This Bates Motel Review contains spoilers.
Bates Motel Season 4 Episode 7
“For things to get better, they have to feel worse first.”
It’s a little crazy to think that there are only three episodes left in this season of Bates Motel. In this methodical season, the sudden appearance of the finish line is almost surprising. I’ve spoken about how impressed I’ve been with this season’s restraint in not only keeping Norman and Norma apart, but also for keeping Norman institutionalized for what was nearly the entire season. This separation is obviously going to make their reunion (their actual reunion, not some mind reunion) all the more powerful. With the steps forward this episode takes in that regard, I’m legitimately concerned for when these two are alone together again.
Of course, most of this concern is stemming from Norman’s dear new father-in-law, Sheriff Romero. Part of what’s been so great about this season is how Pineview allows Norman to create his own narrative. Dr. Edwards is very much steering him on this journey and doing his best to put him in control of his body and mind, but all of the mental health in the world doesn’t change the fact that Norman is essentially in a vacuum. And there’s nothing worse than being in a vacuum when you get lost in your head over something, which is exactly what happens when Norman begins partaking in some casual arts and crafting.
It’s pretty clear that Norman returning to this new non-home is going to be a huge moment for him and the makeup of the series. I’ve consistently been worried about how he’s going to take the news of his mother “replacing him” (his Oedipus Complex’s words, not mine). The fact that no one even gets to tell him and he learns from some (convenient) newspaper scraps is just devastating. The salt in the wound is that Romero answers the phone when Norman gets a personal call home. Just like that his world is shattered.
Due to the callousness at which Norman learns about this, he’s also able to get a head start on feeding his jealousy narrative. For example, the only reason Romero helped get Norman in Pineview in the first place is so Norman would be out of the way and he could steal his mother. It feels like this homecoming is going to be even more torturous than I thought. When the season began I somehow flirted with the idea that maybe Norma would die by Norman’s hand in the finale, with the character simply appearing in his mind during the final season. I think what’s much more likely to happen now is that Romero is going to bite it in the finale, and the final season will be much more of a Stockholm Syndrome situation with our favorite dysfunctional mother and son.
The episode pointedly features scenes of Norma and Romero having sex juxtaposed with Norman’s therapy sessions. Much of this episode is about the weight of Norman’s waiting home haunting him with visuals like this complimenting what’s already going on in his mind. Then the episode actively doubles down on this by Norman actually thinking about his mother and the Sheriff having sex in this vicious cycle of his psyche. It’s also yet another slick way for the show to keep the space between Norman and his mother this season feeling smaller than it is. It nearly feels like the images of the one are overlapping those of the other.
We’ve seen Highmore channel a lot of different sides to Norman this year, but this “must escape” endgame mode that he gets into this episode has a new desperation to it. He taps into a new sort of eerie as he calmly tells Dr. Edwards that he wants medication—anything—that will let him be back on the outside with his mother (aka between her and her new husband). He also simultaneously explains to Julian that he knows how to fake being normal. This change in the character feels like a serious one and is another example of Norman’s perseverance to finally get out of Pineview.
Away from Pineview and Norma’s recent nuptials, people begin to clue in that, right, Emma’s mother is missing with somebody finally wanting to do something about it. It’s going to be hard for Emma to achieve that much needed catharsis with her mom since Audrey’s a well-rotted corpse at this point, so something’s got to give here. Dylan and Emma have done a good job at being their own little island of a WB show, but it’s finally time to have these two disparate ends tie together. Dylan’s got a strong hunch that Emma’s mom’s disappearance has something to do with Norman and her trip to Bates Motel, and boy is that going to be a fun conversation between these two brothers.
There’s a healthy push forward in the Bob Parris blood money front this week, too. Since Norma was able to come clean about her crippling abuse to her husband last week, her money problems hardly seem as mounting in comparison. Romero offers to solve all of this with his blood money, which is surely going to be yet another idea that bites this too-optimistic couple in the ass, but hey, at least Norma’s going to be able to get some pretty swank new curtains in the meantime.
With Pineview now in the series’ rearview mirror, the season’s final episodes are going to hold even more weight to them. The first three-fourths of this season might have taken its time, but I have a feeling that the powder keg of everyone being back under the same roof is going to turn these final episodes into a real freight train.
Or maybe they’ll just watch a lot of The Third Man.