This Bates Motel review contains spoilers.
Bates Motel: Season 4, Episode 4
“I understand that there’s no one here that I can trust.”
I still can’t get over how smart a decision it was for the show to embrace the story trajectory where Norman thinks Norma is the crazy one. It is doing wonders for this show, and the wringer that it’s putting Norman through is just consistently entertaining to watch. What aids this material even more is thinking about what’s going on in the scenes that we’re not seeing. Thinking about Norman having visions of his mother as a murderer the entire night until an orderly marks the morning is a thoroughly disturbing idea, and yet it’s the world that Norman lives in now.
This episode is all about his delusion — whether it’s about his mother, the length of his stay at Pineview, or how crafty he thinks he is — which only manages to highlight just how troubled Norman is. I just love the idea of him actually calling Dylan to warn him about Norma (and what a phone call that must be for Dylan) because he’s so out of sorts at this point.
Norma and Romero’s fake marriage actually seems to be turning into something legitimate, with this still maybe being the least interesting aspect of the season for me. Until Norman comes back home, it feels like this material is merely biding its time. It is still providing the episodes with their weekly dose of what the fuck though, like in moments where Romero and Norma share awkward silences until he blurts out, “I think we need a joint checking account,” or them discussing what a hot toddy is.
Some nice parallels are drawn between the unusual pairings of Norma and Romero, and Emma and Dylan, which is the first that I’ve really thought about them echoing one another. To me, they’ve felt a little more about pained individuals who are just reaching out to anyone and sometimes you’ll be surprised who embraces you. Highlighting the similarities between them though doesn’t hurt.
The episode also hints at a larger story of Romero getting blackmailed by Rebecca, which mostly feels like a big time suck. The fact that it’s at least connecting to the Bob Paris murder gives it some encouraging relevance though. It’s just a little convenient that the only person suspicious of him happens to be his ex before Norma. We’ll see where all of this ends up going, but poor Norma’s been hurt enough without her fake/real marriage exploding in her face.
We also learn that Emma is going to be moving to Cincinnati in order to be closer to a better respiratory center, a move that also has her thinking about college. Dylan’s then put in the position as to whether he wants to come with her. Of course for these two invincible love angels, he’s going to say yes. I’m happy to see this happening because I’m legitimately pleased that these two have chiseled out a piece of sanity amongst all of this crazy. That being said, this early announcement of departure is only going to go one of two ways. Either Dylan’s getting away just in time, and surviving the inevitable Norman bloodshed, or their happily ever after is going to tragically get cut short as Norman ends up intervening. With the series heading into its final chapter, all bets are off.
Norman spends a lot of time bitching at orderlies and mocking Pineview’s procedure and protocol, which is a lot more satisfying than it should be. Watching Norman’s feathers get consistently ruffled with him seeming like he’s about to explode at every instant is a delight to watch. It’s also behavior that has him hanging out a lot more with Julian. I’m not crazy about Julian, but he feels like the sort of character that we’re not supposed to be 100% into. I kind of wish that it was still plausible that he was just a figment of Norman’s broken mind.
A crazy escape heist is the last sort of thing that they should be getting into, but with Norman convinced that he’s the only sane one in there, how dare these plebs try to keep him caged up? I’m a little surprised at how easy it is for them to actually get out of there, with Norman’s detainment at Pineview seeming like it’s over just as it’s really getting interesting and the pressure’s being applied.
Once on the outside, it’s fascinating to see Norman’s situation with Julian gets progressively irksome. He starts to realize that he doesn’t know Julian at all, and this is still an individual that’s been institutionalized for four years. The whole venture turns into a twisted nightmare road trip and it’s not long until Julian and Norman are ass deep in lap dances at a strip club. Yes. Norman Bates, in a strip club.
I’ve praised Highmore’s performance a lot this season, but seeing him channel Perkins’ gulpy affectations when sexually intimidated at the club is just spot on. Every episode he brings something new to the role. This strip club set piece also gives the episode an excuse to put Mind Norma/Vera Farmiga in the club and making out with women. It all gets dangerously close to Norman getting to roleplay as his mother while he has sex with a stripper, which is almost too twisted of a concept to comprehend.
As the episode ends, Norman (and Norma, to an extent) finds himself back in his respective cage. The pathos brought forth in the final scene is really heartbreaking. Norman wants to be healthy so badly, and Dr. Edwards seems to genuinely care about him. It’s all the more painful since we know that there’s not a happy ending awaiting them at the end of this. Julian might want someone to come searching for him every time that he gets loose, but once Norman’s gone it might be too late.