Saturday, March 18, 2017

Bates Motel 5x04 Review: "Hidden" (Parents Just Don’t Understand) [Guest Poster: Erin Allen]

Original Airdate: March 13, 2017

Norman’s facade starts to crack as his madness intensifies. He is losing his grip on some of his “personalities” and the strain is showing on this dark and poignant episode directed by the show’s own Dylan Massett, Max Thieriot.


Max Thieriot makes his directorial debut with “Hidden.” Thieriot tells Yahoo! TV that he’s been “taking notes and paying attention” on sets for years. It shows. “Hidden” is visually compelling with a powerful performance from Freddie Highmore.

Norman is really unraveling now, and Thieriot tackles this with sensitivity and detailed precision. He shoots the scenes in such a way that shows Norman’s tenuous handle on his remaining sanity. Keeping Norman alone in the frame reminds the viewer that he is physically alone and alone as a state of mind. The editing is superb, especially in the scenes with Norman, Norma, and a third person. This is evident from the first scene. Chick (Ryan Hurst), Norman, and Norma discuss what to do with Caleb’s body. Cutting between Norma being there and not, and both of their reactions and interactions regarding her make for a really effective and engrossing scene. All three actors really nail this, balancing the somber mood and the craziness of the situation. “I’m glad that the two of you agree.”

Thieriot honors horror and Hitchcock in numerous skillful ways. Having Highmore resemble Anthony Perkins’ Norman Bates at certain times throughout the episode creates an interesting dynamic. Highmore takes this direction and runs with it. The sharp low-angle shot of Norman is replicated from the film, as are some of Norman’s direct looks into camera. Thieriot’s restraint from going overboard with these kind of homages is commendable. He does it just enough to make the episode understated and harmonious with the series as a whole. He is also adept at concocting the scare factor. The best example is when Norma “intrudes” on Norman’s makeout session with Madeline. This is real horror flick material, and he approaches it efficiently and artistically.


Norman feels like Chick and Norma are ganging up on him and that sets up the desperation that plagues him for the rest of the episode. He lashes out at Norma — even going as far as to attack her — and he kicks Chick out of the house. He slips up in front of the new sheriff and lets Mother “get to him” on his date. Not only are his scenes fascinating, but Highmore injects a heartbreaking humanness. When he attacks Norma, his own behavior shocks himself into remembering that she is dead and that he killed her. This clarity is quick. Norma blinks and her dead eyes are gone, but their awareness of Norman’s assault is still there. The devastation on his face shows so much. He realizes that this is a delusion he’s created for himself, and it disturbs him that he acted with aggression towards her. It disturbs Norma, too. Vera Farmiga played Norma’s response brilliantly, keeping in mind that her reaction is also Norman’s criticism of himself. She is crushed and disappointed in him. “Don’t ever do that to me again.” Norma has been the victim of so much violence from men, to see Norman violate her, even in her death, is unsettling, to say the least.

Norman knows that he is mentally ill, but the extent of his illness is beginning to dawn on him in fuzzy bits and pieces. After several attempts at pushing Chick away, he finally confides and reaches out to him. The scene between them in Chick’s trailer is full of emotion — a stark contrast to their awkward exchange on the steps earlier in the episode. “It’s not me. It’s her. Mother. She’s out of control. There is something very, very wrong with her. She is going to ruin us if I don’t rein her in and I don’t know how to rein her in exactly.” Highmore humanizes Norman and his sickness for the viewers and for Chick. Hurst shows a shift from fascination to sympathy towards him.


Kudos to the casting department. Brooke Smith as Sheriff Greene is a fantastic addition. She’s the Arbogast-like character and I’m curious if she will share the same fate. Smith deftly plays the smart, but friendly detective. Her scenes with Norman are so much more than simple questioning. I like how she comes off as a bit naive to the seedy underbelly of the idyllic White Pine Bay, but we can tell that it is a part of her sleuth-y methods. It’s enough to make Norman nervous, but not feel very threatened. His normal act and charms aren’t working on her, although Norman thinks he is fooling her. The fact that this role is filled by a woman accentuates that feeling. If it were played by a man, Norman might be immediately more guarded and suspicious, like he was with Romero.

Speaking of Romero, he’s alive! Caleb is killed instantly when Chick hits him with his car, but Romero survives a point-blank gunshot to the gut. Okay. I’ll go with it. I’m just so glad he’s alive. He finally makes it to White Pine Bay, hoping an old friend will help him out. I had forgotten about Maggie, Keith Summers’ sister, from the first season. It kind of feels like things are coming full circle by reintroducing us to that early storyline of Norma and Norman’s violent welcome to the small town.

Motel Amenities:
  • As if it wasn’t bad enough knowing that we have to see Dylan and Emma find out about Norma’s death, now we have to watch them learn about Caleb’s.
  • I love Norma’s reaction to Caleb’s death. “It is what it is. He didn’t ever need to come back here. He didn’t ever need to do a lot of stuff.” I KNOW, RIGHT?!
  • This whole Viking burial that Chick gives Caleb is strange and unnecessary, in my opinion. Also, I can’t decide if Chick getting rid of the body in broad daylight with fire and smoke to attract attention is really stupid or actually genius. 
  • “What the hell crawled into your pants?”
  • “I don’t like how things are.” “Well, neither does anyone in God’s creation. We are a species of complainers.”
  • Norman arguing with Norma is really him arguing with himself. The dude is super conflicted. He wants to get rid of her old dresses, so she says that she’ll go online and buy new clothes. “You don’t like your old dresses anymore?” “Make up your mind! Do I like them or do I not like them?!” This whole convo is Farmiga gold. 
  • Brooke Smith was Catherine Martin in The Silence of the Lambs. I get so excited with any connection to the Lecter universe. 
  • I liked the conversation about clutter and having too much stuff because Norman’s brain is cluttered with too much stuff.
  • Norman chewing on candy corn while Sheriff Greene checks out the motel register was eerily similar to Anthony Perkins in Psycho and a well done tribute. 
  • Madeline is really turned on making this cake. It was... odd. And then they used a dry measuring cup to measure the milk. That bugged me. Use a liquid measure, for crying out loud!
  • Both Freddie and Vera used the flashlight props so well! It added so much to that scene.


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