Catching Up with Bates Motel Season 5: A Rarely Peaceful Motel

Our weekly recap of what’s happening in the world of the 5th season of A&E’s Bates Motel

The fifth and final season of A&E‘s Bates Motel is in full swing. This weekly recap series will catch you up with the series and offer personal thoughts from this writer, who is an unabashed uber-fan of the series…

Bates Motel Season 5, Episode 3: A Rarely Peaceful Motel

This week’s installment felt like the calm before the storm. That is because in the world of Bates Motel, the “calm” involves heart-wrenching episodes of mental breakdown, torture, manipulation, violence, carjacking and ultimately…death. All of this is neatly gift-wrapped in tear-jerking performances, beautiful direction, razor-sharp writing and stunning aesthetics. A secondary function of this episode could be that it also works as the most star-studded and highest-budgeted anti-texting-and-driving PSA ever made.

In true Bates Motel fashion, the episode opens with a “wake up” scene. For once, it’s not Norman. Instead, it’s a captive and bloodied Caleb. Let’s take a moment to address Caleb as a character, and specifically Kenny Johnson’s portrayal of him. Johnson is one hell of an actor and I did not fully recognize that until this season. Previously, Caleb came across as very “one note.” I used to view him as a cancer of a human being who was a detriment to every person and situation he encountered. Even when he tried to make amends, his impact was ultimately negative and his repentance always felt false. That being said, Caleb as a character has really captivated me this season. He has depth and emotional intelligence. I feel his heartbreak so strongly I carried it with me post episode. That is rare and incredibly powerful.

Chick continues to be a consistent scene-stealer this season as well. Once easy to write off as the token weirdo, or the type of character that holds an urban legend status in the towns mythos, in actuality, he may be the most dangerous and manipulative person in all of White Pine Bay. It is only now that we are truly seeing the power he has and how he can choose to leverage it. There is an old adage that states “always keep your eyes on the quiet ones,” and this is a great example to plead that case.

Norman at this point is more Norma than Norman. It has been so crushing to watch his slow, but steady decline. That sorrow has pivoted into a morbid curiosity of what “Norman Louise” will do next. Freddie Highmore’s performance in Norman Louise (as it will be referred to from here on in) mode is one that I have always been floored by. I spoke with Bates Motel creator and showrunner Kerry Ehrin recently and she talked about how Freddie Highmore genuinely lives in the Bates Motel world. It really rings true. Highmore is not mimicking or imitating Vera Farmiga’s portrayal of Norma. He is crafting a deliberately-paced amalgam of the two characters. Even more deliberate is his shift from an amalgam of the two into an absorption into one. It is gripping, profoundly executed and an honor to view.

This episode ended with Romero turning his prison transfer into a violent escape, which results in him being shot. Despite Norma’s simple and direct instruction of “fast, aim true, right through the brain,” Norman fails to kill Caleb. In a twist of fate, Chick hits Caleb with his car which (possibly) kills him while looking at his cell phone. Lesson learned: Distracted driving kills!

The teaser for next week’s episode hints at a more intimate involvement with Madeline Loomis, the Norma look-a-like and wife of Sam Loomis (aka David Davidson). It will also dig deeper into the disappearance (escape) of felon Sheriff Romero.

Bates Motel has earned its title of “Master Of The Cliffhanger Ending.” It’s enraging, exhilarating and unrelenting. It’s the calm before the storm…


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