Thursday, March 30, 2017

Bates Motel 5x06 Review: "Marion" (The Shower Scene) [Contributor: Erin Allen]

Original Airdate: March 27, 2017

Bates Motel had a mother of a plot twist in this episode. Along with incredible performances, heartbreaking dialogue, and nostalgic cinematography it truly is a memorable hour of television — one for the history books.


Marion Crane (Rihanna) checks into the Bates Motel, and we all know where this is going. Norman puts her in Room 1, and she checks out the shower, just like the film. He makes her a sandwich, and they have a really deep conversation about parents and relationships. It doesn’t feel odd even though they have just met. Norman has been doing some self-exploration recently and he tells Marion some of his emotional musings. My favorite line of the night was a simple but eloquent take on the ultimate struggle of life: “It’s hard to be lonely. But, it’s also hard to love people. That’s the trap.”

He elaborates further: “The little private trap. Everyone lives it. We need people, but that need can destroy us. Once you care about somebody, it rules you. And who even knows, at the end of the day, if that person is really who you think they are. Or if they are even real at all.” We know he is talking about himself and how he realizes that his consuming love for his mother has destroyed the both of them. But, this thinking can probably be applied to even the most normal of people. It strikes a chord with Marion, and she empathizes with him.


Sam’s deceit is starting to show, and Marion is not having it. Why doesn’t she take a shower to cool off? She gets in the shower, and it is really suspenseful. There are some shots and angles that mimic the film, like the high angle on Marion and the shot up the stream of water coming out of the shower head. She hears something. The camera pushes in on the shower curtain. This is it. Cue the screeching violins. And then... Marion gets out of the shower, unscathed. Well-played, Bates Motel, well-played. You had me going. I really like Marion, so I’m glad she’s still safe, but if someone doesn’t get murdered in the shower, I will riot.


Emma has to break the news to Dylan about Norma and it is HEARTBREAKING. Max Thieriot reacted brilliantly, crushing my soul. Dylan calls Norman and they have a heated and tragic exchange. Norman is already at his wit’s end, and having to explain to his brother what happened TWO YEARS ago is a lot for him to take. Similarly, it is overwhelming to Dylan who can’t believe that Norma would commit suicide. I love how Freddie Highmore plays Norman as feigning control, but also falling apart. It’s those teary eyes again. He is so good at that! Thieriot uses a perfect mixture of heartbreak and anger when he talks to Norman.


So, yeah, these scenes between Norma and Norman are intense. And mind-bending, too. It is a crime that neither Vera Farmiga nor Highmore have been recognized with nominations or awards. They are both putting so much into these complex characters. Season to season, week to week, I am constantly amazed by their talent.

That talent is especially evident when they have scenes together, one on one. We get a lot of that in this episode. Norman is struggling to come to terms with his psychosis. He is fighting his visions of Mother, but she will not go quietly. She fights back, demanding to be seen and heard. Norma’s intensity coupled with Norman’s fragility makes for some explosive drama. “No one made anyone up. We all exist. Like orphan planets spinning around in space with no purpose. It’s all real and it’s not real.” Norman still tries to resist, and Norma trashes the kitchen. He gives up and admits she is real. The scene ends showing Norman getting a hug from the Mother in his mind. He leans into an empty void among the wreckage.

Later, when Sam shows up at the hotel, Mother gets real with Norman. She tells him the how and the why of her existence. It’s time for Norman to face the truth and the pain that comes with it. “Like Adam wanting all the knowledge and eating the apple in the garden of Eden. You get the truth, but you also see the pain.” At first, the information is welcome, but then he retreats, succumbing to his fears again. “I don’t want to feel this. I don’t want to know anymore.” Mother continues her pep talk, and Norman builds up the courage to act on his own accord. He curbs his usual blackout where he lets Mother handle things, and handles it on his own.



Just like Hitchcock did with Psycho, Bates Motel takes preconceived notions and turns them on their head. Audiences in 1960 were sure that the leading lady would not be killed off in the beginning of the film. Today, Bates fans were sure that there wasn’t going to be a re-imagining of the iconic movie without Marion getting stabbed in the shower.

And yet.

It is not a departure from the film just for departure’s sake. There is build up. Not just in this episode and this season, but from the beginning of the series. The gender reversal of the shower victim allows this rich storyline to come full circle. Mother has revealed to Norman the reason he created her was that he was too little to bear the pain of his abusive father. He couldn’t protect his mother from him, so he developed a way that he could. Mother says that Sam reminds her of Norman’s father. Sam also happens to be the name of Norman’s father. Norman is not too little now, and has the power to do something about it. Mother, or rather, Norman talks himself into exacting a lifetime of revenge on Sam, to have him pay for the sins of his father and of men that hurt women, in general.

Sam is the one in the shower when Norman shows up. Norman is not dressed up as Mother, like he was in the film. This is Norman making a decision to redeem his childhood weakness by murdering another “bad and scary man.” These decisions make this plot twist extremely successful and satisfying. How cool is it that in this version of the Psycho story Marion gets to live, the no-good cheater dies, and Norman takes command of himself? I love everything about it.

They may have changed the major components of the famous scene, but they paid homage to it beautifully with the blocking and the camera work. They recreated several shots, such as the hand reaching for the shower curtain and the well-known shot of the victim’s face on the floor, eyes dead. It was haunting in its familiarity, but superb on its own as its own. All around, a spectacular achievement.

I feel like I witnessed cinematic history watching “Marion,” as I’m sure viewers of the film did back in 1960. It elevates the show that I already had placed pretty high up on the scale. It was well-crafted and stunning, visually and mentally, and I could not be happier with this chapter of the saga.

Motel Amenities:
  • Correction: In my review of “Dreams Die First” I referred to Dr. Edwards as Dr. Adams like a dope. 
  • “Nothing like a crazy person announcing their own clarity.”
  • If we aren’t going to have the Psycho violins for the shower scene, Roy Orbison’s “Crying” is an unexpected, but certainly suitable substitute.
  • “If I’m not here, then why am I here?” Great delivery by Farmiga. 
  • I like the way Marion eats that sandwich for some weird reason, but I do not like when she talks with her mouth full, especially during a great line like, “Parents can be a bitch.”
  • “We are two parts of the same person. Both are very real.”
  • The way Norman moves Marion’s bra when he sits down is super awkward and creepy. 
  • Anyone else sing, “He had it coming. He had it coming. He only had himself to blaaaaaame,” when Marion smashed up Sam’s car and Madeline threw wine in his face? Just me? Okay. 
  • “The world is full of mad people that function. Many of whom are heads of state.” Haha, BURN.
  • Norma trying to force Norman to open his eyes. OMG.
  • I miss Romero, but this part of the story needed to fill a whole episode. 


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