Saturday, March 4, 2017

Bates Motel 5x02 Review: "The Convergence of the Twain" (Traître) [Guest Poster: Erin Allen]


"The Convergence of the Twain"
Original Airdate: February 27, 2017

“The Convergence of the Twain” is a poem about the Titanic disaster by Thomas Hardy, published in 1915. I love this title and the parallels one can draw between Bates Motel and the Titanic tragedy. The real life story of the Titanic remains a fascinating one even though we know the outcome. We have known all along that Norma Bates would die because she is dead in Psycho. The inevitable has happened and the aftermath is just as entertaining as the build up.


Norman descends further into madness, but still manages to keep up appearances. He said last season that he is good at appearing normal and harmless. The delusion in his mind is that Norma faked her own death so they could be together without interference from others. The story to outsiders is that she committed suicide. In actuality, Norman had planned a murder-suicide for them which failed and made him the sole survivor. Before her death, he would slip into the role of Norma when under extreme stress. Now that stress is constant and, to justify his murder of her, he relies on this split personality.

We see him “keep her alive” in two ways: the mother with which he bickers and the mother that he turns into. He talks to her as if she’s there, even though we know that he knows her body is downstairs in the freezer. In this episode, the scenes that portray both Norman with Mother and Norman as Mother are fantastic. We get Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore sparring against each other as well as working together.

When they are mom versus kid, that wonderfully tense bond they’ve always had is highlighted. Norma complains of being cooped up in the house: “Pretending to be dead isn’t as much fun as I thought it would be!” She learns French to pass the time (“Just because I’m trapped in this house doesn’t mean my mind has to stagnate)”. She meddles in Norman’s affairs by showing up on his double date and asking “Norman, do you still like me?”

When Norman lets her out to play, the show edit the two of them being Mother, seamlessly. Cutting on turns of the head and the two actors affecting the same attitude made for a beautiful scene. Both Farmiga and Highmore’s performances were well-crafted, but Farmiga was just enrapturing. I don’t think I was breathing when she was on screen. From her contemplative, “I don’t think he likes me anymore,” to playfully ordering another drink (“Hit me”), every expression and intonation was spellbinding.


I can’t mention the Titanic without referring to the Normero ship. It’s probably the best correlation between the disaster and the show. Norma and Romero built a very loving relationship after overcoming many obstacles. The marriage was a sham at first, but they truly fell in love with each other. Their future was bright and promising. However, that iceberg (Norman) was biding his time in the psychiatric facility, waiting for his chance to ram a final — and fatal — blow to that magnificent ship. The eighth stanza of Hardy’s poem applies:

And as the smart ship grew
In stature, grace, and hue,
In shadowy silent distance grew the Iceberg too.

Norman asks Norma a couple of times if she still loves Romero, trying to assuage his own doubts. He tries to send a message to Romero not to mess with him, when he visits him in prison. It only serves to solidify Romero’s revenge feelings, though. Norman is a dangerous individual, albeit not a very threatening one. After getting into a fight with another inmate, Romero works with his lawyer to get a transfer so he can “stay alive and well” for Norma. “I have a responsibility to take care of the son she left behind.” We all know what “take care” means and I am really excited to get to that.


The constant reminders that Norma is dead is like a repeated stab to the heart. As we learned in the last episode, Dylan, Emma, and Caleb do not know that she died. In this episode we see Caleb learn the awful truth. Although I thought the way in which he found out was a bit lazy and unbelievable, the weight of that discovery was still heavy. I mean, the dude at the hotel lobby that Caleb checks into tells him? I’m not buying that. Also, I am kind of annoyed that Caleb went to see her at all. Was he planning on telling her about the Dylemma baby? That would’ve been rude and if that wasn’t his plan, I doubt he’d be able to keep it a secret in front of her.

No matter his intent or the use of this indolent plot device, it certainly does move the story along and Kenny Johnson’s performance as Caleb is well done. In the scene with Chick (Ryan Hurst) at the bar, he exudes pain and grief. This precedes the final minutes which were intense, to say the least.  


Caleb busts into the house to confront (or beat up, maybe even kill) Norman. As he steps onto the porch, violins play a familiar chord. The chilling score is very reminiscent of Bernard Herrmann’s from Psycho. And the similarities don’t stop there. When Caleb finds Norma’s body in the freezer Norman comes up from behind dressed as Norma complete with wig. This echoes the scene from the film when Lila Crane discovers the mummified corpse in the cellar. My film school nerdiness came out in full force with all this. Chick walks in to see this macabre tableau and Norman as Mother says, “Now you know. I’m still alive.” To say this whet my appetite for next week is an understatement.

Motel Amenities:
  • I’m sorry if any of this Titanic talk got “My Heart Will Go On” stuck in your head or added to any Bill Paxton feels. 
  • Don’t ever let anyone tell you TV makes you dumb. I read and learned about a poem written over a hundred years ago because of this episode. 
  • My feelings on Romero’s prison haircut haven’t changed. When he gets in the fight, he rips off his hair net which was, honestly, an improvement. 
  • “Don’t lie. That is a lie. It was you. Your way of trying to get rid of me. I’m still alive.” I love Highmore’s delivery of “I’m still alive.” 
  • “I feel terrible and relieved and I feel terrible that I feel relieved.” “It’s not your fault. You can’t fix something that happened before you were born and you’ve done the best you possible could with it.” Emma is so wise. Always has been.
  • “The Lost Art of Mummification” book was a nice touch. 
  • Nestor Carbonell did a great job of looking dazed when he got knocked out. 
  • I really like this dynamic that Norman has with Sam Loomis. He has something over him, but he also is a little scared of him. I also like this deviation that the show is taking with Sam Loomis. In the film he was a sympathetic character. In Bates, he doesn’t have any redeeming qualities. He is a dud on the double date and appears to be a manipulative, uncaring husband who is cheating on his wife. He becomes an interesting adversary for Norman and it makes you root for Norman to screw with him (but, not in the killing-his-mistress kind of way).
  • Norman pops his collar when he leaves the coffee shop as a menacing little gesture to Sam. When he gets back to the house, he lowers it. Nuances like this have big impact. 
  • Norma makes her French computer program call Norman a traitor. She’s trolling him! 
  • “Are you smoking?” “I’m dead. It’s not like it’s going to kill me.” You would think all these “I’m dead” jokes would get old, but not with these two. I eat it up.
  • Norman keeps using words like “childish” and “silly” when talking to Norma, like he is the parent out of the two.
  • “I’m a caretaker of a mentally ill person.”
  • “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world.” Clever line for Chick to say.


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