Bates Motel Season 4 Episode 2 – TV Review
We live in a world where Pretty Little Liars can spend ten episodes hyping and building to a dumb, impotent season finale reveal, and Bates Motel can break out its most consistently intense and status-quo-altering episode in only its second outing of the season.
And thank God for that.
TL;DR Norma and Norman play cat and mouse with both accusing the other of being a pyscho serial killer; Norma finally, with some assistance from Romero, gets Norman into psychiatric care; all pretense of trust between Norma and Norman is now gone; Dylan worries he might not be good enough for Emma now that she has a brighter future ahead of her.
Even our hope spot subplot is fraught with worry. Oh, the drama!
So that season opening murder of Audrey, Emma’s mum, isn’t going to be some arbitrary thing to be swept under the rug (The Following would have. Ugh), as Norman has memories of “Norma” putting the body in the basement freezer. Norman begins airing his suspicions in a surprisingly direct manner to his mother, while Norma, through these tidbits, pieces together what Norman must have actually done. Norma does her best to put on a happy face and keep Norman placated while she tries to get him into Pineview, but eventually Norman explodes at her, flat out accusing her of murdering Audrey, Bradley, Miss Watson, and his father. Norman even pulls her gun on her (he got to it before she could), which leads to Norma, terrified, calling in Romero to take him away. Thankfully, Romero has been spending his time bribing Pineview into getting Norman a spot (courtesy of Bob’s brick of cash). So now he’s their mass-murdering problem. Romero also belatedly accepts Norma’s marriage proposal, which is about the sweetest thing ever. For the insurance, of course. Meanwhile, Emma’s recovery is chugging along smoothly, but Dylan, after some backhanded compliments from Emma’s dad, Will, on how smart Dylan is, thinks maybe being a White Pine Bay pot farmer isn’t enough for a girl without an official expiry date.
But don’t panic: they’re still super cute together. Until Norman inevitably murders them.
Yes, Bates Motel isn’t fucking around anymore. Three seasons of teasing culminated in Bradley’s epic murder. And any other show would have probably settled for wringing out the drama over that for another season or so (hell, Bates even did that itself with Miss Watson’s murder).
But we’ve already had three seasons of teasing. And now, at the very start of season 4, Norman Bates isn’t hiding anymore.
Run for your fucking life, Norma. Please.
Why I hate this episode:
Norman may not be hiding, but stashing him away at Pineview will keep him locked down, at least. Which makes sense for the story, but basically guarantees we won’t be seeing anything like the nerve-shredding tension of this episode for a while. Again, I’m not blind to the fact that the season has eight episodes to go, and it can’t be like this every week. But I’ll miss it when it’s gone. Won’t you?
Dylan’s subplot is the obvious target for complaining. I can forgive it, but it does feel jarring whenever it cuts away from this biblical mother/son spy-vs-spy game to goddamn Seattle Grace.
Will is a bit of a dick to Dylan. Has he forgotten how lucrative the drug business can be in White Pine Bay?
Oh, and after Norma comes out from hiding from a gun-toting Norman, she skulks around the dark house and tries to find him. Bitch, the front door is clear. Just go.
But it’s not all bad:
It was worth it to see Norma trembling down the basement stairs, clutching a big pair of scissors.
The star of the episode is the back-and-forth between Norma and Norman. They both suspect the other of being a serial killer, and are both absolutely terrified of the other. We know that Norma is right, obviously, so you would think that would kill the tension. But it doesn’t. The mystery isn’t “Who’s the killer?” The mystery is “What the fuck will Norman end up doing?”
After some passive aggressive needling from Norman and attempts from Norma to act casual, Norman finally explodes at dinner. There’s no holding back as he fearfully and angrily accuses Norma of killing Audrey, Bradley, Miss Watson, and his father, and then saying he did it. Norma’s face drops and drops while Norman continues his accusations to a shrieking pitch. I was utterly absorbed.
Norma then bolts upstairs in a startlingly honest attempt to get her gun (Norma Bates, ever trying to excuse and hide her son’s oddities, is ready to pull a gun on him. That’s a big deal, baby), but, in a true “Oh, crap” moment, Norman already has it.
The episode reaches its crescendo as Norma, crying, tries to use Norman’s sexual attraction to her (she remembered) to distract him while she reaches for the gun. I used to cheer for Norma-on-Norman lip action, but this scene is too steeped in terror to excite any part of the shipper in me.
She fails, and flees and locks herself in a room. This is when she leaves her panicked voicemail for Romero, and then later ventures out to find Norman in the basement. He’s calmed down, but he refuses to sign the voluntary committal papers for Pineview. Romero shows up and takes Norman away, which means they’ll have to settle for sending him back to the dirty, county hospital facility. Norma is able to convince Norman to sign the papers to avoid that, but there is no gratitude in him.
Speaking of those papers, they’re the fire that ignites Norman’s accusation rant. Up until that point, he seemed happy to keep sparring with Norma. But when they come in, he goes into a trance and an apparition of his father appears, fingering Norma for his murder. Not Norman. Twisted.
He sees the papers because Romero has Pineview fax them over. Because Romero uses some of Bob’s cash stash to bribe Pineview into accepting Norman. I told you.
Romero is spurred into action when he visits Norma early in the episode to apologise for being unable to help her, and he realises she’s scared to be in the house with Norman. Again, Nestor Carbonell sells a quiet moment with tremendous impact.
Dylan and Emma are cute. Their subplot this episode isn’t complicated, but it keeps their wheel turning.
Audrey wasn’t dead when she went into the freezer. She actually woke up as she was being put in, and Norman (although, he remembers it as Norma. Duh) had to sit on top until she froze to death. Fuck.
Her body is still missing, by the way. Norma suspects Norman might have tossed her in the big hole Bob dug out the front of the motel, but it’s not in there. She checks.
Vera Farmiga pulls out another perfect face drop when Norman obliquely accuses her early on of killing Audrey. As far as she knew, Audrey simply checked out in a hurry. Oh, dear.
Oh, and in the opposite direction, Norma’s face lights up when Romero sheepishly tells her he’ll accept her marriage proposal. As did mine.