Bates Motel: S4E9 Review: “Forever”
When we last left the Bates family, Norman was home from the hospital and doing worse than ever. Dr Edwards didn’t think it a giant red flag when Norman explained that only Mother makes him “feel complete.” Norman pulled an axe on Sheriff Sexypants, and seemed to come very close to using it. Meanwhile, the DEA and Romero’s terrible ex are getting more serious about bringing Alex down. Norman appears to be taking his medication regularly, but bit surprise—it isn’t magically making all his issues go away. Spoilers for “Forever” follow.
Romero decided not to leave Norma alone with her angry, axe-wielding son. When he wakes after a night on the couch, we see that Romero had his gun at the ready. The conversation between the newlyweds does not go well. Norma thinks that now that everyone has calmed down, everything will be fine. She should know better—since none of her previous abusive relationships worked out that way. Romero isn’t mean or shitty about it. But he’s serious about his belief that Norman should be back at Pineview. Norma is in complete denial—even for her. She’s adamant that Norman is not dangerous and would never hurt her. Even as she’s saying it—we know that she knows it isn’t true. Remember, Romero also has experience dealing with the mentally odd. We can see what’s coming as clearly as Romero can. And like him, we can’t do anything to stop it. Watch for an amazing camera shot of Norman glaring down at his mother and her husband as they enjoy a goodbye kiss.
Norman has therapy with Doc Edwards. Remember, three sessions a week are a condition of Norman’s release from Pineview. There’s talk of Christmas lights and how Norma honestly believes that the three of them (Norma, Norman, and Alex) can work it out. Norma even jokingly suggests that Alex will help him bear the burden of having a crazy mother. Norm tells Edwards that Mother’s marriage to Alex is all about Norma’s fear of being alone. Watch for Norman to rant about how Alex has no idea what he’s getting into and how badly this will end. Norman seems certain that no matter what happens, he’ll be the one picking up the pieces. “She’s as frightened and tiny and fragile inside as a baby bird.” Yeah, Psycho has always loved the bird imagery (Marion Crane no doubt coming next season). Me, I’ve never been a fan of the “Ya see what I gotta put up with” philosophy of life and relationships.
No one is impressed by Norma’s constant refrain of “it’s gonna be fine.” She’s way out of line when she tells Alex that he’s not trying and doesn’t want to make room for Norman. That really is ludicrous. When Norma assures Norman that he’s her number one priority, it falls a little flat. Who’s she trying to convince anyway? At the Decody home, a borrowed sweater leads to the discovery of Audrey’s earring—and renewed suspicions about Norman’s part in her going missing. Meanwhile, Rebecca Hamilton agrees to wear a wire to record Romero discussing his part in the drug trade and Bob Paris’s murder. Yikes!
But first…Romero asks Dylan to meet him to discuss Norman. Again, Alex thinks Norman is dangerous, should be hospitalized, and is not safe to leave around Norma. Dylan is not surprised by any of this, and admits that he’s seen Norman get violent. Dylan and Alex discuss whether or not they should have Norman committed by a judge. Could something worse happen if they don’t? We already know, so watching them muddle through it is painful. Dylan says he’ll try talking to Norma again. He does. Even as Norma lies about the earring, about how Norman is and what he’s been doing—we know that she knows. Slight shenanigans on Dylan recognizing and remembering a woman’s earring while he was waiting to find out whether or not his girlfriend would live. But okay. They both know Norman killed Sam. So when Norma blurts out that Dylan has always been jealous of his brother—Dylan reveals that Romero wants Norman committed too. When the “you’ve never been a real mother to me” conversation begins, we know that Dylan is about to leave White Pine Bay forever. His last hugs with Norman are tragic. All Norma wants is the earring. Dammit. I wouldn’t be surprised (though I would be bummed) if we never saw Dylan again. By the end of this thing, Norman will have murdered Dylan’s mom and Emma’s mom.
