This Bates Motel review contains spoilers.
Bates Motel: Season 4, Episode 3
“This is weird.”
Season four of Bates Motel is wasting absolutely no time, with this episode diving headfirst into the bonkers wedding of Norma and Sheriff Romero which feels like was just getting brought up. With a series as insane as this one, it’s a little surprising that some stunt wedding hasn’t happened yet, but now feels like the perfect time to pull the trigger on such a device. As silly as all of this might feel (and Norma backseat officiating is just sublime), there’s such a sadness underlying it all.
Not only is this union fueled by Norma’s deep fear and denial over her son, but this marriage also feels like the first step towards Romero’s unfortunate demise. He’s done a good job so far of skirting around the edges of Norman, but you can’t help but feel that this placement within the family, as well as his proximity to Norma, is going to end up with some Norman freak out session sooner than later. I don’t even want to think about him walking in on a drunk Romero and his mother going at it one night.
The bubbling serial killer in the making is one reason for all of the dread here, but it’s also just a bummer to see Romero try and act normal with Norma, with her just unable to deal without her son. A lot of time is focused on Norman’s instability, but I’d argue that Norma is just as dysfunctional (her pleading attempts to get an “I love you” message to Norman are grueling). Romero is simply trying to be a nice guy and it’s brutal to see him dealing with Norma’s temperament when it’s a battle that he can’t win (even if alcohol might tamp it down momentarily).
Norma recounts her previous marriages and failures, which is glum stuff, but acts as a reminder of how scarred her life is, and continues to be. The episode keeps trying to trick us into thinking there could be a happy ending here — rubbing it in with shots of Norma smiling contently in bed — but I refuse to believe that we’re heading in that direction.
Before all of the absurd matrimony takes place though, we get to see Norma and Norman uncomfortably getting by without each other. Norma moves through their home like a ghost, as Norman skitters through Pineview like a china doll. I’m at the point now where I’m actively nervous watching Norman, worried that he’s going to snap at any moment, and that’s the perfect place to have him right now. Applying pressure by examining him, micro-managing, and steeping rules on top of him is surely not going to help, and it’s why this observation arc that the show is currently digging into holds such exciting potential.
The most telling and tense scenes of the lot involve Norman’s sessions with his in-center therapist, Dr. Edwards. As you might imagine, putting Norman’s motivations under the microscope, watching him tic away, slowly letting out his inner self is constantly engaging. This whole season seems like it’s going to be a game of chicken with Norman’s psyche, with Dr. Edwards helping push those buttons early on. He’s exactly the sort of person that I’d say would have a huge bullseye on him if I didn’t think Norman was fairly pacified in his care here.
Highmore continues to show his incredible hold on this material, fidgeting on the couch and bristling at every little thing that’s said. His suggestion at how he’d rather “stick hot pins in his eyes” than do yoga, is a particular highlight. It’s probably just wishful thinking, but maybe this will be the year he manages to generate some Emmy buzz. He’s certainly deserving of it.
During Norman’s time within Pineview he manages to befriend Julian, although this episode doesn’t spend a lot of time on this interesting development. I’m sure in the coming weeks this relationship will continue to foster Norman’s unhealthy tendencies, or lead to poor Julian’s demise. Or, you know, there is the possibility that he doesn’t even exist and is just in Norman’s head…
We do also get a bit of Romero ending off his previous trysts, in spite of it being made clear several times that his current marriage with Norma is all for show. This does find a way of bringing back that pesky Bob Paris murder back into the spotlight, just because Norma doesn’t have enough problems going on in her life at the moment. There’s now another time bomb set to go off.
Meanwhile Dylan wanting to turn his life around and get out of the drug business so he can be better for Emma is touching stuff, albeit pretty overdone. Previously I touched on how much I was enjoying this sweet little interlude between them as things were intensifying on the Norman and Norma front, although this week it feels a little more awkward. We’ll see where all of this is heading in time, with it perhaps merely showing Dylan some sort of “normal” life until his inevitable reunion with Norman shatters it all.
Towards the end of the episode, Norman and Norma do get to reunite, but it’s devastating to see that Norman has channeled his circumstances into a hatred for his mother. She’s never looked more broken than when he lays into her, while this seems like it could set up the fallout between them that rides out the rest of the series. Norman’s misguided fear towards his mother continues to be a fascinating aspect of the show, and as the divide between them only grows wider, I’m equally anxious and nervous for what’s going to happen next.
Everyone needs help, after all.