” He and mother aren’t seeing eye to eye, he doesn’t like that things never go how he plans. More than that the two of them argue about dresses like the wild maniacs they are. And nothing feels better once Sheriff Greene comes poking around to meet Norman. Jim Blackwell, the man who came to kill him, has skipped on his parole; she found the Bates address in his belongings. She worries Alex, who’s now escaped, might be coming to cause problems. Or that there’s something both Blackwell and Alex are after, perhaps in the house, in the motel. Not good for Norman and mother to have an officer of the law snooping. She’s all good intentions. Just that… he’s a psychopath, guilty of so, so many things.
And now this ratchets up the tension between mother and son. He doesn’t even tell her about her former husband and the escape. Knowing deep down that Romero is on the way to their home.
Norma: “So I shouldve just let Jim Blackwell kill you?”
Norman: “Maybe
Norma: “Thats depressing


The more he and mother fight, the further Norman drifts towards Madeleine Loomis (Isabelle McNally). He actually brings her some of mother’s dresses in an unnerving gesture; scary because he not only has interest in Madeleine, she looks similar to Norma and that’s what propels his desire most of all. There’s a great, sly little Psycho reference when she brings out his shower curtains, remarking that he must go through a lot of those; he casually replies that “Yes, yes. We do actually.” Can’t help believe that’s a nod to Hitchcock and the infamous shower scene, as Janet Leigh and the curtains alike were slashed apart.
Later on at home Norman has a talk with Chick. He doesn’t want him around the house so much. Chick feels a bit betrayed, by how much he’s done for them. Not so smart for Norman to turn his back on a guy who’s seen all the secrets. I see this having serious repercussions.
Romero makes a fake ambulance call outside an apartment building. When the EMTS arrive prepared for an overdose, he slips into the rig and gets himself a few necessities to treat his wounds. Then he does a bit of homemade surgery on the buck shot in his gut. Enough to keep him alive, anyways.
When Sheriff Greene snoops around more at the motel Norman starts putting his foot in his mouth. While he covers his ass, he doesn’t do it very well. Her suspicion is official at this point. Stupid Norman! Should’ve let mother do the talking. Except she’s a bit irrational herself. She hid Blackwell’s car in the woods after killing him. And the sheriff is searching for that very vehicle. Norman wants to be rid of it totally, and Norma insists it was wiped clean, et cetera.
So… what to do, what to do?


They argue. Norman almost kills mother. Things are not good inside this insane young man’s mind. Fractured into pieces is an understatement. Regardless, they decide on leaving the car and heading home for the night. One of the creepier scenes so far this season, just a strange, atmospheric tension, and the way it’s shot makes the moment all the more unsettling.
Those dresses belonging to mother fit Madeleine perfectly. This excites Norman, quite a bit. Or makes him happy. Or makes him want to bang his mom; who knows?! Still this precipitates a dinner between Madeleine and Norman. I wonder if it’ll get romantic. Possibly murderous, if things don’t go the way mother would want.
Chick gets a visit from Norman at his trailer. The kid wants advice, on hot wiring a car. He wants to get rid of that car in the woods. But Chick knows something’s up: “What did you do?” He’ll help, only if Norman tells him the truth. He gets it. Not the full truth: the truth about mother.
At the house, Norman tells Norma about his dinner with Madeleine. She’s not thrilled. Yet off he goes, no matter. When he shows up at her place she’s wearing one of mother’s dresses. Good lord! This is getting scarier with every passing scene. What particularly gets me is that in Hitchcock’s Psycho, Sam Loomis (played in the series by Austin Nichols) is a divorced hardware store owner. Will the history be rewritten to make Sam a widowed man instead of divorce? I worry poor Madeleine’s not long for this world.
Pic 7Madeleine and Norman make cake together, listening to Daniel Johnston’s “True Love Will Find You in the End” and falling into each other’s arms. Suddenly, mother shows up. Norman has a vision of cutting Madeleine’s throat, or of mother doing it; the blood, the body on the floor. None of it actually happened, though. He runs home. He can’t find Norma anywhere. He finds only the remnants of a man living alone.
Is this an acceptance of his psychosis? No, it’s only a deepening sense of it coming on stronger and stronger. Mother’s will is becoming terrifyingly merged with that of Norman’s, and this means nothing but more bloodshed.
Pic 8A great, great episode that had me on the edge of my seat near the end! Loving this season. Such a fascinating way to go out, plus lots of awesome adapted writing coming out of what Bloch and Hitchcock each did. Excited for more.

Bates Motel – Season 5, Episode 3: “Bad Blood”

A&E’s Bates Motel
Season 5, Episode 3: “Bad Blood”
Directed by Sarah Boyd
Written by Tom Szentgyorgyi

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “The Convergence of the Twain” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Hidden” – click here
Pic 1Caleb (Kenny Johnson) is waking up chained to the basement floor after being surprised by Norman (Freddie Highmore), dressed as Norma (Vera Farmiga). He wakes to his sister speaking to him. Only, it’s not, of course. It’s his nephew, dressed as his sister. So awfully creepy. Then there’s whatever Norman plans on doing with his uncle Caleb.
Could be a brutal end for him.
Pic 2And what about Chick (Ryan Hurst)? He knows all the secrets. He’s bore witness to the blonde wig, the odd way Norman sways across the room when he’s in his mother’s clothes/skin. They’ve formed a tenuous bond. I only wonder what Chick is getting out of this, other than maybe a bit of revenge on Caleb along the way. For now, he’s staying at the Bates house to protect Norma/Norman against the nasty uncle downstairs. Hmm. A truly strange situation, all around.
Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) is being transferred from prison, and he’s another one I wonder about – he has a card up his sleeve. When they make a stop for gas and a bathroom break, he takes his chance and enacts a plan for escape.
At home Norman and his mother keep on coexisting, as best they can. She takes care of him as usual. In their creepy kind of way. He doesn’t remember that Caleb is downstairs, but she does, and she tries keeping him away from the basement. Always trying to control him. But of course Chick is still kicking around, curious about how Norman navigates his fugue state. He reveals he knows about Norma, and another tenuous bond with the other half of Norman is made.
Chick: “Were all in this sideshow together. And then we die.”
Caleb remembers his childhood with Norma, both of them brutalised by a crazy mother. Trying to survive. They had no one but each other, and despite what came later in their lives I can understand why their bond, for a time, was extremely strong. None of it matters now with Caleb chained in that basement and Chick standing guard.


Alex steals a car and then runs it off the road when he’s far enough. He makes his way back home, one mile at a time. In the meantime, Chick sits down to dinner with Norman and Norma, or y’know, one of them at least. He also brings a recorder with him. He offers to help them around the house, just for a sense of being with people after living alone so long. And what a conversation they all have together! Surreal, and crafty on Chick’s part, as well.
Later, Norman receives Madeleine Loomis (Isabelle McNally) at the motel. She clearly feels comfortable with him; bad move. But she’s having troubles with her husband, obviously. And this is a way for Norman to worm his way into her life.
In the basement Caleb hallucinates and thinks he’s hugging Norma, then her corpse. Then Norman, upstairs, finds out his uncle is trapped down there. That he’s spoken to Norma. Further than that Norman continues straddling the line between sane and utterly fucking psychopathic, as he doesn’t even understand his mother is literally dead, not just figuratively and pretending. So he heads down to talk to uncle Caleb, where mother takes over. Then both of them are hallucinating, in their own respects.
Norma: “Im sorry, Norman will probably have to kill you. I cant do it.”
Pic 5Pic 5ATrying to steal another car, Alex gets shot in the gut. What a tough, bloody journey!
Chick is continuing to record his story about the Bates family. He goes looking for a typewriter, to type up his novel. Getting ahead of himself a little on the true crime writing, though. I worry that, mixed up with the Bates’, he’s only going to get burned. Or worse.
And Norma, he had a little quality time with uncle Caleb. While thinking he was his mother. So, there are issues with his understanding: what he knows v. what mother knows. Never clear, at least for him. She wants him to kill Caleb and get this situation cauterised. Although her boy doesn’t think he can do that. Tsk, tsk, Norman – mother knows best. She advises a quick bullet to the temple.
Can he accomplish the task? We know murder’s not exactly out of his wheelhouse. He’s done plenty of heinous things before, just not all of them while fully conscious.
The answer is no – Norman can’t kill his uncle. He runs him out instead. Prompting Norma to take over and fire on Caleb. Inadvertently, Chick plays his part and accidentally runs him over in the road on the way back to the motel. Oh, shit.


