Hello, Psycho! Bates Motel, A&E’s exploration of the early years of notorious madman Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore), begins to intersect with Alfred Hitchcock’s classic 1960 film — including a multi-episode appearance by Rihanna as unlucky motel guest Marion Crane — in its fifth and final season (Monday, 10 ET/PT).
The audience, perhaps still absorbing Norman’s murder of his mother, Norma (Vera Farmiga), at the end of Season 4 (which averaged 2.6 million viewers), will have to recover quickly, as the 10-episode season, set a couple of years later, begins with Norman precariously balancing his public image as a respected motel owner with the deranged inner world he shares with Farmiga’s Mother, a protector he’s created in his mind.
Highmore enjoys exploring Norman’s meticulously constructed double identity and his relationship with Mother.
“He’s trying to live two lives, one with his mother at home and one in the exterior world … where everyone thinks he’s a real success story,” Highmore says. “What’s so exciting is discovering a new way of interaction between Norman and his mother, this different character who Vera manages to infuse with the same level of humor and enthusiasm.”
There will be plenty of references to Psycho “through the lens of Bates Motel,” honoring the film without mimicking it or taking it as absolute canon, executive producer Kerry Ehrin says. Early in the season, Norman — echoing Anthony Perkins’ depiction — dons a blonde wig and a dress, an indication of his accelerating merger with Mother.
“Bread crumbs are starting to be laid out in the first episode that will eventually lead to Marion Crane … People who know Psycho will enjoy it but (the season) stands on its own as a really good story,” Ehrin says, avoiding too much specificity. Asked if Bates will replicate the signature shower scene, she jokes: “Is there a shower scene in Psycho?”
Psycho kept viewers at bay regarding secrets at the hilltop house, she says, but the final season of Bates is “a great opportunity to show you what’s going on behind closed doors.”
As for the Rihanna casting coup, Ehrin says fellow executive producer Carlton Cusesuggested approaching the music superstar about playing Marion, a role made iconic by Janet Leigh, after they learned she is a Bates fan.
Highmore, who next will portray famed bank robber Baby Face Nelson in an A&E pilot he’s writing and producing with Ehrin, praises Rihanna’s reimagined Marion. “In combination with the writers, she’s come up with a Marion Crane who serves as a wonderful throwback to Psycho but at the same time is decidedly modern and feels fit to face the contemporary world.”
Beyond the Psycho connections, Bates has created its own world of stories and characters. In Season 5, new arrivals threaten Norman’s carefully constructed double existence, as he takes a fancy to married business owner Madeleine Loomis (Isabelle McNally, House of Cards) , who bears a striking resemblance to Norma, and encounters the new sheriff (Brooke Smith, Grey’s Anatomy).
Others from Norman’s past return. Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell), the sheriff who married Norma shortly before her death, is in prison on perjury charges as the season opens, but he still seeks revenge against Norman. Norma’s brother Caleb (Kenny Johnson) also comes to town, threatening to disturb Norman’s life, and Dylan (Max Thierot), Norman’s half-brother (and the product of an incestuous relation between Caleb and Norma), and Emma (Olivia Cooke) are drawn back in, too.
“All roads lead to home,” Ehrin says. “Threads of dysfunction always pull you back in. There really is no escape.”