Tube Talk: Checkout time at Bates Motel

By Paula Hendrickson

Norman (Freddie Highmore) may have killed off his mother Norma (Vera Farmiga) last season on Bates Motel, but that doesn’t mean Farmiga’s out of a job. Prominently featured in the creepy promos for the shows fifth and final season – with the tagline “Together until the end” – the embalmed corpse of Farmiga’s Norma might be cold and blue but her personality certainly lives on in Norman’s broken psyche, no doubt aiding and abetting his murderous activities.

The beautifully produced A&E series began as a prequel to the story in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1960 film, Psycho, in which Anthony Perkins’ Norman Bates killed motel guest and workplace embezzler Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) in the infamous shower scene.

We’ve seen Norman grow from a meek teenager prone to occasional blackouts in season one into a deeply disturbed young man who can’t always tell reality from fantasy by season four. If viewers held out any hope that psychiatric treatment might help Norman, it was tempered by knowing the story was hurtling toward his ultimate downfall.

Highmore elevated his performance last season, adding just enough of Perkins’ mannerisms to unnerve viewers. He made Norman both sympathetic and terrifying in the same breath, so who knows where he’ll take it this season. Norman has already done the unthinkable – killed his mother in an ill-fated murder-suicide attempt.

Once he killed Norma it became clear that a new take on Leigh’s infamous shower scene couldn’t be far off. Remember, that happened early on in Psycho and this is the final season of the series.

How closely will the final ten episodes of Bates Motel stick to the original film? Time will tell.

We do know that in the season five opener, singer-songwriter Rihanna will be checking into Bates Motel as the modern day Marion. Beyond that, remember the series has a few things the film didn’t have: Norman’s half-brother (Max Thieriot), a stepfather (Nestor Carbonell), and a friend (Olivia Cooke) to influence him or impede his actions.

And seriously, do you think Farmiga’s Mother would ever have gray hair or be caught dead wearing a ratty old shawl?

Programming Note:

Season premiere of Bates Motel is Monday at 9 p.m. on A&E.

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