Another great chapter in this last season. So many strange things converging, and now Caleb’s seemingly been taken out of the picture. Is he dead? Or just fucked up completely? Either way, Chick and Norma/Norman have their hands full with another likely corpse; at the very least, now a vegetable. Thing is, Chick has as much to lose as Norman, and their tenuous bond becomes more concrete, stuck together with blood.

Bates Motel – Season 5, Episode 2: “The Convergence of the Twain”

A&E’s Bates Motel
Season 5, Episode 2: “The Convergence of the Twain”
Directed by Sarah Boyd
Written by Alyson Evans & Steve Kornacki

* For a recap & review of the Season 5 premiere, “Dark Paradise” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Bad Blood” – click here
Pic 1Norman (Freddie Highmore) is heading up to the prison. He and Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) have things they need to discuss. And that surprises the former sheriff. He isn’t exactly happy to see his former stepson. Especially considering the guy he sent to see Norma was supposed to kill him. Lots of tense mindgames going on right now. And outright threats, too. While Norman gloats, Alex makes clear he isn’t going away.
But on life goes for Mr. Bates. Another day, another act for him to perform.
In other news, Caleb (Kenny Johnson) has left. Emma (Olivia Cooke) tells Dylan (Max Theriot) she talked to him about their worries with him around. “No secrets,” she tells him. Dylan understands. Although he’s rightfully conflicted. He still has his concerns over what happened to Emma’s mother. Whether Norman did something terrible.
And Caleb, he’s back at the motel. Not knowing the truth of what’s happened there since he’s been gone. Nobody is around, so he lets himself inside the house. He quickly sees something isn’t right, the place is messy and generally looks unkempt. He finds no one. He does find a book called The Lost Art of Mummification. Creepy shit, all things considered.
Pic 2In prison, Alex gets into a nasty fight with another inmate. Taking quite the beating. Because his mind is elsewhere. Being locked up is one thing, knowing your former wife – saint or no – was killed by her son is an entirely other beast. And speaking of the beast, Norman is honing his focus on Madeleine Loomis (Isabelle McNally), whom he watches from afar. She actually offers to fix him up with someone she knows. A double date with her and her husband. Although there’s definitely a weird chemistry between them. Then we see that David Davidson is her husband, Sam Loomis (Austin Nichols). Ohhh damn, he knows a little secret, and that could be a thorn in Sam’s side. Yikes!
At home Norma (Vera Farmiga) is learning French online. Might as well keep her mind active, right? Being dead can really take its toll. She senses something, and coaxes out a conversation about Romero. A little later Chick Hogan (Ryan Hurst) turns up knocking at the door with apples. And a business proposition. He’d like Norman to do a bit of taxidermy from time to time, then he’ll help sell the pieces. A partnership is born.
Caleb checks himself into a motel and finds out indirectly that Norma died. That’s rough. Devastating way to discover her supposed suicide.


Sam Loomis goes to see Norman, looking for discretion. He doesn’t wholly get what he wants. Instead, he threatens Norman. God damn, did he ever pick the wrong creepy motel manager to fuck with! As if he could know how insane Norman is, it was like a twist of fate they’ve come across one another.
No matter how unsettling the relationship between Caleb and Norma Louise, there’s still heartbreak seeing him at her grave. I don’t care. I know he’s a terrible person for what he did when they were younger. Regardless, he experiences horrible emotion having to see that Norma died while he ran away elsewhere.
Norman: “Please dont be childish, mother. Its boring.”
Out for his date, Norman plays the part of normal human being, alien amongst people in a skin suit. He asks his date all the right questions, all the while Sam stares him down, wondering if his dirty little secrets will trickle out. The two men are verbally at each other’s throats. Yet Norman is sharper, one step ahead at all times, in every way. Worse than anything mother turns up in the washroom to chastise her boy for lying about the double date dinner. Tsk, tsk, Norman. Of course he isn’t actually lying to her. She’s fucking dead. He’s only lying to himself, which is nothing new.


After getting beat up, Alex is looking to get himself out of prison. Using it as an excuse to say his life is in danger. This would get him out into the free world again. To… take care, of Norman. Like a good stepfather, whose wife the boy murdered and passed off as suicide. So messed up. Not quite as messed up as Norman, though. Who’s interested in Madeleine specifically because she looks like his mother. And that bothers Norma, even though, y’know, they’re technically the same person. So deliciously unhinged.
Seeing him become Norma in his own skin is visually interesting, also a great feat of acting on Freddie Highmore’s part. The way he embodies Norma, moving like her and taking on her mannerisms, et cetera. Amazing work. And the writing is top notch.
Meanwhile, Chick is writing it all down in one of his notebooks. Telling the story of Norman Bates. He also notices, across the bar, Caleb sitting for a drink. That’s a score left to be settled, in a massive way. But Chick knows everything about their family, the darkest of the hidden secrets. That’s a lot with which to be armed. We see that Caleb is more interested in holding Norman responsible for the death of his sister.
He goes to the house and breaks inside. But he finds nobody, again. Aside from the corpse of his dead sister in the basement. All the while Norman is running around dressed as mother. He knocks Caleb out. Right as Chick comes in to witness it all. Whoooa!


I knew this was coming and yet the way the writing manages to weave things it’s all a nice surprise. The addition of Chick as a character in the mix is an interesting one. Excited to see what happens next with him and Norman/Norma.

Bates Motel – Season 5, Episode 1: “Dark Paradise”

A&E’s Bates Motel
Season 5, Episode 1: “Dark Paradise”
Directed by Tucker Gates
Written by Kerry Ehrin

* For a recap & review of the next episode, “The Convergence of the Twain” – click here
Pic 1So what’s next for Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore)? He’s done his mother Norma (Vera Farmiga) in. But mother will always live on inside him.
Well, Norman continues on much like he did before. Living in mother’s world. Except the delusion’s only gotten deeper, and we’re one step closer to the territory Alfred Hithcock explored nearly 50 years ago at this point. Poor Norma, he acts as if Norma’s still alive and well. They go about their day, eating breakfast, talking about the chores Norman has been finishing down at the motel. He’s convinced himself mother is only hiding, she isn’t dead. She had to get away from all the trouble of her life. Amazing what the tortured mind can do, isn’t it?
Pic 2And then there’s Sheriff Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell). I guess former sheriff. Now that he’s doing a stint in prison for being mixed up in a little too much corrupt business. That’s one of the great parts about Bates Motel: no characters, even the relatively better ones compared to others, are perfect; none of them are morally superior, they’re merely different shades of grey.
Norman runs into a shop and meets a woman named Madeleine Loomis (Isabelle McNally). He, of course, rambles on about his mother. To anyone who doesn’t know him like the audience it sounds sweet. To us, it’s awfully creepy. Worse, he has some guy’s wallet. A guest from the motel? Or another grave? Hard to tell, though I assume the latter. He doesn’t remember where he got it, so he asks mother. She plays dumb and clearly knows something.
Norman: “Do you ever have the feeling that youve had the same nightmare over and over again, but that you cant remember it, you just remember the feeling of it?”
Norma: “Nope
In their new home, Emma (Olivia Cooke) and Dylan (Max Theriot) have a little baby girl, and they’re celebrating Emma’s birthday in their beautiful house. Things are wonderful; Dylan’s been promoted. Then up shows Caleb (Kenny Johnson) at the door, throwing all sorts of emotions into the mix.


