Bates Motel Recap: Mommy Dearest

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

Bates Motel

Visiting Hours Season 5 Episode 9
Editor's Rating 4 stars

Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) is running out of time. Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) has learned the depth of his stepson’s madness and seems determined to seek vengeance. Sheriff Greene (Brooke Smith) has charged Norman with three murders. Norma (Vera Farmiga) can do nothing to save her baby boy anymore. Only his brother, Dylan (Max Thieriot), seems capable of saving Norman from spending a life behind bars or being killed.

Norman-Norma is getting fingerprinted and put in jail as Emma (Olivia Cooke) comes to join her husband in White Pine Bay, hearing that Norman killed her mother. The emotional turmoil on this family tree has to be hard to imagine, but Thieriot and Cooke do an excellent job at conveying the conflicted emotions. Dylan wants to help his brother, but he’s also known for some time that Norman killed his mother-in-law, and likely his own mother too. And try putting yourself in Emma’s shoes: Imagine your husband trying to protect the murderer of your mother. It’s an interesting choice for the episode’s pre-credits tag, as it indicates how important the arcs of Emma-Dylan will be to Bates Motel’s final two episodes.

The cops have descended on the Bates home. As Greene calls it an “interactive museum,” they sense that something strange has been going on here for years. As Bobby Darin’s “Call Me Irresponsible” plays, a searcher finds a piece of luggage buried in the yard, but another has “that beat by a mile” — he’s found the basement, which not only has to be loaded with evidence but still contains the slumped-over body of Chick (Ryan Hurst), shot in last week’s episode by Romero.

As the cops assemble more evidence and Romero continues his search, Norman meets with his attorney, Julia (Natalia Cordova-Buckley). She wants to plead not guilty by reason of insanity. This means Norman would spend the rest of his life in an institution. It’s fascinating to consider audience allegiances at this point and how rarely this show has spoon-fed them. What do we want for Norman? Jail would certainly be horrible for a young man as sick as he is. Yet he can’t just get away with it all. Perhaps a mental hospital is the best possible ending for Norman Bates.

As we’re reminded that Dylan is the only potential lifeline left for Norman — “Sometimes it sucks to be family,” says Julia — we see Emma deal with the remains of her mother. She even stops by Norma’s headstone, saying good-bye to a woman who was more of a mother figure to her than her biological one. Meanwhile, Dylan is looking at photos on his phone, including ones of his mother and brother, then Emma and his daughter. It’s his old family versus his new one. Can he save them both?

Not if Alex Romero has anything to say about it. He pulls into a service station in Chick’s stolen car, seeing a headline on a local paper: “Owner of Bates Motel Arrested for Murder.” Uh-oh, Alex knows where to go now.

Dylan shows up for Norman’s pretrial hearing. The best hope would be for “Norman” to regain control of his personality — “Norma” will likely go fighting to the lethal injection table. Norman might save himself. But we see that Norma is still in charge. We don’t hear much of the testimony from Greene, but it’s clearly not pretty. We see that Madeleine Loomis (Isabelle McNally) is crying in the audience. She’s understandably angry at Dylan: How much responsibility does he share in the death of Sam Loomis for not doing something about his violent brother earlier? If he knew Norma was dead, he surely would have come home earlier. He thought she was still protecting him.

While Alex turns down one final plea for sanity from Maggie (Jillian Fargey), Emma is watching them cremate her mother to the tune of “Crimson and Clover” by Tommy James & the Shondells. She throws the ashes of her mother into the lush scenery of the Pacific Northwest. There is some nice closure for Emma here, but it would have been nice to have Cooke back in White Pine Bay earlier. She played such an essential character for the first four seasons, but she’s been somewhat sidelined in this final year. Emma comes back to cuddle with Dylan, telling him that she’s going back to Seattle to take care of their child. We all hope Dylan makes it back there too.

She has one more stop. She goes to see Norman. Did you think for a second that she might kill him before Alex could get there? He’s in a holding cell, looking oddly confident, like Hannibal Lecter eyeing up Clarice Starling in Silence of the Lambs. It’s clearly still “Norma” in control. “She” tries to play to Emma’s sympathies. Then she gets harsh, saying, “Death isn’t about deserving — it’s just part of the deal.” Emma’s final line to Norman is a melancholy one: “Tell him that I miss him.” It’s clearly a good-bye to someone to whom she knows she can no longer speak.

In the climactic moments of this week’s episode, we set up the endgame of Bates Motel. Alex gets to the police station and he’s armed. He doesn’t care whom he hurts or what crimes he commits anymore. He’s kidnapping Norman Bates at gunpoint from a police station full of security cameras. He really has no fear, and that’s scary. Could Alex Romero be in so deep that he’s willing to die as long as Norman dies too? Could that even be what he wants? He almost chokes the life out of Norman right there outside the cell — but he still needs something from him. He takes Norman and the office manager from the station with him to a car. They’re going to the body of Norma Bates.

Other Notes

• The Bobby Darin song choice is one of the series’ best. Not only is it lyrically appropriate and a good fit for the show’s anachronistic aesthetic, but it feels like a song Norma and Norman would have danced to.

• With Alex shooting cops and killing Chick, it seems clear that he’s planning to go out in a blaze of glory. He couldn’t go back to jail. He could run for the rest of his life. But so much of him died with Norma Bates that he probably just wants to join her.

• This week’s episode felt a little transitional, setting up the pins to knock down in the series finale. It’s been a long journey for Norman Bates, but the end is in sight.

• This is it. Your last chance at predictions. Who gets out of this nightmare alive? Norman? Alex? Dylan? Any of them?

Bates Motel Recap: Mommy Dearest