Bates Motel Recap: Down by the Water

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Vera Farmiga. Photo: Cate Cameron/A&E Networks LLC
Bates Motel

Bates Motel

The Body Season 5 Episode 8
Editor's Rating 4 stars

With only three episodes left in the entire arc of Bates Motel, past crimes are rising to the surface as new ones are being committed. This week’s tense episode ended with a shocking act of violence, but one that did not come from Norman (Freddie Highmore) or Norma Bates (Vera Farmiga). It came from a man completely deranged by vengeance (Nestor Carbonell). When Alex shot Chick (Ryan Hurst) at the end of “The Body,” I suddenly realized he’s not planning on going back to prison or running from the law for the rest of his life — he’s likely going to take Norman out and is willing to die, maybe even hoping that he does, to make that happen. That’s how important this is to him and how little anything else matters.

Romero’s replacement, Sheriff Jane Greene (Brooke Smith), got her biggest share of screen time this season, investigating the odd case of Norman Bates, a young man who called her and said that he killed Sam Loomis at the end of last week’s episode. The episode opens at Norman’s house, but he knows he needs to get out of there to allay the visions of an angry Norma coming at him. He also needs his meds. Despite the fact that Norma/Norman was preparing to kill him moments ago, Dylan (Max Thieriot) is still trying to protect his brother, yelling at him not to say a word until he gets a lawyer. And the final shot pre-credits is something we’ve been expecting for years — Norman being taken away in a cop car.

A lot of “The Body” takes place in the White Pine Bay interrogation room. First, Greene wants details from Norman, asking him about the location of Sam’s body. He keeps pointing to different places on the map when asked its location. She also reveals they pulled two bodies from the lake — Alex’s assassin and Emma’s mom (although only we know her identity at this point). Norman doesn’t identify the female body. He might not really even know. “Norma” protects her son from everything scary. Greene tries to rattle him, calling him a child and saying he’s looking for attention. Norman is going to get some attention. When he’s alone in his holding cell, we see “Norma” throw him to the ground, force him to puke up his meds, and bash his head against the toilet, “knocking” him out. Mommy is in charge now.

While Dylan meets with an attorney to get his brother some help, Sheriff Greene meets “Norma.” Highmore’s body language is wonderfully different when the mother side of his personality is in charge. It’s in the crossed arms, the lilt in his voice, and the angle of his neck. Norma is angry. Norman didn’t take his meds, and that’s what led to the confession. Greene calls his bluff and arrests him for murdering Sam. As his lawyer makes clear moments later, they’ll need to figure out who killed Sam Loomis if it wasn’t Norman. You can see Norma’s mind turning — who will he frame?

Chick arrives to the Bates Motel, seeing police tape everywhere and first assuming the worst — that Norman is dead. The way Hurst conveys honest relief at hearing that he’s not is almost touching. Chick really cares about Norman.

After a lovely, sweet scene in which Dylan speaks to Emma (Olivia Cooke) on the phone, we discover that Norma/Norman has a patsy for Sam’s murder, Madeleine (Isabelle McNally). Madeleine discovered that Sam was cheating on her and she killed him. She even came back to the Bates Motel after the murder and confessed to Norman. He was just trying to protect her. Greene immediately takes the accusation to Madeleine, who, of course, denies it. She’s not even sure Sam is really dead, leaving him a message when she sees Norman in the station, that deadly look in his eyes — she knows now the danger she was almost in and that Norman killed Sam.

While Alex is headed back to White Pine Bay with his gun, Greene goes to Dylan, trying to shake him up. She tells him that the body from the lake has been identified as that of his mother-in-law. She encourages him to cooperate, telling him that she’s “seen family members destroyed over much less.” What will Dylan do? Thieriot is very good at conveying the mental and emotional turmoil over trying to make the right decision to save his brother.

Alex gets to the snow-covered house and goes through the front door. We get a series of melancholic moments as Alex remembers happier times with Norma, seeing visions of her bathed in light throughout the house. Not only is it good to see a sweeter, kinder Norma, but it’s nice that they gave Alex an emotion this season other than angry vengeance. He’s been destroyed by sadness, forever ruined by the death of the love of his life.

That sadness will quickly turn to anger. Alex awakens in the Bates house to hear his stepson’s voice and the sound of typing. He goes to the basement to find Chick listening to a recording of Norman and writing his book. Chick, who was wearing an animal on his head, saying, “This looks weird,” might be the line of the week. Chick gets Norman, saying that he’s a tragic figure because he both loved and killed his mother. It’s a great scene, and Alex learns here that Norman dug up his mother’s body and kept her in the basement. However, Chick doesn’t read the tension of the moment, going back to his book and shouting a line that Hitchcock would have loved: “More surprise than the brain would allow you to imagine!!!” (One of the taglines for Psycho was “A new and altogether different screen excitement!!!”) Alex shoots him. Square in the chest. Was it because he knows Chick has enabled Norman? Did the emotion of the moment just overwhelm him? Or is he willing to kill everyone who might stop him from killing Norman?

The episode ends with dogs and cops finding Sam’s body in the well. It felt for a moment that they might find Norma first — don’t forget she’s still out in those woods, too. And is Sam wrapped in a Bates Motel shower curtain? Greene tells Norman that they’re charging him with murder times three — Sam, Jim, and Audrey. How’s Norma going to get him out of this one?

• The great Freddie Highmore directed this episode, proving again he’s a multitalented young man.

• The previously on voice this week was that of Carlton Cuse, the show’s co-creator.

• I’m a little worried about how much time is left, or lack thereof. How do you think they’ll wrap it up in the final two episodes? And with Chick dead, who will live to tell this tale?

Bates Motel Recap: Down by the Water