Trying to find out where the wallet came from, Norman searches the motel for clues. He keeps detailed records of his whereabouts, monitoring his blackouts. One of which coincides with a receipt from the man’s wallet. Uh oh.
A man clearly at the Bates Motel to have discrete sex checks in as David Davidson. So sneaky Norman puts him in Room 1. You know why, he made that little peephole for himself, when he was spying on mother and Alex. Now he has a front row seat to the sex lives of others. Until mother calls him on the phone, interrupting his nasty little masturbatory fantasy. Even in death she controls his libido.
Added to the fact there’s luminol ordered using his credit card, something else he doesn’t remember; something mother absolutely knows about while acting like she knows nothing. They sit and have nice dinners, but underneath it’s so volatile. He can’t even bring up Madeleine and her help with the paint without upsetting their delicate balance. Knowing where Norman ends up in Psycho, it’s interesting to see things bubbling up right now between him and his dead mother. Because we know it’s about to get a hell of a lot worse.
And scarier still, Norman goes to the basement. To see his real mother, where she stays preserved, or sort of, sitting there like a doll. So at once he’s delusional and also lucid at times – the worst type of psychopath.


The next day Madeleine brings Norman some paint and brushes to sample colours. There’s an obvious chemistry between them, though she has no idea how terrifying he is under the facade. I can see a tension brewing, whether that’s sexual I don’t know yet. I’m thinking there’ll be problems with her husband down the line.
Caleb’s trying to do his best fitting in with Dylan and Emma again. Although they’re ready to give him a chance, particularly once she finds out that Caleb helped with money for her surgery. She tells him what it meant, to help save her life. On the other hand, she asks him to leave. Because of who he is, as an uncle and father simultaneously to Dylan; she doesn’t want this affecting her own child. A tough but necessary move.
Mother and Norman have an argument out in front of the motel. She isn’t happy that he’s going out to a small business owner meeting, one that Madeleine told him about. So she hauls him up to the house, to the basement. To the freezer. Where she shows him the body of the man whose wallet he’s been carrying around. They killed him. Even when neither of them fully understand who’s controlling whom in their situation. Regardless, it’s bad.
Norman: “Well, its not like weve never done this before.”


So mother and son go about ridding themselves of the corpse. And while we watch them both take care of business, it’s really just Normal lugging the body around, struggling it into the trunk, and everything else. All to Etta James singing “At Last” during their dark family outing. A nice canoe ride at night, a body dumping. Perfect for the two of them.
Except Norman still doesn’t understand why the man was trying to kill him. Why mother had to take him down. She loves to hide secrets.
Then the man’s cell rings. An inmate from prison calling – it’s Alex. He’s trying to put an end to Norman. Only now, the young man knows.


What a great opener to Season 5! Loving it already. So much in store, including the storyline that will connect us to the Hitchcock classic.
Next up is “The Convergence of the Twain” and I’m expecting big, creepy things!

American Horror Story – Hotel, Episode 12: “Be Our Guest”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 5, Episode 12: “Be Our Guest”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by John J. Gray

* For a review of the penultimate Season 5 finisher, “Battle Royale” – click here
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This finale for the wild Season 5 begins with Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare) talking about taking over the Hotel Cortez. Only she has her throat slit with a gloved hand, not unlike the one we’ve seen Countess (Lady Gaga) wear earlier in the season.
Cut to a couple checking in. Iris (Kathy Bates) and Liz woo them, with champagne on arrival, hoping to make the guests feel at home and ready for a wonderful time. They’re apparently from some website, one which reviews hotels. “It was going to take 4stars on the internet,” Liz tells us. All the rooms are newly redone, looking beautiful; even Egyptian Cotton on all the beds. Looks a far cry from where it was once.
Except Sally (Sarah Paulson) shows up from out of nowhere to greet the new guests, lazing around smoking in her usual leopard print. She’s even getting ready to shoot up, which soon does in one of the guests. The other one goes running in the halls, coming across Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson). “Im new at this murder game and jesus christ is it a thrill,” he says before stabbing her to death. Seems like things aren’t exactly perfect at the Hotel Cortez, despite the beautiful surface.
A very wonderful start to this final episode for the season. Plenty more macabre, nasty fun to come, I hope.
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The meeting is called, as Liz and Iris try to create order among the ghosts of the Cortez. They all meet at the bar, everyone wanting something different. Marcy wants a new room. Will and Sally would rather kill. The rest are too self-involved, but not those two. They’re more excited for killing: “Im dead,” Will tells them, “but Ive never felt more alive.”
Up turns James March (Evan Peters), wanting them all to stop the killing. Funny, right? He’s mostly concerned about what happens if the Cortez gets shut down, torn down, bulldozed. Where will they go? In the meantime, everyone’s aruging. Until March flips a lid and sets them all straight. They need to make it a historic landmark, March claims, only they’ve got to keep the building there another 10 years, until 2026. Sally needs a “soulmate,” though, and she doesn’t look poised to change. Even with the threat of March sicking the Addiction Demon on her, as once he did before.
Most interesting is how Iris shows Sally about the world outside, social media, which will help her not be so alone in the world. She can’t go out, but that doesn’t mean Sally can’t interact with the world. Great way to bring the issues of today into the show, instead of only relying on dates onscreen from time to time. Plus, it goes well with Sally’s 1990’s rock/grunge character, to think she might be someone who would fall into social media and all its trappings.
Mainly, everyone is now trying to figure out the way to head into the future. Liz has all but convinced Drake to stay holed up in the hotel, all “Howard Hughes” and such. In fact, Liz is now Will’s acting hand at his company. Amazing new age company being led by Ms. Liz Taylor. The fashion goes on, the clothing still coming out – even Sally models bits of his work, plus Ramona (Angela Bassett) and other ghosts in the Cortez.
But sadly, Liz misses Tristan. Then we’re introduced to an old, familiar face – Billie Dean Howard (Sarah Paulson) back from Season 1’s Murder House. What a beautiful return to the original season, another character linking things together. Great season for this sort of thing, with Queenie in the last episode, Marcy showing up from time to time, and more. This sequence sees Billie helping Liz to try reconnecting with his now lost, murdered love, Tristan Duffy (Finn Wittrock). But it seems Tristan isn’t willing to fully reconnect, he’s angered and doesn’t want to talk with Liz. Not right now, anyways.
But wait – it’s Donovan now reaching from the other side, talking of “pancakes with blueberries” and that it’s “always Saturday morning” wherever he is.


