Why The Bates Motel Shower Scene Was So Different From Psycho

bates motel norman blood face

Spoilers below for anyone who hasn't watched Bates Motel's most recent episode, "Marion."

Last night, Bates Motel came to a crossroads with its infamous source material, Psycho, by way of that most famous of cinematic sequences that needs no other descriptor beyond "The Shower Scene." While the majority of fans were waiting nervously to watch famed singer Rihanna fall victim to Norman's sinister machinations, creators/showrunners Kerry Ehrin and Carlton Cuse flipped the script entirely by substituting victims, allowing Austin Nichols' Sam Loomis to paint the bathroom red as Norman (not Norma) looked on in wide-eyed fascination. Why did they choose to go with such a massive switcheroo? Here's what Ehrin says.

We talked about that episode for a long time in the writers room. That [represented] a major chunk of time out of our six months together. It was a big responsibility to take an iconic film and use [that sequence] in a way that both honored it but also integrated it into the story we were telling. And the idea of the person in the shower being Sam and being a type of a metaphor for Norman's own father who was violent and who had really started all of Norman's problems seemed so fitting to the story we were telling.

Flipping something so recognizable and beloved as Psycho's iconic shower scene was going to get a lot of hate no matter how well or terrible it was conceived and performed, but ignoring that dependable bunch, I can't imagine most fans having a legitimate issue with Bates Motel choosing to let Marion live on in this universe, while her philandering boyfriend is forced to suffer such an unthinkable attack while trying to cleanse himself from the day. In the first place, Sam Loomis was awful, to the point where it wasn't even very fun to watch him, so killing him off was the right decision no matter how the A&E thriller decided to pull it off.

To put these scenes side by side, the comparisons and contrasts are extremely easy to point out, as the creative team wisely played it as a homage (with the specific shots of the falling shower water and the feet slipping in the blood) with some additional visual input that the film didn't/couldn't show, particularly Norman himself. (Also, this scene was brutal as fuck, as opposed to the chocolate syrup innocence of Alfred Hitchcock's film.) Rather than letting Norma's persona take over his conscience, Norman instead lets her control him as Norman proper, adding another interesting alteration to the scene. He's not killing Marion out of an obsession with Mother, as it was played out originally, but he's killing Sam as a stand-in for his own lying and cheating shitbag of a dad, and having him commit the atrocity as Norman further seems to show off how shattered he is inside.

This was, of course, a very purposeful move by Kerry Ehrin and Carlton Cuse. Here's the latter during an interview with TVLine, explaining how important this moment was for both this final season and for Norman in general.

We have been very conscious of Norman's culpability for all the acts of violence that he committed over the five seasons. This turn represented a significant advancement. He was not in drag [because] he's conscious of his act of violence. And even though Sam is a [jerk] he doesn't deserve to be murdered. And Norman's conscious awareness of that is a hugely catalytic event that leads into how we plan to end the series.

Not only was this a brilliant way to end things, but the episode also featured a fabulous fake-out earlier on, as viewers did indeed get to watch Rihanna's Marion Crane disrobe for her shower as Norman watched through the wall...diddling and whatnot. But that moment ended with an angered exit, rather than a helpless one, which is when viewers really realized that shit was gonna get weird. And weird it got, though Norman staying himself for the murder should make it more normal. But there is no normal out there on that stretch of highway.

For anyone whose Tuesday is already feeling like a Monday, go ahead and get some easy kicks in by watching the hornball Sam falling for someone for the very last time.

bates motel shower scene gif

Bates Motel has just four episodes left in its Psycho-tic five-season run -- with the next one serving as star Freddie Highmore's latest directorial effort -- and you can find the airing Monday nights on A&E at 10:00 p.m. ET. In the meantime, rather than taking a shower to wash off all that blood, head to our midseason premiere schedule and our summer TV guide to see what else is coming to the small screen in the future.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.