Bates Motel Review: S4 E7-8 “There’s No Place Like Home; Unfaithful”
These last two episodes of Bates Motel have become extra tense and scary. As Norman comes to understand his own mental illness, he seems to believe that understanding is the same as being cured. First of all, there’s no such thing as curing mental illness. Symptoms can be managed, but you’re never really free of it. But Norman isn’t just wrong about himself and his illness—he leaps to some very wrong conclusions about Norma. Norman was already resistive to inpatient treatment and was suspicious that Mother was trying to send him away. What he discovers in “There’s No Place Like Home” leads him to become even more cemented in that belief. Spoilers for Bates Motel Season Four follow.
Norman is in art-therapy when his papier mache project (of good old Juno) reveals a picture in the local paper. It’s Sheriff Romero and his new wife…Norma Bates. Note that Norma’s face has been ripped directly in half—illustrating how she’s torn between two important people. This should not have been how Norman got this news. He has no idea, as we do, that Norma and Alex are enjoying each other and their marriage very much. It’s sad to see them as happy as they are. We all know what’s coming. Upon getting this news, Norman believes he has to get out pronto. He needs to go home and protect Mother from Romero, who he believes coerced her into marriage—as if she wouldn’t want to be married to Sheriff Sexypants. Watch for Norman to explain his plan to leave while the staff just smiles politely at him.
Norma’s mania leads her to clean, make curtains, all sorts of improvements. When Norma explains to her new husband that she doesn’t have any money, he finally reveals that he has a ton. As they’re discussing it, Norman calls and feigns surprise that Romero answered Mother’s phone. She’s not pleased to hear that Norman is coming home ASAP. In fact, no one is. Not Edwards, Dylan, Romero, or anyone at Pineview. At the Decody home, Emma and her father disagree strongly about what Audrey wants, and whether Emma should be in contact with her. Neither of them should be putting Dylan in the middle of this, though they both kind of are. Dylan is a good guy, and he and Emma deserve some damn happiness. Meanwhile, Romero’s old squeeze tells him that she’s leaving town.
Norman and Dr. Edwards discuss Norman’s release. Norman is of the impression that medication will cure him, and that out-patient work is enough to keep his blackouts from recurring. Of course, neither of these are true. Watch for Norman to strong-arm the doctor into allowing his release. Like a lot of mental health patients, Norman’s intelligence and intuition make him more difficult to treat effectively. As Norma sews curtains on a fantastic old Singer, Dylan arrives to tell her that Norman was in possession of the letter Audrey left for Emma. This escalates to him shouting that Norman “has a violent side. He does things and then doesn’t remember that he’s done them.” We can see that Norma is also worried, but she’s awesome at lying.
Dr Edward’s meeting with Norma is great. They’re in agreement that Norman is not ready to return home, but that only a court petition calling him dangerous would keep him from leaving of his own volition. Edwards suggests that Norma could file this, or he could. Once again, Norma is more concerned with what her son thinks of her than with doing what’s best for him. Dylan’s follow up on Audrey leads to information that she was broke and destitute. When Norma finally meets with her son, she tells him he’s not ready to come home. She also lies about her new marriage, then about what it means. After that, Norma feels she’s in no position to tell Norman he can’t come home. It’s a weepy scene, acted to perfection by Highmore and Farmiga. Gads, the chemistry on these two!
So…”There’s No Place Like Home” winds down with Emma deciding that Audrey only wanted to see her because she’s broke and alone. Dr Edwards informs Norman of their new therapy regimen, and Romero buys the Bates home a new TV. Alex is unhappy to hear that Norman is coming home, and more unhappy to learn that Norma lied to her son about them. I will say this though—TVs don’t go in front of the fireplace. Romero really wants to be a father figure to Norman. I think it’s a little late for that. Watch for a beautiful episode-ending shot of Norman walking out of the facility, past the patients, staff, doctors, and Mother. As we see them walking up the stairs toward the house we believe this may be for the very last time. It’s amazing. Moving on…
“Unfaithful” begins with Romero moving out to better facilitate Norman’s coming home. It’s a lousy night for sleeping alone, because the heat is off in the whole house. Norman has become a different person than the boy we met in Season One. This Norman is suspicious, sarcastic, angry, and desperate to avoid change. That’s why it’s even creepier than usual when Norman and Norma end up sleeping in the same bed. Sheriff Sexypants is being a really good sport about this, as we see when we hear the early morning call between he and Norma. But Alex is also worried and feeling impatient about when Norma will lay it out for her son.