Gathering the ghosts together, Liz tells everybody she’s got prostate cancer; inoperable, “nothing to do.” All those ghosts are worried, but Liz absolutely has a plan. Of sorts. Weapons are out on the bed, ready for everyone. She wants to be hacked, bludgeoned, et cetera, to death. “Its not murder,” Sallys says to them: “She wants to be reborn.”
“The Ballad of Lucy Jordan” by Marianne Faithfull starts to play while everybody weapons up. Liz lays back on the bed, ready for the murder to take place. At the door, though, Countess arrives. “You were always my fondest creation,” Countess tells Liz. She’s there to join in on the fun: “I wanted to be here to help you transition.” Great word play all around with this sequence. Great, viciously bloody fun. This takes us back to that first scene, watching Liz have her throat cut open, the blood flying and beginning to run down onto the floor. Savagery – the best sort which Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk continually give us. And in death? Liz finds Tristan once more.
Down at the desk a woman shows up on Devil’s Night in 2022. She booked a room way in advance. In other news, Iris and Ramona are lamenting too much publicity after Billie Dean Howard’s specials aired on television, bringing out the weirdos, the perverts. Funniest is seeing John Lowe in league with them all, just another part of them. We get cuts back to Howard doing her various specials in Room 44, Room 64, and so on.
Now Lowe has got himself a plan. They call Billie Dean down for another taping, as she continues to try calling on the Ten Commandment Killer to reveal himself.
Then there’s Alex Lowe (Chloë Sevigny) and John’s family. They made things work in the outside world. Or at least, as best as it would work. They tried. Out on the streets, Lowe killed, stockpiling blood in coffee canisters, stalking the streets for more victims with which to feed the family. One night, he finds himself caught by the police. Bleeding, full of bullets, John tries his best to make it back inside the Cortez, to die in there. Instead of making it all the way, he’s left on the sidewalk. Returning on Devil’s Night, though, it is easy to see James March has a hand in it all. Another dinner party, perhaps?


Jeffrey Dahmer, John Wayne Gacy (John Carroll Lynch), Richard Ramirez, Aileen Wuornos (Lily Rabe), they’re all back! Gacy’s trying to teach Jeffrey to talk to guys, in such a creepy scene. The music in the background plays heavy, lazy. Everything is terrifying and dark. John introduces her around the place, acclimating her to the strange surroundings. The Zodiac is there, too. Quiet and chilling in the corner with his baghead costume on, totally silent. A surreal sequence here, as Billie Dean navigates through “all these dark spirits.” March appears soon enough to toast them all. Lots of fun! A top five favourite sequence out of this Hotel season.
This is all a way to get Howard to stop doing specials at the hotel. The ghosts all want, need, to be left alone. So they need to her to give up. None of the ghosts can leave, but Ramona shows up to tell her: “I can.” Seems ole Billie Dean has more to fear than a few ghosts. Best she start moving on, right?

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In Room 64, John keeps his family. His daughter has grown a few years, obviously, and the others sleep soundly. Must be strange for her to age while the family stays the same, forever. Yet she seems fine with that mostly. It’s nice for John and Alex, who have their son back and eternally get to sleep next to one another, just like a new family. A creepy finish, as John has to go away for a whole year until the next Devil’s Night, when the family will come back together in the Cortez, to enjoy each other’s company, to love one another for that single day. A semi-happy ending in one sense, but a deeply tragic one for Lowe.
The very end of the episode sees The Countess at a table in the lounge, drinking, smoking. Out of the dark hallways comes a man she likes the look of, so off she goes to sit next to him at the bar. He sort of looks like Donovan – hair slicked back, handsome, a bit of stubble. Is that the intention? I think so. “You have a jawline for days,” says the Countess, right before everything cuts to black. Beautiful.
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Loved the end to this season. An impressive full circle, but in a way that doesn’t only recall the beginning of the season, the beginning of character relationships, it also adds things on, making the layers deeper, more enticing. People complained a ton about this season. Me? I dig it. Totally. Stay tuned, we’ll see where Falchuk and Murphy go from here next season.

American Horror Story – Hotel, Episode 11: “Battle Royale”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 5, Episode 11: “Battle Royale”
Directed by Michael Uppendahl
Written by Ned Martel

* For a review of the previous episode, “She Gets Revenge” – click here
* For a review of the Season 5 finale, “Be Our Guest” – click here
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The penultimate Season 5 episode “Battle Royale” begins with Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare) and Iris (Kathy Bates) coming together, bed full of guns, just before the events of the previous episode’s finale, when The Countess (Lady Gaga) and Donovan (Matt Bomer) were reuniting briefly before getting gunned down, seemingly.
Here, revisiting those moments, we hear “Seconds” by The Human League. As the guns finally blaze, Liz and Iris get a few into The Countess, while Donovan also takes shots. Iris wants to help her soon who wants nothing else but to not die inside the Hotel Cortez. Naturally, right? The pair try and help Donovan, in an excellently filmed scene which almost puts you directly in his shoes, the waving camerawork, the point-of-view, all of it. Luckily they get him out onto the street where Donovan bleeds out – his final word? “Mom.” This season is winding up for a nice, and surely at times brutal finale.
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For The Countess, there’s bullet removal by Hypodermic Sally (Sarah Paulson). Then later she wakes to flashes of nastiness before finally coming to all the way. Sally needs her to stick around because there’s all but literally no one else left for her; to use, to manipulate, whatever. Sally reminisces about a drug dealer, whose past included a first handjob from – you guessed it – the woman herself. This leads into a bit of backstory for her, a slight and tenuous bonding between her and The Countess.
Flashback to 1993 in Los Angeles, as Sally’s musician friends use her songs, record them, and go to the top. Meanwhile, she’s more like the nasty delinquent enabling the talented people around her to do all sorts of drugs, et cetera. Not that they weren’t eating it up, but still. “Do you trust me?” Sally asks them, before we see cuts of them sewing one another together, higher than the sky on drugs. Of course, then they both overdose, as Sally’s trapped between them, linked up. A sort of nasty Human Centipede-like homage except better, more fitting; Sally was truly trapped with addiction for five long days. This is where the Addiction Demon comes in, torturing her for days. Finally she ripped herself out of the bonds. WOW! Amazing, amazing story to Sally. Never expected such brutality. This episode is honestly one of the most filmic in the entire history of the series, to me. The way it’s filmed, the look, the heaviness, every bit amounts to an incredible masterpiece. And that’s only the first 12 minutes. Lots more to come.
Over at the Lowe household, John (Wes Bentley ) and Alex (Chloë Sevigny) bring their children home, to be “a family again.” Alex calls drinking blood taking medicine, though, young Scarlett knows better. But John’s committed to shedding his life as The Ten Commandments Killer, everything at the Cortez; he wants a normal family life again.
The Countess is still suffering. Sally brings in the little white haired children, saying she’ll have to use them for blood. Even though Countess doesn’t want that, the children agree: “Let us help, mommy.”

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At the same time, Iris is grieving the loss of her son. Liz helped by incinerating him, so as to not have to throw him down the chute with all the rest of the trash killed in the hotel. It’s funny how among all the horror, the murder, the blood, you can really feel for a character like Iris. She only ever came to the hotel for her son, now he’s gone, dust. He was her world. “We were so much alike,” she reminisces, “maybe that’s why we couldnt be close.” Afterwards, leaving Miss Evers (Mare Winningham) to clean up the mess she made with the ashes, Iris heads up on top of the hotel, looking out to the horizon. A sort of beautiful, weird moment all in one.
Dressed and made up, Liz strolls down the hall some time later with a now clean Iris. They head down the locked up hallway, where bodies are strewn everywhere, from that of Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson) to the bunch of vampire children. Not to mention, Ramona Royale (Angela Bassett) who emerges strong and healthy from around a corner, blood stained, spiteful.

Up shows a witch from down in New Orleans – yes, it’s Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe). She’s going to do a bit of game show fun and all that Los Angeles type of stuff. Unfortunately, though, I think she checked into the wrong hotel.
Theres a lot of bad juju in this room,” says Queenie after entering the place she’s meant to stay all night. She doesn’t like the place, but Iris and Liz con her into staying. Then when Ramona comes out of the shower, slashing away at Queenie, there comes the voodoo doll stuff. Pretty interesting fight starts between the two – a sort-of-vampire versus a voodoo witch. Out of nowhere, James March (Evan Peters) stabs Queenie with a big blade from his cane – he’s a ghost, remember? So the rules are skewed. Ramona drinks Queenie’s blood, getting her fill. Then James says: “I want you to kill The Countess“… he’s got big plans. He doesn’t want to see his love walk away from the hotel.
John Lowe arrives home. In his trunk, he has a man whom he questions about being clean. Do you know what he’s got in store for him? I know I do. Some of that medicine Alex was talking about earlier. Is the new way for the Swiss Family Lowe? We’ll see. Inside, John finds nobody. Only a key for the Cortez hanging from a light fixture.
Cut to Lowe back at the hotel, running through the halls. Straight to Room 64. There on the bed is Sally, waiting. She claims March took his family – “One last kill and I can take you to your family,” says Sally. The final commandment left? Thou shalt not commit murder.

