Bates Motel Recap: Being Norman

Bates Motel

Season 5 Episode 4
Editor’s Rating *****
Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates. Photo: Cate Cameron/A&E Networks

The psychosis of Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) reaches a new level in “Hidden.” For four seasons, Norman has blacked-out in moments of severe stress or anxiety, and “Norma” (Vera Farmiga) has taken over. Toward the end of this week’s episode, we find ourselves at a moment in which it appears this transformation will happen again, but Norman stops it, preventing “his mother” from taking another victim. The scene that follows hints that this new ability is not necessarily a positive development, while also calling back brilliantly to the final shot of Norman Bates from Alfred Hitchcock’s classic movie.

“Hidden” opens in the aftermath of the car accident that closed last week’s episode. As we suspected, Caleb (Kenny Johnson) is actually dead. Norman suggests calling the sheriff, but “Norma” and Chick (Ryan Hurst) advise against it. The blossoming writer who actually hit Caleb with his car (and has a violent history that could get all involved into trouble) also reminds Norman that “there are other things in your basement.” Chick and Norma win the fight, then Chick burns Caleb in a Viking funeral the next day. There really must not be a lot of people living anywhere near the Bates, huh? Chick doesn’t seem even slightly concerned that someone might catch him burning a body on the lake.

Former sheriff and now escaped convict Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) is still alive, but he’s in bad shape. He convinces the kid who shot him in the stomach to go inside for help and then he flees. Not long after, he calls an ambulance from a pay phone, then raids it for supplies while the EMS drivers head in for the fake call. By the end of the episode, he’s stumbled his way to safety, barely kept alive by his desire for vengeance.

While that happens, Norman meets Alex’s replacement, Sheriff Greene (Brooke Smith). She may not yet know the danger that hides behind Bates Motel, but she’s instantly suspicious of the young man she meets on the front step. Little does she know he was just arguing with his dead mother about what she wears, giving Farmiga her best line of the episode: “Dead or not, I can’t be prancing around this house naked!” Greene ruins Norman’s day by (1) asking about the missing Jim Blackwell, and (2) letting him know that Romero escaped, and is probably headed his way. Interestingly, Norman doesn’t tell his mother about the latter, perhaps thinking he can handle the vengeful lawman himself.

Norman is tossing his mother’s old stuff away when he stops himself and goes to visit Madeleine (Isabelle McNally). After a clever, movie-referencing conversation about how the Bates Motel goes through a lot of shower curtains, Norman gives his new object of affection his dead mother’s clothes. Nothing weird there at all. For some reason, she doesn’t run screaming. In fact, she takes the clothes, promising to take good care of them.

Now that he’s dressing his new girlfriend in his dead mother’s clothes, our big boy Norman has to get rid of his guardian. He tells Chick to leave, and I’m not sure I believe this bit of plot development. Yes, Norman feels like he’s being told what to do by “Norma,” and that could be the reason he gets rid of Chick, but he also knows that Alex is coming for him. Wouldn’t he want Chick’s protection? Or is he determined to take on Romero himself? Is he scared of what Alex could tell Chick?

While Chick is finding a new place to live, Greene comes asking about the guest registry. She wants to see if Jim Blackwell checked in, possibly under a false name. Norman makes a crucial error, dropping the name of Blackwell’s hometown, which he knows from the driver’s license he found in the season premiere, but which Greene never mentioned. Though she plays it cool, Smith excellently conveys her growing suspicion. When Greene asks Norman about the car, he stutters again. Something isn’t right here, but she leaves, ominously saying that she’s “looking forward to seeing you again, Norman.”

Norman comes home and tells mom that they have to get rid of the car. Norma left it in the woods a couple of miles away and ditched the key. As they’re by the car, Norman fights with the imaginary ghost of his mother. He accuses Norma of wanting them to get caught and she gets louder and louder, yelling, “My name is Norma Bates and I’m still alive!” He jumps on her and puts his hand over her mouth. Her face turns cold and her eyes turn dead. It’s almost as if Norman has a moment in which he realizes that his mother is dead. And then she’s back. Is he losing control over his psychosis or gaining more?

We learn more about Norman’s situation in the final scenes of the episode. After a moment with Chick in his RV, in which he mentions the book he’s working on will make a “nice little movie,” Norman goes to dinner at Madeleine Loomis’s house. Sam is out of town and she doesn’t want to be alone. (When she came to the door wearing one of Norma’s dresses, I started to wonder if she’s as crazy as he is.) They have a lovely dinner and she offers to bake a cake, which just has to rank high on the turn-on list for a man attracted to his old-fashioned mother.

Norman and Madeleine get closer and closer as they pour the milk into the mix (again, a motherly symbol), and then they’re making out. Suddenly, Norma is over Madeleine’s shoulder. She grabs a knife and cuts Madeleine’s throat, leaving her on the floor to bleed out. But she doesn’t. It’s a vision that Norman is having. The break between his two personalities is finally closing. In the old days, Norman would have become “Norma” and killed Madeleine. If anything, he’s fighting for more control through this entire episode, not allowing Norma to run his life. He comes home to find the place in shambles. There’s no sign of mother. Has he purged her from his mind? He looks up at the camera in a shot that reminded me of the end of the Hitchcock movie. And sent a chill down my spine.

Other Notes

• If you’re wondering why you know the great Brooke Smith, she’s perhaps most famous for being told to put the lotion in the basket as Buffalo Bill’s kidnapped victim in The Silence of the Lambs.

• Max Thieriot didn’t appear as Dylan, but his presence was felt anyway as he directed this episode.

• I love the modern song choice and totally different décor of the Loomis home. It’s almost shocking in the way it reminds us that we’re in the present day, which you can totally forget when trapped in the world of Norman Bates.

Bates Motel Recap: Being Norman