‘Bates Motel’ episode 6 recap: ‘Marion’ would make Alfred Hitchcock proud

Bates Motel” fans got not one but two shower scenes in the series’ sixth episode of its final season. Expertly plotted by writers/executive producers Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin, this “Marion” episode did Alfred Hitchcock proud by throwing viewers off the trail and switching up the iconic shower murder. The episode also did what this series does best by putting its two more than capable stars (Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore) face to face in deep conflict and superb dramatic scenes. The series has long been overlooked by the Emmys, but should voters venture to give “Bates Motel” a second look they’d find a solid show and two great actors working at the top of their game. Season 5, Episode 6 was excellent as a whole but these five moments stand out.

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Parlor scene — In a nice homage to the Hitchcock film “Psycho,” Norman serves sandwiches to hotel guest Marion Crane (Rihanna). The two discuss Norman’s hobby of taxidermy and the difficulties both have had with their parents. Moving around the carcasses of Norman’s stuffed dead birds, Marion slowly piques Norman’s desires and we fear she will soon be the latest victim of Mother’s murderous rage.

Marion’s shower — Midway through the episode Marion takes a shower, with Norman peeping at her through his office wall. In what seems like the set up for the famous “Psycho” moment, we were treated to tantalizing edits and camera shots that seemed to be leading to Mother appearing and murdering the object of Norman’s desires. In a major twist though, Marion survives her shower.

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Dylan finds out his mother has died — Dylan Bates (Max Thieriot) has often felt excluded from the close bond of his mother and brother. That pattern continues as Dylan finds out that his mother has been dead for two years and Norman has not told him. An emotional phone call between Norman and Dylan gives both actors nice moments.

Norma/Norman face off — “Bates Motel” is always at its best when they just let Farmiga and Highmore face off. In a riveting moment in the Bates’ kitchen, Norman tries to confront the Norma image that’s been haunting him. Norman here seems to for the first time be conscious that his mother is really dead and that the person he is arguing with is fictitious and something he has created in his mind. The Norma personality is deeply entrenched though and fights back, insisting she is real. Farmiga and Highmore both give deeply felt performances in this scene and Emmy voters should note it doesn’t get better than this.

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Final murder — The shower moment finally arrives at the end of the episode, but instead of Marion Crane being victimized it’s her boyfriend Sam Loomis (Austin Nichols) who falls victim to the knife. In a recreation of the famed Janet Leigh murder in “Psycho,” Loomis is stabbed but once again we never see the knife enter the body as Hitchcock had so famously done. We were also treated to the classic pulling-down of the shower curtain and face-first plunge to the bathroom floor. A notable change here from the film is that it is Norman who commits the murder and not Norman dressed and thinking like Mother. The point is further emphasized with Norman musing about what he has done. This would be the first murder that Norman has committed without dissociating into the Mother persona.

Four more episodes remain until the Bates Motel closes its doors for business. Is Norman’s realization that Mother is a separate part of his own personality a step toward him getting better, or will he be plunged into further killing sprees by his alter ego? Stay tuned to Gold Derby’s ongoing coverage.

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