By this point, Norma’s blindness is infuriating. But like Dylan, we kind of want to give up. Norma’s meeting with Alex is terribly sad. But first, Alex seems surprised and suspicious of Rebecca being back in town. It only takes a few minutes for him to recognize that she’s wearing a wire. Watch for him to talk directly into the microphone to the DEA agents trying to nail him. “I’ve done nothing but be helpful to you…you can all go to hell. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help.” Hahahahahaha! When he returns to his office, Norma is waiting to confront him. “How dare you,” are the first words out of her mouth. We see that she still sees this through her own filter—that the world is trying to take Norman away from her. She says she and Alex were only happy in a bubble, but they can’t deal with reality. When she says “I will never trust you again,” we have to feel bad for Alex. He was completely honest about his feelings—it’s not like he lied to his wife about any of that.
Back at the house Norman finds Audrey Decody’s bag from when she stayed at the motel. Thinking Mother must have done something to her, he buries the bag after taking out a few ladies garments for…well, we know what they’re for. I think that’s the robe Norman was wearing when he killed Audrey. When Norma comes home, she’s morose. Having to choose between her son and her husband is awful even under normal circumstances. In this situation, it’s a damn tragedy. Norma’s final note to Romero is: Dear Alex—I will always love you, no matter what. I’m truly sorry. Love, Norma. In the envelope she’s including the very nice engagement/wedding ring. This note is very important, and not just because she cared enough to send the very best. It will surely be used as evidence that Norma killed herself.
When we see Norman hop into bed with his sad mother, we wonder if it isn’t going to be business as usual after this. Maybe they’ll be okay. Maybe Bates Motel will go in a different direction and everything will be fine. No…nobody really believes that. Norman thinks they should move—but they can’t. They’re broke. Norman encourages Mother to plan for the future, that they can just move and take their chances in a new town—like in Hawaii. They should have picked Tahiti. I hear it’s a magical place. Norman tells Mother they can do anything as long as they’re together. Together. Forever. When the boy starts singing, we begin to understand that this is it. The inciting incident is here.
Once mother is asleep, Norman heads to the basement and adjusts the furnace. We’ll remember that the furnace guy told them the old furnace was super dangerous. It looks like what Norman did was set them up for carbon monoxide poisoning, and that he intended to die in bed next to Norma. At least we didn’t have to hear her say, “What did you put in my tea?!?” or Norma threaten to kill her son as happened in the canon films. Watch for a lot of kickass camera work as the cameras show us what Norman is doing every step of the way. “Forever” runs long, and as we hear Mr. Sandman play, we wonder how long they’re going to drag it out. It’s important to remember that Norman isn’t having a psychotic break. He’s not Mother; he’s himself. This isn’t a rash, insane decision. He’s calm. He knows who he is and what he’s doing. He thinks it’s the right choice.
We don’t know how much later it is when Romero arrives at the house. It seems to take a long time for him to get all the way to Norma’s bedroom, then to realize what’s happening. There is window smashing, body dragging (Alex does his best to save both mother and son), frantic CPR. It’s awful. It’s as horrible as we knew it would be, except Romero doesn’t die. He wants so much to save Norma, wants to make up for everything he wishes he’d done but didn’t. His tears are our tears, his sobs are our sobs. Norman coughs, ands we see that he’s alive. Slowly, we realize that Norma…isn’t.
Since “Forever” aired, many fans have been asking how Norma can really be dead, even implying that she can’t be. I have to wonder if these people even know what story they’re watching. A&E tells us that “nothing will prepare” us for what’s coming in the finale. I can only assume that something will happen to take Romero out of the picture (arrested or killed by the DEA is a good bet), and that Norman’s transformation into Mother will be completed.
Personally, I’m very pleased with how they treated the death of Norma, and the near-death of Norman. Nestor Carbonell brought his A-game to this season, and it’s been just fantastic watching him go through this. Sad as it all is, we knew what we’d be getting when we showed up to watch Bates Motel in the first place. The finale promises to be rife with heartbreak.
See you’s next week!