Bates Motel S4E2 Review: “Goodnight Mother”
I don’t know about you guys, but I am totally on edge about when the big Psycho inciting incident scene will happen. I thought it might be this week, especially given the title of the ep. Regardless of whether or not we got the scene, “Goodnight Mother” was a solid episode of Bates Motel. This week, things with Emma are looking up as Dylan and Mr. Decody talk seriously about the future. Romero makes a bit of a turnaround, and discussion of Mrs. Decody’s whereabouts continue. Norman, however, has reached a very specific point within the Psycho narrative. Spoilers for “Goodnight Mother” follow.
Fans of the 1960 film know that Norman fervently believes that Mother is ill, mentally. She’s jealous of any girl Norman wants to spend time with, and will kill people who she thinks need killing. So far, that’s in keeping with reality. Norma has been outspokenly against Norman being with any girl who isn’t Emma. She also killed Keith Summers in full view of her son—and then he helped her clean up the mess. However, other murdered women: Blair Watson, Bradley Martin, and now Emma’s mom, were all Norman. Because mental illness tends to present in one’s late teens or early 20’s, Norman is right on time for um…becoming confused again.
“Goodnight Mother” begins with a delicious shot of the Bates home, with Mother in the window right where she belongs. She’s calling Dr Edwards over and over to get Norman into Pineview mental hospital. Norman can’t remember the previous day, which is nice because he did a ghastly murder. He’s more concerned with being locked in his room and having to break out. He’s got a zillion questions for Norma, and she doesn’t answer any of them honestly. Norma is a terrible liar. You’d think she’d be better at it given how often she is less than truthful with the people around her. Norma knows her son is a killer, and that he’s dangerous. All she wants to do at this point is keep him safe until she can get him some help. Sadly, Norman’s visions, memory lapses, and rampant ability to mis-remember the past are in full swing. When he “sees” Norma finishing the Decody kill and trapping the terrible mother in the basement freezer, there’s no doubt in his mind that Mother is the killer. This is the Norman we know from Hitchcock’s film.
As usual, the tension and chemistry between Highmore and Farmiga makes for outstanding drama. Their breakfast conversation is worthy of a Broadway stage. Back at the Portland hospital (for rich people), Dylan and Will wait anxiously to see if Emma will be able to breathe on her own with her new lungs. She can! Later, Will explains to Dylan that because his daughter may have an actual future, she might expect more out of life than being married to a pot dealer who lives in the middle of nowhere. Decody isn’t wrong; Dylan is better than the work he’s doing—and I say this as a great fan of the herb.
It eventually occurs to Norma that if Mrs. Decody is missing, she could be in the nearby giant pit now full of mud and rain. Norma’s blue raincoat and hat are adorable, and I totally want them. Norman still thinks “Mother” left the body in his carcass freezer, and is shocked when he sees that it’s not there. Poor Norma is terrified as her son explains what he thinks is happening, since it reveals what has actually happened. Norma isn’t a terrific mother, but she does love her sons, and she wants to get Norman help. It’s a shame that she waited so long. But you know, I wouldn’t want anyone I love to end up in that county shithole either.
Sheriff Sexypants comes by wearing civilian clothes. Rawr! “Why wouldn’t I be fine?” Really, Norma? Romero is another decent guy who means well and has a tenuous hold on right v wrong. Norma says she’s not afraid of being there alone with Norman, but everyone else knows that’s not true. I love that Romero tells the chick at Pineview that he’s marrying Norma before he decides to tell her. He knows that town, and knows that money greases every wheel around there. “I’m failing to understand?” Really? No, you’re not.
As usual, the literary references on Bates Motel are golden. I’m not a big Charles Dickens person, but Norman and Norma are indeed the good and evil in each other. The argument they have over who checks in the apple-loving family is almost humorous. Yes Norman, we know you’re not above making a scene. Norman is in the office when a fax comes in from Pineview. Norma finds out about it too late. She’s also horrified to learn that Norman has to sign the paperwork himself. If only she’d been on this before he turned 18. Once Norman sees the paperwork, a vision of his father makes things even worse. The Dad in Norman’s mind tells him that it was Norma who killed him—not Norman. This allows Norman to get a mental picture of Mother killing Dad. Yikes.
Norman is taking charge of Mother because he feels he has to. He’s also taking on Anthony Perkins’ stance. It’s eerie. When he finally explains to Norma why he doesn’t trust her, we see the fear growing on her face. The angrier Norman gets, the scarier it is. He believes that she’s a killer and she’s trying to sabotage him, to blame him for her crimes. We already know this is what adult Norman believes. But seeing it develop right in front of us while we (and Norma) are helpless to stop it? Damn Bates Motel, you scary! Norman DOES believe that she killed that woman, and that she was trying to hide her crime from him. Highmore’s sincerity in this scene, his tears, Norma’s face as she sees her son get more and more angry—it’s as terrifying as it is sad. When she goes for the gun to find that he already has it? Damn.
I feel so bad for all of them, which is not necessarily how I want to feel while watching a horror show. But Bates Motel has always been heavier on drama than on fright. And that’s okay. By the end of “Goodnight Mother,” Romero is called to take Norman out of the house. If Norman signs the paperwork, he can go to Pinewood. If he doesn’t, he’s off to County. Honestly, County is a better choice to Norman’s way of thinking—since it would probably be another catch and release. But he did appear to sign the papers. Did he sign his own name? If not, will anyone even notice?
“Goodnight Mother” was a gripping, heart wrenching, terribly sad episode of Bates Motel. One that the Bates family won’t recover from any time soon. Now that Norman’s grasp of reality is this far gone and his trust in Mother has evaporated, nothing can continue as it was. It’s shaping up to be one hell of a great season.
See you’s next week!