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Busy fitting Ramona Royale for a dress, Liz is preparing her for the coming slaughter. But Ramona has “witchs blood” flowing through her, she doesn’t want any of the assorted guns or weapons Iris and Liz have got kicking around.
With “I Wanna Be Adored” by The Stone Roses playing in the background, The Countess is having a reunion with Ramona. They talk of how their blood smells – “almonds” for Ramona, “black licorice” for The Countess. They miss one another, even if Ramona wants to kill the bitch. Likewise, Countess misses her, too. No matter what’s happened, or what may come next.
Just after the two make love, and The Countess is let free, she meets John Lowe when the elevator heads down. He blasts her away, letting her bleed on the elevator’s floor. Countess is the final commandment. Her head is now in a jar on the shelf upstairs, everyone reeling with pride over John’s accomplishments. Only Sally’s got further plans – thwarted after March stops her from stabbing him, keeping him there forever. Relieved? Well, John’s a killer, as well. Shouldn’t be too relieved for the man.
March sits at his table and asks Miss Evers about when she first discovered being a ghost. Then he gets upset over the dinner arrangements. At the door is The Countess, whose arrival at dinner has prompted James to be a little tempestuous, and Miss Evers to be get a bit saucy. Countess is adjusting to her “new state,” as March calls it.


Big reveal comes when we discover it was Miss Evers who called the police all those years ago. She wanted him, her jealousy got the better of her. “I wanted us to die together,” she wails. Only things went… a little differently, than expected. This leads to Miss Evers being banished from March’s presence, heading off into the darkness.
The episode finishes with March happy to have The Countess back. Although, she’s much less thrilled. Her eternity is relegated to a space where she’ll never be happy, ever again.
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Excited to review the finale of Season 5, “Be Our Guest”. Looking forward to a weird, wild episode to finish off this bloody, violent, sexy and odd season. Stay tuned.

American Horror Story – Hotel, Episode 10: “She Gets Revenge”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 5, Episode 10: “She Gets Revenge”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by James Wong

* For a review of the previous episode, “She Wants Revenge” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Battle Royale” – click here
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Only a few more nights left at the Hotel Cortez.
Tonight we open with the wondrous Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare) lamenting “forgotten hotels,” such as the Cortez, and what they’re good for – from drug deals to indiscretions of all kinds. Love that we’re getting more Liz because I find her spectacular. O’Hare is an enormously talented character actor who gives life and luxury to Liz. Here, we see more depth to her and all she is, as she tells us about one particular old couple who commit suicide/murder together in order to not have to see the twilight years come for them. After their brains are blown out, Iris (Kathy Bates) does lamenting of her own. Mostly about the time it’ll take to clean the blood out and scrub the walls. Meanwhile, Liz cries because she may “never be happy again,” unlike the happy couple who chose to go out on their own terms right there in that very room. She picks up a gun, wanting to die. But Iris reminds her that would only see her trapped in the Cortez for eternity. I’m glad Liz choose not to, at least not right now. She tells Iris there’s a little unfinished business that might be good to tend to: her son. The old life of Iris still lingers, that’s how much she obviously cares about his boy. Both she and Iris have their plans, together, for a grand finale to life.
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Liz has Miss Evers (Mare Winningham) calling up his son. She can’t bear to talk to him herself, not just yet; after all it’s been 31 years. Liz says she’s “written letters” and “god knows Ive written cheques.” But we’ll see if this comes around to a good thing for her. For now, Miss Evers is giving Liz a hard time over lifestyle choices, et cetera. She fears Liz is expecting too much of her son, for him to be too understanding.
In other parts of the Cortez, John Lowe (Wes Bentley) is admiring his Ten Commandments work, while Sally (Sarah Paulson) watches on. We cut to John, knife in hand, approaching some – what looks like – Mexican faithfuls, whom he cuts down. He doesn’t have much work left to do before he’s free: “One more and youll be free,” Sally tells him.
Then there’s Donovan (Matt Bomer) who approaches Rudolph Valentino (Finn Wittrock) in his motel room, all while Natacha (Alexandria Daddario) goes to see The Countess (Lady Gaga). Great editing back and forth between their two paralleled conversations. On the one hand, Rudolph and Donovan have a semi-manly confrontation. On the other hand, Countess seduces Natacha a little before they each take out a knife. Only when Rudolph produces a Middle Eastern style sword, Donovan replies “Bitch please,” along with a bullet, or a couple, to his face. At the hotel, Countess likewise slashes down Natacha. Ouch. How will The Countess react after she discovers Rudie dead?
Back to James March (Evan Peters), a late favourite of mine in this season. He’s suited up in his creepy leather mask with a new sacrifice at his hands. He lights a man on fire, who quickly perishes in flame. Right afterwards, Lowe shows up. They’re quite cozy now, the two buddies. Murderers in league. Nice special makeup effects here, too; some nasty burn work. That’s something I forget to mention often in these reviews. I love all the makeup and special effects work in general the series has done, from blood and gore to more understated stuff. Plus, there’s great costume and set design.
John is reunited with his wife Alex (Chloë Sevigny) for the time being. She has certainly changed. As has John, or perhaps he hasn’t changed just accepted his identity. He’s hurt by the lies she fed him, concerning their children. But at the same time, John has both accepted his new murderous identity, as well as accepted his own faults in everything. A dark turn of events. Regardless, the husband and wife are seemingly back on the same side. She admits to him what happened with the children, and the fact The Countess has threatened to kill her and their boy if she doesn’t control the vampire outbreak amongst the young ones. John has agreed to help. Will this be a husband-wife blood bath of some sort coming up? Can’t wait to find out.


Then Douglas (Josh Braaten) shows up at the Cortez, sitting down for a drink. Liz serves him up a drink, then they chat together a good long while. Douglas even talks about his father, who split, and that it was just he and his mother. He mentions about being in town to finally reconnect with his father. Such an emotional moment to watch Douglas walk away, Liz left wanting to say all the things that need to be said, only afraid to go ahead and do it.
But more importantly, John is helping Alex. They sneak into a house, which looks like the one where she last saw the kids. John is still in cop-mode, even holding his gun and flashlight like an officer of the law. There’s blood on the floor downstairs in huge splashes. Upstairs, John tries to find anything in terms of a clue. Out of nowhere, one of the kids shows up trying to stab Alex. More come after John appears. One of the young girls is very sick, dying, but the kids aren’t being any help obviously. The lead kid is upset about the dead girl, though, his other idiot friend seems hellbent against adult involvement.
The Countess is explaining to detectives where she last saw Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson). He’s nowhere to be found. One cop says it could be “cold feet.” Yet Countess disagrees. Then, to her surprise, Will shows up in a slick black suit looking better than ever. The look on her face is worth a million words. “You murdered me, you bitch,” Will spits venomously at his wife. But she’s not happy how he treated Bartholomew, the things he said. Spiteful, no? She was going to do it anyway. Countess has it all figured out, or that’s what she’d have others believe.
Later on, John and Alex show up with the kids back at the hotel. Finally, the killer vampire children have been convinced to settle down. They lead the kids to a hallway and tell them there’s a room a ways down where they can rest, wait for some food. Reluctantly the children go inside, except the jerk, who John knocks on his ass into the hall. They’re locked away in the darkness by the Lowes. What follows is a descent into Lord of the Flies territory, only with vampire kids, and instead of an island a hotel’s forgotten hallway. Best of all? Ramona Royale (Angela Bassett) turns a corner, full of blood, and sees the children: “Mm. Mama smells appetizers.”


