This Bates Motel review contains spoilers.
Bates Motel Season 4 Episode 9
“We’re supposed to be together, aren’t we, Norman?” “Yes we are, mother. Forever.”
Bates Motel is an episode away from completing its season and it looked as though the show would boil down to the teetering love triangle between Norman, Norma, and Alex Romero. Everyone is basically at his or her limit in this penultimate episode, and it feels like an out-of-turn nose wrinkle could bring everything toppling down.
And then it does.
After the end of last week’s episode, Romero seems to properly understand the danger that Norman poses to the point that he doesn’t even want Norma being alone with her (he has no idea how right he is). Meanwhile, Norman suddenly can’t wait to open up in therapy now that he has his Oedipus Complex to vent about. As both of these men in Norma’s life continue down their paths, it’s painful to watch her wallow in blissful ignorance. The events of last episode seemingly did little to change her. She truly believes that this is just an awkward transition period that will smooth over in time, like dog that’s being toilet trained. She has no idea how close a homicide is from happening under her roof.
It’s even more tragic that Norman seems pretty on the money with his psychological evaluation of his mother. His description of her symptomatic behavior and her routine with people sounds like something that could happen. As icky as every scene of Norman and Norma in bed together, or dancing, or that kiss has been, there’s no denying that he does understand her. He’s also incredibly biased and deluded on the topic of his mother, but his fundamental understanding of how she works makes this “break up” they’re experiencing more devastating. As Norman pointed out last episode, the two of them have been conditioned to only survive with one another.
This season of Bates Motel has far and above been their most accomplished. While much of this season had efficient pacing and emotional storytelling, there are a few beats that feel a little reductive. It truly feels like we’re on the tenth call that Norma has made to Romero insisting that Norman is improving and that he deserves another chance. They’re just washing over me at this point and if any time ever needs to be filled, another one of these seems to be the answer.
Repetitive as they might be, they are beginning to show the dissolution of Norma and Romero because of her blinders towards her son, which is crushing. As ridiculous as this marriage has been, seeing Norma get closer and closer to happiness has been a steady highlight. Regardless of the circumstances that brought them together, there seems to be real affection, so seeing Norman’s poison take this away from Norma is almost too much. She’s always going to choose her son first, and that’s the tragedy to all of this. “I am your son, and I always will be,” Norman tells her. It hangs in the air like a death sentence.
Dylan is also a big part of the “Norman is Not Well” train. His actions are largely fueled by the fact that he’s pretty certain that his brother has murdered his potential future mother-in-law. When he brings this to Norma, badgering her over Emma’s mother’s earring, it’s a powerful scene that resonates just as strongly as all of those scenes of Norman in denial with Dr. Edwards.
It’s an interesting idea to think of Dylan as Norma’s pseudo-therapist, forcing her to confront what she’s not able to on her own. Her response that Dylan is jealous of Norman is just ludicrous. The two of them get the much-needed emotional boxing match with each other. As much as this season has been about what the show is doing to Norman and Norma’s relationship, this also drastically affects her dynamic with Dylan, even if he has been on the fringe of things. Her tunnel vision towards Norman only amplifies her apathy and uselessness in every other aspect of her life.
Dylan’s final hug with Norman hits hard because it does feel like it could be their last moment together. Dylan’s goodbye is sincere and puts everything on the table. He just wants his brother to get some help, which makes the dangerous echo chamber that he’s being kept in even sadder. I could even see Norman somehow managing a relatively “normal” life in some scenario where he’s living with Dylan. He’s not though. He’s trapped here. The episode is titled “Forever,” after all.
Conveniently, this tornado of B-stories involving Rebecca and the lingering ghost of Bob Parris seems to also be looking to knock out Romero, just as Norman is also ready to do so. Of course Rebecca has receded from the series until it’s most advantageous to her mucking everything up, but at least whatever she ends up getting up to in the finale will likely be the last we see of her. Better make it count, Rebecca.
It feels like “Forever” is heading towards a creepy, depressing conclusion with Norma broken from Romero abandoning her. But then that ending hits, and goddamn, you guys. In a season full of fantastic endings, this one stabs it to death in the shower with how much of a cliffhanger it is because they kill Norma Fucking Bates, people!
From the start of this season I thought that killing off Norma could be a very likely conclusion for the season, especially with Farmiga already appearing as Norman’s murderous alter ego. That being said, them pulling the trigger on this still had me blurt aloud, “Fucking WHAT?” Mission accomplished. This death hardly means Farmiga’s removal from the show (thankfully). Then again, this all could be a trick, but with how much A&E built up this episode, I’d say it’s legit. If not, they’ll have wrecked a lot of good will here, especially since this is a foregone conclusion anyway.
The broken furnace in the motel has been a continual symbol of the powder keg that is Norman and Norma’s relationship this season. It’s only fitting then that it’s this furnace that plays a key role in the end of Norma. It’s been in your face all season. There’s also a delicious Psycho fake-out where it seems like Norman might re-enact that famous staircase murder with Romero. Instead the more fundamental Psycho puzzle piece clicks in: Norma has to die. What makes this work even better than it should is that this episode is all about making a choice for her life, and ultimately her indecision causes her to end up losing her life. It feels like she’s lingering on an epiphany with the letter that she writes Romero at the end. It’s just salt in the wound though.
At one point in this episode Dylan laments over Norman, “I’m afraid of what’s going to happen.” We all are, Dylan. Especially now.