Bates Motel Season 4 Episode 1 – TV Review
The wait between seasons is agony, but we’re finally back with our old friends in White Pine Bay.
And Norman doesn’t wait around: he kills someone in this very episode.
It’s good to be back, bitches.
TL;DR Norman’s instability increases, and he murders Emma’s returned mum; Norma gets the reality check she needs to start seeking real help for Norman; Romero continues to endure Norma’s hurricane of bullshit; Dylan plays Good Boyfriend to Emma, whose transplant is (for now) successful.
And there are no drug wars or Arcanum Clubs in the way. At long last.
So we’re picking up immediately following the season 3 finale, and Norman is found bruised and dirtied in the wilderness. He’s put in observation in a county psychiatric facility, and the no-nonsense doctor is horrified that Norma has never sought professional help for Norman’s blackouts. Norma scurries to find a way to get Norman out of the observation hold, but eventually just waits it out. It does give her time to realise she needs to start doing something, though, and when Norman starts describing a “dream” he had of her murdering Bradley, that pretty much seals the deal for her. She hilariously proposes marriage to Romero to access his health insurance to pay for a stay in the swanky Pineview facility, but is, unsurprisingly, rebuffed. Meanwhile, Dylan and Emma’s dad wait on Emma as she undergoes her lung transplant surgery. Audrey, Emma’s absent mother, turns up, but Emma’s dad shits on her enough to send her away. She stays at the Bates Motel and petitions first Norma, then Norman, to deliver a letter from her to Emma. Norma, though conflicted, turns her down; Norman just straight-up murders her. In his Norma persona, of course (complete with luxurious dressing robe).
With Norman’s hallucinations of Norma, his crossdressing, and his capability for homicide now out in the open, Bates Motel doesn’t have to be coy anymore when it comes to Norman’s compulsions.
It’s time we see him go full-on Pyscho. And out of the gate, the season’s already delivering.
Where’s he gonna find a field to bury this one?
Why I hate this episode:
That was one thing that irked me, rather than intrigued me: what was Norman doing in the field on top of what appeared to be a freshly dug patch of earth? Bradley’s body was disposed of in her car. And it’s not like Norman was just lying on a muddy patch: the framing of the shots makes it clear that this is a peculiar rectangle of bare earth in an otherwise grassy field. Norman’s all dirty, like he’s been digging. So what did he bury?
What made it irk me rather than intrigue me was that it’s not followed up on. The man who finds Norman surely would have noticed a rectangle of bare earth in his field. But there’s no mention of police looking into it or anything. What the hell?
I didn’t understand Norma’s resolute refusal to deliver Audrey’s letter. Or at least pass it on to Dylan or something. It was a necessary weasel so Audrey could later encounter Norman, but come on, Norma. Just take the damn letter and shut her up.
As much as I love Norma and Romero’s dynamic, he’s got to get fed up with her at some point. It’s cute, but he’s losing pretty much all of his self respect. Which makes it hard for me to respect him.
Oh, and her marriage proposal was so fucking capricious. Even for Norma’s standards. Norma’s leaned on Romero for favours before, but this is too much. And her blithe offer to allow him to have sex as part of the arrangement is a bit yucky.
But it’s not all bad:
Look at me, complaining about something yucky in a show that’s about how a man loves his mother so much that he wants to be her, and be with her. Sexually.
Norman gets to shine this episode as he embraces his Psycho side. He spends the episode intermittently traumatised by what happened with Bradley and his stay in the dirty, county psych ward. His memory of events is that Norma killed Bradley, and watching Norma’s face drop when Norman tells her about his “dream” is delicious. She, of course, says it’s just a dream and it’s nothing, but I look forward to how she reacts when Bradley’s body turns up.
Later, Norma locks Norman in her bedroom while she sneaks out to see Romero about putting a ring on it, and when Norman wakes up, alone and caged, he flies into a frenzy and rams the door down. This sends him into a trance, and he frocks up in that gorgeous dressing robe of Norma’s. We get another identity shift to Apparition Norma as Norman admires himself in the mirror. And then Audrey turns up.
Having been refused by Norma earlier, Audrey notices when Norma leaves alone, so she goes to make her appeal to Norman. She’s confused by his choice of attire, but she forges ahead, as he’s her only option. The optimist in me was somewhat relieved when it appeared that Psycho Norman was sympathising with her as a mother, but then the Bates Motel fan in me was gratified when Norman choked the shit out of her with her scarf, lambasting her for abandoning her daughter. I know, right? She’s a monster.
While I won’t miss Audrey, she manages to claim the episode’s best line during her earlier conversation with Norma. She’s unimpressed with Norma’s dismissal: “And who the hell are you to judge me? You think you know what it’s like to live with a child who has something seriously wrong with them? Have that axe hanging over your head day and night? To wonder if you’ll be strong enough to stand it?” Yes, she does.
Second best line goes to a doctor from Pineview who Norma harangues for a consultation with Norman in an attempt to get him diagnosed, a vital step to getting treatment at the posh facility. Norma flirts her arse off, but it’s not the right approach: “I’m gay. You have my card.” Me, too, dude. But I’d still go there.
Romero plays background to the Norma/Norman issues this episode, but he makes sure to impress in what time he’s given. He actually is the one to start the episode, sinking Bob’s boat, along with his body, to cover up his murder. He also stashes the money Bob had gathered to flee town, which I think might come in handy for Norma’s little Pineview finance problem, no?
When Norma comes to see him to demand he pull some strings to get Norman out of the county psych ward, Romero gets an extra beat to stand there, silent, and just radiate just how much he feels unappreciated by Norma. He just killed a guy for her (not for the first time, either), and here she is beating down his door for more help all the time always.
And, naturally, Norma’s marriage proposal is classic Norma/Romero banter. Again, his incredulity at how much Norma will demand of him is palpable. He’s yet to blow up at her, but it was so hot last time that I hope he doesn’t wait too long.
Dylan gets benched and just waits around for news on Emma’s surgery. I’m glad it worked out. Like the tail end of last season, Dylan and Emma are the rare spot of goodness in Bates Motel’s parade of harrowing hardships.
Karin Konoval from Black Xmas appears as a nurse at the county psych ward. She’s perfect for it.
The county doctor informs Norma that Social Services will be checking up on what she’s doing to treat Norman, so there’s no hiding, anymore. Norman pleads with Norma (without knowing) for her to promise to never send him away, and Norma carefully avoids answering.
Oh, and Norman isn’t just dirty when he wakes up in the field. He’s cut and bruised, too. Unless he’s really clumsy when walking through the woods at night, I suspect those might have something to do with whatever he buried in the field.