What I love about this entire sequence of scenes is the way John and his wife seem like a happy couple again, now that they’re both monsters of sorts. On top of all that, Sally shows up asking if he came inside her, or if he “shot it on her tits” the way he does with her, because “with a whore its always on the tits.” So even with the happy couple dynamic, Sally is still kicking around as the mistress in John’s new fucked up world. Sally is a drug addicted ghost of some type, a demon even. Alex is a vampire. John is the Ten Commandments Killer. But Sally says “she doesnt know about younot like I do.” He wants to do it for his family, though, we know that addiction is strong. And it never lets go easily. Sally and John end up having a knife-point confrontation; she isn’t pleased with his decision to be with Alex.
Then, the addiction demon briefly appears in flashes behind Sally in the hallway, its drill-bit dildo barely visible for a moment in time.
Douglas returns to the hotel. He reveals knowledge of his father; at first Liz is a little ashamed, but quickly comes to see things are okay. Well, not okay. But nothing crazy seems poised to happen. Liz is happy to see Doug is a well-adjusted, grown, responsible man. Doug isn’t outraged by his father, his lifestyle: “Theres plenty of room for another woman in my life,” he tells Liz, who staggers back in emotion. Amazing. I hope this is all headed somewhere nice, a bit of a reprieve in the life of Liz.
Other seemingly happy times between Donovan and Countess at dinner. She talks about what she did to Will Drake, which he loves, of course. Lots of hilarious inclusion of modern talk and technology, modern phrases like “hatewatch” and “FaceTime.” Then, Countess finds Rudolph with his face shot to pieces at the motel. Brutal. Though, I don’t care about her pain. She deserves all she gets. Will she get revenge in this episode, or will another she get her revenge?
Over in a different room, Iris shows Liz a various assortment of guns, knives, poison possibly, slipknots, and so on. As well as a final video, tribute to her including good pictures and one of herself with a cat; all to be a “beacon of hope for my 3 follows on Instagram.” Only Liz doesn’t want to go out any longer. She wants a connection with Doug now. Now, Iris is abandoned once more; she feels as if everyone has left her behind. Liz has got other plans: “Dammit, were the ones who should inherit the earth,” she tells Iris. Will these shes get revenge?


Alex and John go to the weird video game room, where father is reunited with long lost son Holden. He cries and takes the boy in his arms, happily embracing the son he never thought he’d see again. John loves his family, even if two of its members are now vampires. But what will The Countess have to say about this? Is she simply going to let Holden leave, letting Alex go? And what about John – can he abandon his Ten Commandments work? On their way out of the hotel, the Lowes are confronted by an angry Sally who swears on her soul: “I will kill you.”
In the penthouse, Donovan rocks out to Drake’s “Hotline Bling” until being interrupted by The Countess’ cold, dark presence. She talks about Rudolph, her search for him over a century. She and Donovan exchange thoughts about “being trapped here“, inside the walls of the Cortez.
Countess: “He made me everything I am
Donovan: “And you made me, in his image.”
Before Countess can kill Donovan, in bust the two bad asses Liz and Iris, each wielding two guns, blasting at their nemesis. Though we don’t see what happens. Only a cut to black.
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Very excited to see the next episode, “Battle Royale.” We’ll see what happens with Countess, Donovan, and the two new gangsters in Liz and Iris. Stay tuned with me, fellow fans!

American Horror Story – Hotel, Episode 8: “The Ten Commandments Killer”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 5, Episode 8: “The Ten Commandments Killer”
Directed by Loni Peristere
Written by Ryan Murphy

* For a review of the previous episode, “Flicker” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “She Wants Revenge” – click here


The end of the previous episode saw John Lowe (Wes Bentley) watch on helplessly as Wren (Jessica Belkin) ran into the road getting killed by a truck. Here, we begin with him dazed, everyone wondering what exactly happened.
Back at the Hotel Cortez, Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare) deals with a belligerent Lowe. Sally (Sarah Paulson) shows up, too. He keeps demanding to see the Ten Commandments Killer, over and over. Until finally Sally agrees to take John to the killer, where “hes been hiding.” Ominous. They head up to Room 64. “Is this a joke?” Lowe asks. But Sally insists there are answers inside. She starts talking about James Patrick March (Evan Peters). Though, it can’t be him. He’s dead. In a secret chamber behind one of the walls, there are a bunch of dismembered body parts, teeth, brain, and so on; each inscribed with one of the Ten Commandments. There needs to be a successor. All of a sudden, John seems to be remembering all the murders as being committed by him – he is the Ten Commandments Killer.
Really, though? I’ve got to say, not that I didn’t see it coming a little. But I’m still not impressed. Because you can see this coming a mile away. Or is this the whole truth? Are we really being given such a wild revelation, a supposedly big one, in the opening of an episode? I’m not sure. We’ll see as the episode goes on. I just feel a little disappointed if this is the real case, if John is actually the killer.
Sally: “Nobody let him in: he had a key.”
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Down at the morgue, John shows up to freak out his old partner Andy (Richard T. Jones) a bit. He wants to confess. First of all, he looks like absolute roadkill. So it’s creepy. Then he lays out a timeline of when he first went to the Hotel Cortez, a drunken night five years ago – 2010. Flash to that night with Liz tending bar, Sally hanging off it smoking and Donovan (Matt Bomer) lurking among the shadows. They all sort of descend upon him, eerie and foreboding. John sucks down drinks and finds himself invited to a party upstairs.
Meanwhile, the hilariously unsettling March has a monthly dinner with The Countess (Lady Gaga). They’re interrupted by Donovan, who brings along Detective Lowe. I suppose ole Jimmy loves when a man finds himself in despair, looking to “drink himself to death.” The attitude in which Lowe finds himself is perfect for March. He’s very intrigued by John and his lowly state of depression. They have a strange conversation, at times funny and others pretty creepy. March happens to repeat a phrase Iris (Kathy Bates) said a few episodes ago: “Black as the ace of spades.” I found that a little interesting, maybe nothing. But it was good. The entire sequence between Wes Bentley and Evan Peters is pretty damn awesome. I love them both as actors, personally. It took me a few episodes to warm to Peters’ March character, then after that I couldn’t get enough.
So John’s confessing all this to his partner. It appears to us that March and The Countess played into his madness. John losing his boy, or having him stolen, was all a part of their ruse. To apprentice him into being a successor to the throne of March, unlike Gacy, Ramirez or “that poof” Dahmer as March himself puts it.


Lowe talks about living two split lives: one at home with his wife, one at the Cortez with March. For the span of five years. March infiltrated his head with horrific ideas. He shows John around the hotel a little, by creepy candlelight, including a spot were he mounted the head of his former accountant. Naturally, John recoils at first. But slowly, his faith in the law slipping, the poor detective falls into March’s cold dark grip. On the anniversary of what he believed as his son’s death, John is back with March at the Cortez; current day 2015. “There’s no such thing as justice anymore,” says Lowe. March tells the tale of a pedophile who came to the hotel, which includes Polaroids Miss Evers (Mare Winningham) found. Lowe ends up at this man’s place – where the Oscar statuette was supposed to be purchased – and beats him to death. He then claims to have tried to hang himself, but Sally cut him down (she was actually watching him die; March cut him down). March and Hypodermic Sally/the Drill-bit Dildo Demon have a sort of pact, as well.
I’m starting to enjoy John as the killer. But where do we go from here? That’s my only question. Even though the “twist” was predictable to many, I don’t think it’s bad. At all. They tie everything back into itself, so many different little pieces, so well. It’s good writing, in my mind. More than that, I love the Bentley plays Lowe. Lots seem to disagree, but fuck ’em. He’s a solid actor, always has been, and here he gives a pretty unnerving performance as the man driven to complete insanity, to terrifying murder.

