Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Bates Motel 5x03 Review: "Bad Blood" (Family Ties) [Guest Poster: Erin Allen]

"Bad Blood"
Original Airdate: March 6, 2017

A lot happens in this episode, and yet it does not feel cramped or rushed. All the emotional moments — of which there are many — were given time to really resonate and effectively tug at your heartstrings. Clever dialogue and haunting visuals peppered throughout make “Bad Blood” a superb episode from start to shocking finish.


The episode begins with Caleb coming to and coming face-to-face with Norma. Freddie Highmore as Norma is chilling and disturbing. He doesn’t do a straight mimic of how Vera Farmiga played Norma, which I think is a good thing. No matter how talented the actor, the Norma that Farmiga crafted should be hers and hers alone. Highmore’s Norma is soft-spoken, but still with a bit of her sarcastic wit. “Gee, all better. Everything is right as rain now,” Norman/Norma responds when Caleb offers a simple apology. The way Highmore is approaching it and the choices he’s making intimates a reverence to Farmiga’s Norma. Even though the change in his movements and mannerisms are slight, the effect is downright eerie. The basic act of him/her walking up the stairs at the end of their first exchange sent chills down my spine.

Caleb, fearing for his life, goes along with the charade. He tries to appeal to his sister to have mercy on him. And she does give him some. She doesn’t give him forgiveness, but she allows him to say sorry and to say goodbye. We know that Norma was his everything, just like she was/is to Norman. For her to give him this chance means so much. It is heartbreaking to watch him go through this, but also to know that Norma deserved some sort of closure with Caleb, as well, and never got it.

Perhaps some of Caleb’s plea got through Norma and into Norman. He goes against Mother’s orders and releases Caleb. “I just want to be left alone. I don’t want to live like this anymore.” The internal struggle is raging, and he is constantly in conflict in his own mind. Highmore portrays an almost crippling distress that is captivating to watch.


Chick moves in with Norma and Norman. He seems to do it out of a combination of compassion and morbid curiosity. There really is no one better to play cool around all this insanity. It gives the split personalities of Norman a sounding board and lets him drop his guard a little bit. Ryan Hurst does a great job of showing Chick trying to get the hang of dealing with them both. The dinner with all three of them is a well-done scene, all around. The interactions between them and the editing makes it compelling and fun.

Chick as the “observer” is an interesting addition to this story, so I’m not sure if I like the twist of him writing a true crime book about it. Although his character has been a bit of a mystery throughout the series, he did seem like a kind, but eccentric man. This book thing is a little self-serving and doesn’t fit with my perception of him. I loved his scenes with Caleb. He says he wants more backstory on Norma because he liked her and he “lost her, too.” I liked that that was his reason. It’s a perfectly fine reason to want to know more. But, after the reveal that he is writing a book, it makes his intentions less than admirable. I don’t think the decision to turn this likable, quirky character into an exploitive writer is necessary. If Chick turns out to be some sort of reference to Robert Bloch, the novelist who wrote the book from which Psycho was adapted, I might change my tune. But, even then Bloch wrote his book before hearing the details of the Ed Gein murders that took place in a town nearby.


Romero’s move against Norman happens a lot sooner than I was expecting, and this makes me happy. However, how the episode ended for him DOES NOT. Poor Romero cannot catch a break. He lost the love of his life and the only thing he has left is his vengeance. That’s really all he is at risk of losing. That’s why he doesn’t think twice about making an escape. He does all of it smartly, but encounters an unpredictable element, and his plan blows up right in front of him. Literally. I am very interested to see what happens next with our forlorn fugitive.

Motel Amenities:
  • “Bad Blood” is also the name of a season five episode of The X-Files, which happens to be Gillian Anderson’s favorite episode. This delights me to no end.
  • I want a Vera Farmiga-as-Norma reaction to the news of the Dylemma baby. It would be much different than Highmore’s Norma.
  • “Can I trust you, Chick?” “Trust is the foundation and the bedrock of every relationship. You can trust me, Norma.” But, can we trust him?
  • It’s difficult to keep up with what version of Norman’s delusions is going on in his head at any given time. But, it is a fun challenge rather than a bothersome one. 
  • The moment where Romero gets the wedding ring out of his envelope of belongings is quick, but moving, nonetheless.
  • When Caleb asks Chick to cut him loose, he replies, “That’s not my role here.” I love the choice of wording. 
  • This kimono bit, though. 
  • “You don’t need to announce her, Chick. You’re not the butler.”
  • Isabelle McNally as Madeline Loomis is wonderful in her scene with Norman. The sorrow and disheartenment she shows by unexpectedly breaking down in front of him is affecting. 
  • “Feels like things are coming to a significant head.” Ya think?!
  • Major props to the wardrobe department for dressing Norma in that suit and tie. That was a great look for her at this particular time in the story.
  • “Fast. Aim true. Right through the brain.”
  • Reminder: do not text and drive.


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