Bates Motel: “Check-Out,” a glimpse of the past/future Norman Bates

A new day dawns on Bates Motel. Image courtesy of
A new day dawns on Bates Motel. Image courtesy of

Episode Grade: A+

Well, after last week’s blunder of an episode, I was curious to see if this episode would live up to the hype of its preview, and wow, did it.

The culmination of past events finally come to a head in “Check-Out,” and in one of the best scenes in television, the creators meld the past and present to reveal the Norman Bates we all know from Hitchcock’s “Psycho”—the Norman Bates that has divided into two personas, that of the sweet and kind-hearted Norman and that of the angry, demented Norman that IS his mother Norma.

It’s the moment viewers have been waiting for and it certainly didn’t disappoint. In fact, “Bates Motel” has never been better.

The episode picks up the morning after the big reveal—Norma (Vera Farmiga) tells Dylan (Max Thieriot) that her brother Caleb (Kenny Johnson) is his father—yet, surprisingly, the first person we see is Emma (Olivia Cooke), whose character has really been reduced to filler, as she wakes up half naked in bed with the bad-boy drug dealer from last week.

Shocked and horrified, she sneaks out of the room only to be bombarded by the customer she checked in last night (while drunk no less) complaining about Dylan, who’s passed out drunk in his car in front of the Bates motel.

Dylan (Max Thieriot) recovers from an awkward night of drinking. Image courtesy of
Dylan (Max Thieriot) recovers from an awkward night of drinking. Image courtesy of

With the help of Norman (Freddie Highmore), Emma manages to get Dylan into one of the rooms. However, the already addled Norma finds them cleaning Dylan up and, in a rage, she storms off to confront Caleb, though not before a very tender scene in which we see Norma’s love for Dylan as she tucks him securely into bed, as if to protect him from any further harm.

Despite her frustration and anger with her brother, Norma can’t muster up the courage to confront Caleb. Seeing Caleb sitting outside the motel where he’s staying, Norma struggles to escape the fear that Caleb has always made her feel, and after succumbing to tears, she speeds out of there trying to escape her past.

Of course, being the mama’s boy that he is, Norman is desperate to be there for his mother like she’s always been there for him. Trying to comfort the very fragile Norma, he cuddles with her in bed in a sweet but very creepy way. The whole mama’s boy protectiveness is endearing, but that whole scene borders on incestuous.

Norman’s possessive obsession with Norma is clearly evident within the episode, like him creepily watching his mother dress, and adds to the disturbing factor of the show (as well as exposition for the episode’s best moment).

Already in a fragile mindset, it doesn’t help Norman that new friend Cody (Paloma Kwiatkowski) encourages him to use force in order to get Caleb out of town. That same night, the two head to Caleb’s motel, tire iron in hand, to talk some sense into him.

As Cody sweet talks the concierge for Caleb’s room number, Norman retreats into his mind where he horrifically imagines his mother’s rape like some twisted version of a home movie. But when it finally comes time to take action, Norman backs out, clearly recognizing the signs of his emotional instability. However, his rationality doesn’t last long.

After arriving back to the Bates house, Norman hears Dylan and Norma’s screaming match, in which Norma reveals more about the terror she endured at the hands of her brother, and that’s the final straw. Norman snaps.

Norman (Freddie Highmore) overhears Norma (Vera Farmiga) and Dylan's (Max Thieriot) screaming match and snaps. Image courtesy of
Norman (Freddie Highmore) overhears some disturbing new facts from Norma (Vera Farmiga) and Dylan’s (Max Thieriot) screaming match and can take no more of it. Image courtesy of

He confronts Caleb in his motel room, but it’s not the sane Norman—it’s the deranged “mother” persona of Norman that originally appeared on the screen in Hitchcock’s 1960s classic “Psycho.” Flashing back to imagined memories of being raped, Norman attacks Caleb, wildly swinging a knife (a beautiful allusion to the knife wielding psycho of Hitchcock’s Norman Bates), revealing the first descent into Norman’s psychotic split personality that takes the form of his mother Norma.

This episode was incredible. It was genuinely frightening but exciting at the same time. Aside from a brief (and boring) foray into the drug subplot (the new head honcho guy burns down the sheriff’s house in a show of who’s boss), “Check-Out” is beyond brilliant.

The creators give us a glimpse of the future of “Bates Motel” by merging Anthony Perkins’ 1960 Norman Bates, who we all know and love, with Freddie Highmore’s 2014 Norman Bates, and it’s a hell of a good looking future.

The chemistry between Farmiga and the two boys, Highmore and Thieriot, is phenomenal. Their interactions, from Norma and Norman’s unhealthy obsession with each other to Norma and Dylan’s love/hate relationship, drive the show forward and keeps me on the edge of my couch.

But it is Freddie Highmore who is continually surprising with his portrayal of Norman. He’s able to be emotionally vulnerable yet completely insane at the same time, as in the motel room where Norman struggles to maintain his sanity only to check out, if you will, and slip into his mother’s personality, making it difficult to figure out if you should feel sympathy toward him or scared by him.

“Check-Out” earns an A+ for Norman’s thrilling descent into madness, creatively bringing the story of Norman Bates full circle.


“Bates Motel” airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on A&E.