Thursday, April 13, 2017

Bates Motel 5x08 Review: "The Body" (Mother is Mad) [Contributor: Erin Allen]

"The Body"
Original Airdate: April 10, 2017

“Hun, you are in a big pickle.” 

Norman certainly is and I don’t know if Mother can get them out of it this time. Freddie Highmore directs this tense episode of Bates Motel.


The episode opens on Norman unable to open his eyes. He’s afraid of Mother’s response to him turning himself in for Sam Loomis’ murder. And he should be afraid because Mother is not happy. He is trying to escape her by taking his meds and being put under police watch. She will not go without a fight, though. He finds that no place is safe from her because she is part of him. She roughs him up when he takes the pills and forces him to throw them up. Then she very lovingly cradles him in her arms and tells him that she’s going to make everything better, right before smashing his head into the toilet.

Mother showed signs of wanting to take over in “Inseparable,” and here she does just that. Norman is gone for the rest of the episode with his Mother self in the hot seat. The scenes toggle back and forth between showing Highmore and Vera Farmiga as Norman/Mother. In the interrogation room, the use of the two-way mirror to alternate between them is an obvious device, but is done well, and quite artfully. When Norman gives his tearful account of his doomed love for Madeline, he is played by Highmore. This shows how great Mother is at acting as Norman. It is very convincing — not enough for the skeptical sheriff, but I liked the choice to keep Highmore during this part. Similarly, in the scene with Norman and his lawyer, it is Farmiga as Mother. We see her mind working on a way to disprove Norman’s hasty confession. Mother is the smart, conniving one of the two, so it makes sense that we see Farmiga here.

These decisions made these heavy dialogue scenes impactful, especially in the first scene where Mother is in the driver’s seat. Farmiga fixes and straightens her clothes when she hears the sheriff coming, then it is Highmore that interacts with her. Norman is lit, his pale face practically glowing. It’s like Mother is shining out from within him. Sheriff Greene is in the dark, figuratively and literally. The Norman she encounters is a complete 180 from the docile, cooperative Norman she questioned earlier. I absolutely loved this. And, on top of all that, Brooke Smith’s performance was fantastic. She is confused by his change in behavior, but she doesn’t let it shake her. She is sarcastic and stern, and I really like how that attitude goes with Mother’s. It made for a dynamic interaction.

I really don’t see any way out for Norman. He’s got people coming at him from all sides as well as inside him. He’s faced with spending the rest of his life either in prison or an institution on medication without Mother. Or he could be gone forever with Mother serving out those sentences. Or he could be dead. Remember Romero is still after him and looking to kill him. I’m afraid there is no way out of this psychotic pickle, but that doesn’t lessen the excitement to see how it unfolds.


I got chills when Romero stepped into the frame of the cold landscape of the Bates Motel. And then I got feels. Once he enters the house, he sees visions of a glowing Norma, and we get to relive that pain, remembering that they were happy in that house for a (much too) short while. Romero wears that sorrow on his face and in his beautiful, dark eyes. It is gut-wrenching. To make it even worse, he falls asleep in her bed. This poor, heartbroken unicorn.

All this precedes a crazy scene with Chick in the basement. That’s right, the delightfully strange weirdo, Chick, is back, too. Romero finds him pecking away at his typewriter in the freezer that had entombed Norma’s body, “dancing with newborn angels, trying to catch a muse.” Romero is in no mood for Chick and his fanciful prattling. “Why don’t you say it like a normal person?”

Listen, Romero has come a long way to get here. He escaped federal custody, he was shot in the gut, and he’s been having visions of his dead wife. All he wants is to kill her son in cold blood for revenge, okay? He’s trying to wrap his head around the fact that Norman dug up her body and enshrined her in the very spot that Chick now sits. The devastation in his eyes when he finds that out hurts me physically.

Chick continues to yammer on about his book, in his own little world. He sees himself as an observer and even heroic for recording the events that happened in this “beautiful, haunted old house.” He’s put himself on the outside looking in, and feels no danger can come to him. That is until he tests the patience of the lovesick, grief-stricken Romero. Even as I heard the words that Chick typed: “More surprise than the brain would allow you to imagine —” I was still taken aback when Romero shot him the head! In an episode that had been largely devoid of action, this was unexpected, even with Chick’s running commentary.

Although I really like Chick, I think this was the best conclusion to his story. No matter how much he tried to justify it, his book was exploitative of a really tragic family. He got cocky and blinded by his own supposed brilliance that he didn’t foresee himself becoming a victim of the story he was trying to tell. It was also a very poetic way to die that, I think, suits Chick well — he probably would’ve appreciated it. The typewriter ding when his head hits it is just perfect.

Motel Amenities:
  • I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: Brooke Smith as Sheriff Greene is such a great addition to this cast. I was living for her impatience with Norman. 
  • Not only did Highmore’s tears kill me again, but now he does this wide-eyed thing that also slays me. 
  • “I know you think there are people in the world that are fighting for good, but honey, there is no good. There is just life.”
  • “I hope you enjoy your accommodations. Not as nice as your motel, but we do try.”
  • “Be patient, Norman. If this goes well, in the morning you can come back, keep me company. I don’t mind admitting that I miss you.” Even though Mother wants to take over, she still needs Norman around. She is only one half of his being. I liked this acknowledgement. It was kind of sentimental and even sweet. 
  • “Where to begin? This looks weird.”
  • “The artificiality of scripted drama doesn’t hold a candle to true crime.” He says this right after actually lighting a candle. Chick is so wacky. Or was. RIP.


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