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James: “Youre home, John.”
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With the end of this episode, we’re left with John as the killer. Is it real? Or is John only being manipulated into believing it so? I’m still unsure. But as I said, I’m easing into the idea of Lowe as the Ten Commandments Killer. Although, one little screenshot I included in this review does make me question, very subtly. Supposedly, though, this is the case. John is the killer. Just not sure where Ryan Murphy & Co. will be taking things from here.
Stay tuned for a review of the next episode, “She Wants Revenge.”

American Horror Story – Hotel, Episode 7: “Flicker”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 5, Episode 7: “Flicker”
Directed by Michael Goi
Written by Crystal Liu

* For a review of the previous episode, “Room 33” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Ten Commandments Killer” – click here
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Checking in at the Hotel Cortez for another week, are we? Join me, as we walk the halls.
You can already feel new revelations about the come to light. Construction has broke ground at the hotel under Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson) and his management. Eventually, the crew comes upon a part of the hotel covered with steel, running along a whole section. Drake tells them to get the job done, knock it down. Once a couple of the construction guys make their way down a hallway uncovered after tearing the wall down, they discover creepy people(things) lurking in the darkness. Not long after, they have their throats chewed out.
One thing others are whining about is the blood and gore. Those elements do not a horror make. However, Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk have explored a lot of avenues with the 4 seasons preceding this one. They’ve stated this season is meant to have more intense brutality and gore. They said that. So, sorry you don’t like blood, but there ARE horror fans who LOVE that. I am one who can appreciate many sub-genres in horror, including the splatter stuff if it’s done well. The splattery nastiness here is done properly between the writers, the directors, and the Murphy-Falchuk banner. Dig it, hugely.


Alex Lowe (Chloë Sevigny) has brought her husband John (Wes Bentley) to the hospital. He’s almost in a trance-like state, walking in catatonia. He virtually mumbles everything coming out of his mouth. But rightfully so, he is definitely failing mentally. At the same time, most of his mental stress is being produced through his wife, through the hotel, through all the things he knows are real but just can’t prove. Not yet. He seems to have a plan, being checked in on purpose, though. I hope so hard he is NOT the Ten Commandments Killer after all. I don’t think he is, he seems to have an ace up his sleeve.
Back at the hotel, Iris (Kathy Bates) accompanies The Countess (Lady Gaga) over to where the construction crew are down two men. They don’t even know who did it, so that’s something I find interesting: Countess doesn’t even have the lid on everything happening under her roof. I’m sure James March (Evan Peters) knows all about the various comings and goings. But The Countess readily admits she’s not sure of what could’ve done the deed, and Iris notes how “Ive never seen you scared before.” Very intriguing little scene.

An impressive flashback to The Countess and her former life, 1925 in Hollywood. She is an extra on the set of a Ruldoph Valentino (Finn Wittrock) picture, admiring how beautiful the man is. They end up back at Valentino’s luxurious home. “Flickers are the future,” she says to him. He doesn’t buy her talk of immortality on the silver screen, commenting that in a century nobody will remember any of the movies they were in. We already know this not to be true, 90 years on; highly and almost categorically untrue, overall. Regardless, we’re treated to an excellent few classical film-like moments where the young Countess is whirled around dancing by Rudolph. Then, out of nowhere, Natacha Rambova (Alexandra Daddario) – his wife – shows up and makes the entire thing unpleasant, terribly awkward. This sex-laden season continues with a Rambova-Rudolph-Countess threesome.
Young Countess heads over to a celebration held by none other than Mr. James March. Here, in a brief scene, we get to see Evan Peters really do some excellent acting. I love him, and I’ve loved his performance in each season. Although, at the beginning of Hotel I was not sold on his March; I thought it was too hammy, or something. But more and more I’ve been drawn in. With this scene, and the one following with him/Gaga, I’m beyond pleased. There’s some element of these moments which I can’t escape, so damn infectious.
More than that, March and young Countess come together: man and wife. She doesn’t truly love him, still burning for Rudolph (who in this timeline has faked his death). Nevertheless, we see the beginning of the March-Countess murder double team, plus there is an excellent black-and-white old school sequence featuring Wittrock as Valentino; it reminds me of an actual silent movie from the early 20th century, fitted with an homage to F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu. Not just an homage, it’s actually Murnau who is a vampire seeking to preserve Valentino. There’s lots of good stuff, including a blood orgy of vampires in the Carpathians.
But Valentino and Rambova have plans to whisk The Countess away with them. Will March let anything like that happen? I think not.
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Over at the West Los Angeles Health Center, John Lowe is stumbling around, dazed and looking like any other patient. Only soon he knocks out a guard, making his way into a locked wing of the hospital looking for a patient named HAHN. Opening the door, he finds a young blonde girl dressed like all the other kids The Countess took. Her name is Wren (Jessica Belkin), she doesn’t “want to feed anymore.” More than all that, she has information about the Ten Commandments Killer apparently. Wren was present during one of the crimes, but says: “Nobody forced me to do anything.” She doesn’t seem to want to run from any of it, admitting to what happened and claiming it was nobody else’s fault except her own. There are scary parallels happening now, between Wren/The 10 Commandments Killer and John/his daughter. The visuals are awesome, with close-ups on John’s face, as well as Wren. Then she takes us back to a 1986 flashback where her father leaves her in a hot car outside the Hotel Cortez; when she met The Countess. Finally, Wren agrees to take Lowe to where the killer lives if they can escape.
Big surprise! The two creepy things that killed those construction guys are actually zombified, starving corpses, vampire corpses starving for blood… they are Rudolph and Natacha. Trying to get enough blood to return them to a state of beauty, they argue with one another. Natacha hates him for needing The Countess, bringing them into their now horrific state.
Natacha: “What curious creatures
Rudolph: “Like Colossus come to life
James March and The Countess have a nice dinner together, a monthly tradition it seems. He’s very dapper and lovely, she is also gorgeous and looking elegant. She wanted to see him because of the plan to marry Drake. He feigns a bit of sincerity. Clearly, he does not like the idea. The Countess, to James, is his property. The dinner isn’t exactly wonderful or happy. Mostly, they’re tense with one another.

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Then we see what could’ve been assumed – March had Natacha and Rudolph attacked, then brought to the Hotel Cortez. After which he proceeded to wall them up in that hallway, where they were left to perish for the rest of eternity. Or, at least until Drake decided to start renovating his latest acquisition. But even while I knew this was coming, I love the sequence. It’s haunting, harrowing even, to see these two lovers – assholes though they were – discovering themselves forever entombed behind a steel, a wall, then a ton of bricks. Best of all, March reveals all this to The Countess.
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The finale of the episode is incredible. “Circles” by The Soft Moon plays as we first see Rudolph and Natacha stroll out of the hotel replenished with youthful vigour. Then, John Lowe gets Wren out of the hospital. But instead of any answers, Wren wants it all to end: she runs into the street and gets ran down by a transport truck. Cue the black screen.
Wow.
Excited for the next episode, “The Ten Commandments Killer“. What do you think? Will John be the culprit? Or is it an unknown, hidden character lurking just beyond the periphery of our vision? Stay tuned with me and find out, horror heads!

