Bates Motel again spins its wheels in episode 504, “Hidden.” This will be a short recap/review because, for the second week in a row, there’s no advancement in the primary Psycho storyline. Instead, we get more back-and-forth between Norman (Freddie Highmore) and Norma (Vera Farmiga), with repeated emphasis on Norman’s anger about his mother making decisions without first consulting him.
The relationship between the two that is ultimately going to take us to the end of the series is clear by now; it doesn’t have anywhere else to go. In his mind, Norma is alive, having faked suicide. They fight (all the time). When he suffers a blackout, usually induced by extreme stress or sexual arousal, he becomes Mrs. Bates and doesn’t remember what he/she has done. That’s the same dynamic as in Psycho, so let’s get to that story.
The pieces are there, but they’re left dangling (or ignored) among redundant subplots. For example, the whole disappearance of Jim from episode 501 is resurrected with a new scramble to better hide his abandoned car. The re-development takes precedence over Sam Loomis (Austin Nichols) and his affair with Marion Crane (Rihanna, who has yet to make an appearance.) A&E seems to be publicizing her “joining the cast,” when it may be for only one or two episodes.
Also, they’re really extending escaped former sheriff, Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell), and his attempt to reach Norman. The pace of that subplot seems different from the pace of everything else that’s happening. It should be cliffhanging suspense for a couple of weeks, not little snippets spread across the entire season. Doing so eliminates the urgency and makes it seem less important than the character has earned.
Finally, it seems a little late in the run to introduce a new sheriff. Nevertheless, we meet her in this episode. She’s Jane Greene (Brooke Smith), who rides her bicycle to work and visits Norman twice to ask if he’s seen Jim or his car. I’m surprised nothing was done with this character to pay homage to Psycho‘s Detective Arbogast (Martin Balsam) or Sheriff Al Chambers (John McIntire), since the show has made so many other connections to the original.
While I’m sounding negative about the last couple of episodes, we still have to remember the good work that’s being done: the acting, specifically the performances of Highmore and Farmiga. That’s always been the strength of Bates Motel, through all its ups and downs. Farmiga especially adds nuance to a character that’s essentially new. Yes, it’s Norma Bates. However, it’s Norman’s version of her, not the woman who physically existed in the previous four seasons.
Some of this is subtle, but pay attention to her and you really notice these differences. Other aspects are more blatant. For example, Norman’s vision of his mother includes some colorful wardrobe choices, particularly with hats. The series does not lack attention to detail, but it shouldn’t get mired in it. I would have hoped for by now, with only six episodes to go, a rollercoaster ride to the end. Maybe I’m just being impatient.