At the local airport, Rebecca Hamilton is supposed to be leaving town to be with her sick mother. But no. She’s accosted by DEA agents and kept from boarding her flight. They already know that she laundered money for Bob Paris. They tell her that they know Sheriff Romero is more involved than she. Will Rebecca turn on him, out of fear or anger at being jilted? Or will she take her chances? I have to think that the pressure closing in will lend plausibility to the idea that Romero murder-suicided himself and his wife in a fit of shame. We don’t have much time to consider this, as Norman pays a visit to the Sheriff’s station—to tell Romero thanks, and that he can go ahead and file for divorce. Norman thinks a part-time job is going to pay for his own insurance and deductibles for mental health appointments. This seems far-fetched to me. But then, if Carrie Bradshaw can live alone in New York on a single weekly newspaper column, anything’s possible! 😉
The conversation between these two men is jarring. Norman implies that Romero took advantage of Norma—which we all know isn’t true. Romero tells the boy that he needs to be careful how far he’s going to push this. Surely Norman isn’t the first kid to tell someone they need to divorce his mom. But Norman may be one of the few willing to do murder (or maybe just blackmail, as he suggests) to back it up. Norman’s illness and emotional issues are in full force by the end of “Unfaithful,” and it’s disturbing as hell. Elsewhere in town, Dylan agrees that he and Emma will go with the Bates family to get their holiday tree. When Norma shows up at Alex’s house, he implores her to tell Norman the truth. She’s resistive, but firm that she doesn’t want to lose Alex. The tree-excursion does not go well. Dylan and Emma are reminded of how whacked the Bates family is, and how much they want to be away. Emma’s conversation with Norman is sweet, as is him being wrapped up in a blanket. Norman is genuinely happy for Emma and Dylan, and she really is proud of the progress he has (appeared to have) made. Emma doesn’t notice that her childhood stuffed animal is in Norman’s bedroom.
At the tree lot, Norma is in a terrible mood. Before long, she and her youngest son are screaming at each other. Emma’s just happy to be able to smell things and hold Dylan’s hand…um, until later when they totally do it. Watch for Norma’s hilarious line, “Pfft, there—I just diminished everything you said!” Hahahaha. Norman really thinks his mother is sleeping with Romero in exchange for insurance. Not so ridiculous, since we know that’s what Norma actually proposed. But it’s not what happened. And she is livid that Norman would make that presumption. Being told that Norma “likes” Alex makes Norman feel even worse. I don’t blame this on him, entirely. Norma has been keeping him too close to her for many years—long before he killed Sam. She’s also been keeping him away from any potential girlfriend with the exception of Emma. It makes sense that Norman should think it’s them against the world, or that Romero is a meddling outsider. At one point in the series, he totally was.
Norma’s idea to sleep in the motel is a good one. Watch for her to take the infamous Cabin One, while Norman heads to #12, but ends up in the office. As much as I loved seeing the inception of Norman’s peep hole (no longer located behind the Rape of Lucretia), I declare shenanigans on it not being noticed. In the film Psycho, the hole in the wall is disguised by the pattern in the wallpaper. Paisley and flowers, I think. Anyway, Norman uses the peep hole to spy on a pretty hot make out scene between Norma and Alex. If you’ve seen both versions of Psycho, you know that one of them makes it much more clear what Norman is doing while he looks through that hole. Thank goodness, that’s not what we see here.
How does “Unfaithful” end? The heater is finally fixed and we see Norman get possessive about the fruit cellar. Norma is right, her son is trying to find reasons to be angry. He agrees to make an effort when Alex comes to dinner. Any guesses on how much of an effort Norman makes? He’s rude and abrasive the whole time, despite Romero really trying to make it work. Finally Norma tells her son to stop being rude; and Alex explains that while difficult—the situation will work out and he’ll get used to it. That’s when Norman get more direct: “Nothing is going to change…You’re never going to get in between us.” The sinking ship analogy is just silly. “This is our world, our world. That’s what love is—REAL love, not this pale corpse you’re trying to put in its place.” That’s right—there’ll be no putting a pale corpse in place of love (or loved ones!). God damn, that’s terrifying. I feel bad for Norman, but I don’t adore him as much as I did before this season started.
As if the dinner scene weren’t bad enough, Romero follows Norman outside to confront him. You’d think someone with Romero’s experience would know to give Norman some time to calm down. Norman is chopping wood, getting his anger out. That’s not a bad thing. Romero is talking to Norman as if he’s sane and reasonable. He isn’t. Sane people don’t step up on Sheriffs with an axe. After Norman storms off, Alex goes back inside and informs Norma that he’s not leaving the house while Norman is behaving that way.
Two episodes remain in this Fourth Season of Bates Motel. We’re all confident that the inciting incident is coming. I’m feeling an enticing mix of anxiety and fear—as much as I can’t wait to see how it’s all handled—I don’t want Norma and Romero to die.
See you’s next week!