American Horror Story – Hotel, Episode 6: “Room 33”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 5, Episode 6: “Room 33”
Directed by Loni Peristere
Written by John J. Gray

* For a review of the previous episode, “Room Service” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Flicker” – click here
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This week’s episode, “Room 33”, begins with a nice flashback to 1926 in Los Angeles. The Countess (Lady Gaga) goes to – yes – MURDER HOUSE from Season 1. She’s pregnant, and ole Charles Montgomery (Matt Ross) has the solution.
I’m loving this return to the first season, such an excellent connection. It isn’t passing either, like the earlier episode with Marcy the realtor. This opening sequence is slightly gruesome, especially once Montgomery takes a good huff of the inhalants to get things going. But the real fun begins when the baby ripped from Countess’ womb attacks the nurse helping Charles with the abortion.
Charles Montgomery: “Congratulations – it’s a boy.”
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Biggest trip of all for John Lowe (Wes Bentley) comes after waking up in bed, his little lost boy Holden next to him. When he chases the kid downstairs, John finds his wife in one of the glass coffins in the empty pool. This prompts a good fainting spell, like it would.
Then we move to Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare) and Tristan Duffy (Finn Wittrock) rolling around in bed together, having sex. Wow – did not expect this at all. Pretty wild scene. Not only that, there’s some strange connection between these two already. They each reminisce about what it’s like to see one another, both of them with their own sweet sort of poetry about the other. Strange moments, though, only because they’re so quickly coming on! Otherwise I think these two make an excellent pairing.
Meanwhile, The Countess has got Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson) on her own bed, giving him the business. But naturally, he is a gay man: “My cock and my mind operate separately,” Drake tells her. She decides there’s a need for an extra hand in all the fun, sending a text to Tristan. Then he has to go upstairs, to help out with Will’s dick. Well Tristan continually tries denying he is gay, even though he isn’t opposed to having sex with a pre-op transsexual (nothing wrong with it – no judgement on my part – but he IS at least bisexual). And still, The Countess easily persuades him into doing the deed, then she says: “Just fluff him up a little. Ill finish him off.”
Alex Lowe (Chloë Sevigny) drugged her husband up, put him back in the room and then set things to look as if he’d called her, probably drunk. Not as if she’s a vampire now, carrying that ancient virus, and sleeping in a glass coffin. She’s luring John into believing he is having a “psychotic break.” I feel so god damn bad for Dt. Lowe, and it only gets deeper when he heads down to the emptied pool – where, of course, not a single coffin is still lying on the floor. I’m constantly wondering how far this breakdown of John’s will go: is the Ten Commandments Killer, or is he just a good guy being done wrong by all the evil forces around him at Hotel Cortez?
Perhaps my favourite moment of the episode’s start is when Countess goes into a darkened room, picking up her supposed child, and tells him/her she’s going to Paris. Afterwards, they’ll have a massive amount of money it seems. But what is the child? Has it not grown since? It looks like a tiny infant still. Or is it another child? I doubt it. I imagine that’s still the child. So what, who, is it?


Finally, Donovan (Matt Bomer) and Ramona Royale (Angela Bassett) show up at the hotel in order to start enacting a bit of revenge. Ramona is clearly the most keen on doing in The Countess. She and Iris (Kathy Bates) are both surprised, for the worse, when they discover the kids in the coffins aren’t where they ought to be. A wrench is jammed into things for now. Although, between two feisty women like Ramona and Iris, I’m sure something will happen soon enough: Ramona wants the key to ROOM 33. Isn’t that where The Countess keeps her survived abortion baby?
At the same time, Donovan runs into the two Swedish girls who died at the hotel – they find out the tough way what’s really going on. I thought this whole sequence was awesome! Bomer is a great actor, in my opinion. He leads us into a scene with a girl named Carol who committed suicide at the Cortez – turns out, she came back and found a purpose in terrorizing guests. You never get to leave, sadly.
Donovan: “Eternity can be tedious without something enjoyable to break up the day
Ramona heads into Room 33, looking for little Bartholomew – The Countess’ feral abortion child. There’s a highly creepy scene here, with P.O.V shots from the baby, then a good one as it attacks Ramona. Everyone is in league, or almost everyone, against The Countess. Liz and Ramona are catching up, in a friendly way. Even Donovan, despite loving her and sniffing her panties, wants some revenge on the woman. Iris wants none of it, which is clear. So there is a lot going on against the lady of the house. Tristan is caught in the middle somewhere, I’m not sure if he’s going to fully fall in love with Liz, or if Countess will reel him back in. Either way, I feel a showdown at some point coming between Liz/Countess, as she may feel utterly betrayed by his loving Tristan. We’ll certainly see how things go from here.
The two dead Swedish girls find a purpose, or at the very least fun, in the hallways of the Cortez. They bang then kill a guy (well one of them bangs him), a bloody, nasty mess. After that, they unhappily talk with Alex Lowe about their purpose – she suggests crushing the minds of their prey, instead of so much gory murder. Apparently, Alex says she knows a guy who’s always wanted a threesome. Oh no…
John Lowe shows up at a new crime scene, asking his partner whether or not it’s a Ten Commandments Killer murder. But the cops don’t want or need him around, he’s obviously spinning into a downward descent. Back over at the Cortez, former Dt. Lowe lies around in the halls with a bottle of booze. He’s full of self pity, as well as self loathing. Then around the corner come the two Swedish walking corpses. They’re going to seduce John into bed, which they proceed to do. It’s a weird and bloody ride for Lowe, whose mind can’t handle whatever is happening. He takes off into the darkness,blood all over him, and heads to the front desk. Upstairs, Miss Evers (Mare Winningham) is cleaning up the bedroom, talking about the sheets and how full of blood they are, but ultimately it’s all about John losing his mind.


In the corner of the room, after everyone leaves, James March (Evan Peters) appears. Then quickly disappears. This almost drives John fully to the brink, banging his head off the wall. He knows he has to leave, so he begins to pack frantically. Will he make it through the doors and back out into the world alive?
John: “This is my breakdown Im gonna have it!”
Before Lowe leaves, little Bartholomew climbs into his suitcase without him noticing. SHIT! Where is this going to lead?
At home, John arrives with his daughter Scarlett (Shree Crooks). The girl is obviously pissed with her whole family after the strange events of the past couple episodes, even worse she was left at a friend’s house indefinitely, so that’s never a fun thing for kids. You can see John wants to repair his family, if that’s even going to be possible with a vampiric wife/son, and an emotionally damaged daughter now.
But again, we see the perspective of Bartholomew creeping around the Lowe house. John tries to track it down and finds it in the kitchen. We don’t get to see the child-thing. We watch in horror as John sees it, his eyes widened. Then he fires off shots, scaring the shit out of his daughter and making her afraid of him. There’s no sign of Bartholomew. Only a bloody trail. More adding to John’s deteriorating mental state, except we know the truth.
After the daughter is carted off to the grandparents and John is deemed even more insane, Alex finds little Bartholomew in the grass. Still, we don’t get to see him! I love how it’s being drawn out. The suspense kills me, in the best sort of way.
Liz finally confronts The Countess about Tristan. There’s an awkwardness at first, and then we come face to face with her jealousy. They all meet in one of the hotel rooms, she wants to have it all out in the open. The Countess doesn’t like the taste of betrayal, which she says tastes like charred spots on meat. A great scene comes here with Tristan laying everything out there, telling Countess about his “real love” for Liz, as opposed to her method, the sort that only brings sadness and despair and agony.
Nothing lasts forever, though. She lets Liz have Tristan, but immediately slits the boy’s throat right there. A fantastically gory gush comes rushing out, flying everywhere. Poor Liz, I thought this was going to be a good thing for her.
Then, in Room 33, Alex has brought the child back for The Countess. They bond over saved sons, each saving the other’s now, I guess. Does Alex really feel this way? Is she merely playing a game to lull in The Countess? What will truly happen
Countess: “Hes yours. Bury him.”
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FINALLY! We see the face of Bartholomew. An eerie shot to say the least.
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I’m very excited to see the next episode, “Flicker”, which is directed by Michael Goi – he’s a regular Director of Photography on American Horror Story. Stay tuned with me for another creep next week, fellow fans!