Bates Motel S4E5 Review: “Refraction” Review
Before we get going with this week’s episode of Bates Motel, I must extend sincere apologies for skipping S4E4: “Lights of Winter.” My Nightmare Client was being nightmarish. The main plot points of that episode included Norman and Julian escaping from the facility, leading to Norman having another psychic break (becoming Norma). It’s after this that Norman relents and admits to Dr Edwards that he really does need help. It’s his turning point where Norman agrees to cooperate in trying to get himself better. Back at the Bates home, someone breaks in and trashes the place. Was it Rebecca, or someone else after the laundered money? Spoilers for all of Bates Motel potentially follow.
Norma and her hot new hubby are cleaning up the damage from the break-in when Sheriff Sexypants reveals that they were after him—not her. She’s surprised and relieved. Her fave stained glass window has been broken, so Alex promises they’ll get it fixed. As Norma drives into town, we see that she’s being followed by someone…who turns out to be that jackass Chick. We’ll recall that Chick set Dylan and Caleb up to be murdered by drug dealers (or at best, didn’t really care if they were). Before we know it, the dangerous Chick has ingratiated himself into the Bates home in the guise of an artisan glassier. This is the kind of side story that helps stretch the tale of Norman and Norma Bates into several seasons. But it’s all handled so well and weaves in so beautifully with the main story that it’s hard not to love it.
At Pineview, Norman’s therapist is having his patient read from psychology books in an attempt to diagnose himself. Norman has reached a point where he’s willing to try therapy and medication. If you’re a head-case, you’ll know that this is a highly vulnerable part of the therapy process. You agree that you need help, that you can’t “just take care of it” yourself. Admitting that whatever is going on with you is out of your hands is as devastating for mental patients as it is for addicts. As we see this week, the parallels are well defined. Norman tells Dr Edwards that he was mistaken about his mother killing people. Does Norman mean that? Or is he just sorry he said it because he’s less angry now? The therapy sessions in “Refraction” illustrate that I was right about Norman’s shadow. Watch for it to show up, vanish, or appear as a far lesser version of itself during this week’s episode. The shadow is there when Norman lies, when he “protects” Norma or his relationship to her. It’s not seen when he’s speaking honestly. And later…we see it reverse itself. Also check out the painting behind Norman in his therapy sessions.
Speaking of Dr Edwards, he’s both an excellent doctor for Norman, and a great addition to the character roster. He’s compassionate and effective. Plus, we have to wonder what will happen later on when the inciting incident finally happens. Right now, it feels like way too many people know about Norman. By the way, Norman doesn’t know yet that his mother and Romero are married. This is going to be a problem, given what we know happens later. Norman doesn’t just kill his mother—he kills “his mother and her lover,” according to canon. At the Decody home, Dylan and Emma arrive and are greeted by a For Sale sign. Remember, they’re moving to Seattle. That’s why Dylan has to go there to get a job. Reminded that Dylan’s work history can’t really be put on a resume, Will tells Dylan that he probably should lie.
When Norman tells Edwards he needs permission to call his sick friend Emma, we’re reminded just how much of a shit Norman doesn’t give about her. Norman is mentally ill, but his treatment of Emma is all him. Sane Norman is doing that. But Norman is also addicted to Norma in a twisted way, which is why his lies to his doctor about who he was calling are so expected. He does exactly what an addict does—lie to get a fix, then when caught, he blames the other party for “making him have to lie.” The real Emma is being treated infinitely better by Dylan. Watch for adorable sex jokes and for these two to be the most bright and beautiful people on the show. It’s also this relationship that makes me extra worried that Chick’s ugly mug is still hobbling around.
Dr Edwards gets a call from some out of town cops, confirming that Norma Bates probably hasn’t been murdering a bunch of people. Norman’s denying it, so that’s probably the last we’ll hear of it, right? Well, this episode marks the halfway point of Season Four, so it’s hard to say. In Seattle, Dylan totally nails his interview with Felix Gaeta from Battlestar Galactica. I would LOVE to see him join the cast. Alex and Rebecca take a clandestine meeting confirming that it was she who trashed Norma’s house. He lets her know that the DEA is on to her, and that he’s doing what he can to protect her. But she’s got to stop being so friggin’ crazy about stuff. She’s still sad that Romero married Norma instead of her. By the end of “Refraction,” we wonder just how psycho-ex girlfriend this Rebecca plans to get. If Norma and Romero are murdered this season, it could very well be her who ends up taking the blame.
The next time Norman sees Julian, Julian is doped to the gills. Is that for legit therapy, or is it to make him a less difficult patient? I don’t want to cast any aspersions, but I gotta think it’s the latter. Norman’s apology falls on deaf ears. And what happens next is even worse. Distraught, Norman tries to control his breathing on a bench in the courtyard. When Mother arrives, Norman’s mad dash toward her seems exaggerated and over emotional—especially given their last conversation. Norma’s appearance is…too perfect. Her tone is almost conspiratorial. All of this makes sense when Dr Edwards listens to Norman describe his visit from his mother. “Norman…is it possible that your mother wasn’t here yesterday? Just consider it…that’s all I’m asking.” Norman is understandably confused, then upset, then scared, then really angry.
I hate to break this to Norman, but if ever there was someone who ought to be labeled “crazy,” it’s Norman friggin’ Bates. That’s why it’s so amazing when Norman transforms into Mother before our eyes—before Dr Edward’s eyes. He gets it. Edwards understands. That’s got to make Norman a completely fascinating patient for him. Dissociative identity disorder is super rare. Man, this is an incredible scene—Highmore is chilling and heartbreaking all at once. Mother explains that Norman is “a very weak, confused boy.” She goes on to tell the doc he only thinks he’s helping Norman due to his own enormous ego, and that if he wants to help Norman he ought to talk to the person who knows him best. The combination of verifiable truth and utter madness here is staggering. I got chills.
Emma and Dylan sharing scars and stories was again, adorable. Has Emma really not seen Jaws? That can’t be possible, can it? “Refraction” is almost over when we get the biggest treat of the night—Vera Farmiga singing!!! But our warm hearts are quickly broken by the news that Chick is coming back to fix the window, and Norma doesn’t know he’s evil yet. Norma bluntly asks her husband if he killed Bob Paris. Romero stalls for just long enough to make an answer unnecessary. “I had no choice,” is an accurate answer, I think. And I love that Norma plans to stand by her man.
Dr Edwards checks in on Norman after his “big day” in therapy. It seems to be going okay, which makes me worry. Norma is also feeling better, happy and in control of things. So when Chick shows up and reveals his true intentions (mixed liberally with vile and dangerous accusations) Norma is as horrified as you’d expect. She really doesn’t deserve that, certainly not now. I want Chick to die, and am pretty sure that he will. Romero would make short work of that clown. In fact, so would Caleb if he saw Chick coming. Hell, even Norma could take Chick out in his current beaten-down-no-family-havin’ state. Either way, Norma isn’t going to help anyone find and murder Caleb. Duh.
Okay, we’ve got five eps remaining of Bates Motel S4. We’re also still reasonably sure that the inciting incident is going to happen this season. I’d love to hear your predictions, fears, complaints, and other thoughts you have on Bates Motel!
See you’s next week!