Remaking a classic film like Psycho in a satisfying way is as close to impossible as you can get. For the past four years Bates Motel has flirted with the events and mythology of Hitchcock’s Psycho, and to a much lesser extent Robert Bloch’s novel, by giving us explorations of both Norma and Norman Bates prior to Marion Crane checking into the motel as a kind of contemporary prequel. As the audience we just weren’t sure how far in the timeline the show would go and last season – the best one yet – we found out. Norma’s death still managed to shock despite its inevitability leading Norman down a path next season which can only end in one place: Psycho. From Comic-Con we know that the fifth and final season will retell the events of the Hitchcock classic with popstar Rihanna portraying Marion Crane and this brings a huge amount of anxiety towards the final season. The season 4 finale could have been a pretty decent series finale and the idea to continue the show and recreate Psycho could be detrimental; however if the writers, including Lost scribe Carlton Cuse, bring their own twist to the tale and ‘remix’ Psycho for the show similar to how Bryan Fuller brought three Thomas Harris Hannibal Lector books together to form ‘Hannibal’ then it could be a huge success. Here are 5 things that should happen in the fifth and final season of Bates Motel to retell Psycho without remaking Psycho.
Twist on the shower scene
Whether you’ve seen Psycho or not everybody knows the shower scene. Harrowing, memorable and controversial in equal measure the audience witnesses Marion Crane’s death by the hand, and knife, of Norman Bates. The show has to recreate the scene and yet there has to be a twist or something unique to this version because a straight forward recreation would never stand up against Hitchcock’s masterful montage of murder. Yes, just from the very concept of the show the scene will be played differently because while the film tricks the audience into thinking Norma committed the murder, the audience of the show already knows that it will be Norman but there still has to be something else to make it unique and very much the ‘Bates Motel version’ of the scene. What could this extra twist be exactly? I don’t know and that is why, among thousands of other reasons, I don’t write the show.
Murder on The Stairs
While the shower scene is the most memorable murder in Psycho I’m much more of a fan of Arbogast’s death on the stairs. It’s also the scene that I don’t want changing that much for the show because even when watching the film for the first time you know exactly what’s going to happen as Arbogast slowly climbs the stairs until Norman suddenly appears slashing his face with the knife. I want it to play out exactly like the film with the same camera angles and pace because as soon as we see a character come up the stairs from the high angle showing both the landing and the staircase the audience will know exactly what’s going to happen turning the inevitable feeling of dread up to eleven. I even want the quirky shot which stays locked onto Arbogast’s face as he tumbles backwards down the stairs. However in saying that I don’t think it should be Arbogast who dies like that ( I don’t think he needs to appear in the show at all), I think it would be much more shocking if we were to see a character from previous seasons of the show climb those stairs whether it be Romero or even Dylan.
New ways to bring in old dialogue
Classic dialogue from Psycho has appeared in the show before, most notably Norma telling Norman “we all go a little mad sometimes” in season 3 but with the arrival of Marion Crane to the Bates Motel I’m sure we can expect some more. While Bates Motel needs to distance itself from scenes straight out of Psycho I do want some of the classic dialogue to appear such as Norman’s “We’re all in our private traps” speech but it needs to be said in a different context or even by a different person. This way the show can channel Psycho without remaking it.
Returning show-exclusive characters
One large and obvious difference Bates Motel has compared to Psycho is the wealth of show-exclusive characters who need to be used significantly. The show doesn’t need to introduce movie characters like Arbogast or Sam Loomis because it already has characters the audience is invested in to take their roles such as Romero, Dylan, Emma, Chick and Caleb or they can have new roles in the story altering the narrative of Psycho significantly which needs to happen for it to become a 10 episode season. Season 5 should be Psycho from Norman’s perspective and to really understand what he’s going through as a character then he will need to interact with other people than just ‘Mother’ and so I think it would be a wise decision to bring back Dr Edwards from the Pineview Institute. After such a large and important role in the fourth season it wouldn’t make sense for him to be written out of the show and he would be much more concerned about Norman now that Norma has died; maybe he will become part of the show’s version of Arbogast’s investigation into Norman. I like the idea of having some characters take the role of characters from Psycho but with a twist like what if Romero was actually the Highway Patrol officer seen in Psycho and uses his job to try and steer people like Marion Crane away from White Pine Bay so they don’t stay at the Bates Motel. However mainly I think the Bates Motel characters should continue their own unique arcs intersecting with Norman and the ‘Psycho storyline’ in novel and unexpected ways to keep the final season from become just another Psycho remake.
A better ending than Psycho
Psycho is a masterpiece but that doesn’t mean that it’s perfect. One of the ways that Bates Motel can improve the basic story of Psycho is to give it a better ending; while the ending, for the most part, works for the film it wouldn’t work for the show because we are much more invested in the characters, many of which don’t appear in the film. The faintly superimposed skull over Norman’s face and the ‘I wouldn’t hurt a fly’ scene in Psycho is fantastic but what isn’t is the nothing-but-exposition explanation of Norman’s actions, why he dresses like his mother and what happened to his mother by the very 1950s/60s psychologist in the final moments. Yes, we won’t need this scene at all in the show because we have been privy to this information since we actually saw it happen but I want a completely different ending to the show, something surprising to both people who have seen the original movie and those who haven’t. After five seasons Norman being arrested would be a disappointing ending as would his death but in saying that I would rather that than something similar to Dexter’s finale, nobody wants to see Norman become a lumberjack.
What do you want to see happen in the fifth and final season of Bates Motel? Let me know in the comments and geek out with me about TV on Twitter @kylebrrtt.