This Bates Motel review contains spoilers.
Bates Motel: Season 4, Episode 6
“It’s amazing what we can do when we have to do it.”
Early on in “The Vault,” Norma is marveling at her good fortune with her shiny, new husband, comparing their lives to that of a lavish Hollywood movie. Romero grounds things by telling her, “It’s not a movie. Don’t screw it up,” and later on Dylan echoes this thought by telling her to leave things alone with Caleb. And yet Norma keeps picking and picking at the scab of her life until the blood starts running all over the place. “All I wanted is my frickin’ window fixed and you ruined my life!” she later screams in the rain, while aiming a gun. That might seem like a ridiculous piece of dialogue (although pretty standard on the Norma Freak Out Scale) but it’s a pretty perfect representation of the frenetic nature of this episode.
Norma might be sinking into trouble here, but a lot of the focus this week still lies on Norman. I’ve spoken a lot about how useful an addition Dr. Edwards has been to the show this season. Every episode brings on some new sort of gem as him and Norman hash something out in their sessions. These scenes are often so fulfilling because they’re getting right into the core of why we’re watching this show in the first place. This far into the season though these scenes have the tendency to become problematic. You can’t be giving too much away in each ensuing installment of Norman’s therapy, but you also can’t feel like a broken record that’s just repeating the same tone poems again and again. Accordingly, “The Vault” pushes this line closer to the edge as Edwards reveals to Norman that he’s suffering from dissociative identity disorder. With how all over the spectrum Norman’s behavior has been this season, it’s almost just as frightening to see him take the news that there are other people “living within” him in a fairly calm fashion. Even more bizarre is Norman asking Edwards what his rendition of Norma is like, with Edwards answering, “charming,” in fact.
Like most therapists, Edwards wants to dig into Norman’s childhood, intimating that Norman’s identity disorder is linked to his past. It’s certainly easy to picture some regressive therapy and cloudy flashbacks filling up the final four episodes of the season as Norman’s ailment continues to refine itself. I’m all about getting into more gooey psychosis with Norman, I just don’t see how this look into his childhood is going to prove to be that revealing. Even though Norman might not have the full picture of what went on, we do, and so there hopefully will be another dimension to this detour. Sure, Norman remembering his childhood through his mother, as well as getting some scenes of his dad waving a gun at Norma and raping her in front of him are horrible, but I need more. I already know that he had an awful upbringing.
Norman being pushed into confronting his past conveniently intersects with Chick trudging up the ugly branches of the Bates family tree with Norma. Doubling down on this material at least reinforces it a little, as unsettling as it might be to watch this mountain man get Norma to own her incest. It’s clear that we’re supposed to begin looking to the past. Chick still might be an extremely problematic character, and this show does have a tendency to have characters ping-ponging between being blackmailed, but this is hopefully moving us to somewhere useful. I can only imagine the resolution of all of this will have Norma becoming an even weaker shell of herself which could end up being all sorts of trouble depending on what sort of state Norman’s in when they reunite. It doesn’t help that she’s already got a weaker constitution at the moment with the news of Dylan’s departure. I wish that she had just blown Chick away in the rain because it would at least put an end to all of this and be an unexpected, immediate move in the storyline.
If all of this wasn’t enough, Norma’s call to Caleb verges on being masochistic to the character. There’s really nothing gained from this conversation other than seeing how quickly Norma’s brother is capable of getting under her skin. She shuts down so fast and the way Caleb’s “I love you” just hangs there at the end of the call is awful. Norma is usually a woman that’s heavily worn down, but this episode is all about knocking her support systems out from under her (Farmiga just destroys it this episode too, in every muted moment and shrill scream). Her and Norman are being simultaneously hobbled.
“The Vault” is also still full of the typical surreal Bates Motel kind of moments, like Norma admiring Chick’s walking stick and the two of them launching into a discussion over the sort of wood that it’s made from. This show is still a weird walking stick itself, with ugly malformations and pieces jutting off in different directions, but it all forms a cohesive picture in the end. It’s stronger because of those deformities. It’s those little bumps in the road that keep the journey interesting.
Dylan pays a visit to Norman at Pineview this week where he breaks the news that he and Emma are an item, just so he can chip another healthy piece of Norman’s psyche away as the inevitable begins to happen. Norman seems to take the news rather well, which is surely going to be used as a counterpoint down the line when he learns about the new relationship that his mother is in. Dylan and Emma’s romance might still have Norman calmly sputtering away on the croquet court, but learning that Mother is married is likely going to have him swinging that mallet at the closest body. It’s just more proof of the people in Norman’s life moving on without him. It’s kind of shocking just how much has changed with everyone else while he’s been sequestered away at Pineview. That’s certainly saying something. And it seems as if the changes are only going to increase in the coming weeks, whether we like them or not.
May we all enjoy our new windows. Because we’re stuck with them.