There has been a lot of (completely justified) grumbling in the television world lately about how writers are far too willing to kill off female characters (as well as LGBT characters and characters of color) in favor of straight, white, males. But in the case of Bates Motel, the death of Norma Bates was in no way a slight against the character or the brilliant Vera Farmiga; it was the most necessary of evils. In order for Norman to fulfill his destiny as the Norman Bates of Psycho, Norma had to go eventually. In fact, this episode is entitled “Norman” as a nod to the fact that we have finally reached that version of Norman Bates, the one who is very much alone in the world, but not in his head.
The episode picks up with Norman in the ambulance, having a vision of Norma playing with him as a child and promising that he would never be alone. Inside the house, Detective Chambers is asking Romero questions about their marriage and gives him Norma’s letter. She asks if he knew that Norma was leaving him, and Romero says she wouldn’t do that. Chambers thinks it’s a murder-suicide, but that Norma was the culprit. Romero gives her the letter back but keeps the ring, and tells her she should question Norman.
At the hospital, a doctor comes in to tell Norman he’s being released and asks if he needs to call someone to come pick him up. Norman is a little confused, and the doctor tells him that carbon monoxide poisoning can affect memory, so she reminds him that he’s lost his mother and gives him some pamphlets about grief. (This doctor sucks, right?) Later on, a nurse is wheeling him out when Romero shows up and tells Norman he’s not going to put up with his crap and that they both know Norma didn’t commit suicide. Norman says he tried to warn them that it was never going to work and that Romero broke her, so it’s his fault. He tells Romero he doesn’t want to see him, and doesn’t even want him at the funeral. Romero grabs him by the neck and throws him against the wall, and Norman asks if he’s going to kill him, but Romero tells him no, he’s just going to prove he killed Norma.
Norman comes home and calls for his mother, but the house is empty of course. He makes himself dinner, likely for the first time in his life, and eats it across from an empty place setting. He then goes to her room, where the bed covers are still disturbed from the night before, and lies in her spot, saying to his mother that he will be patient. (Spoiler alert: he won’t.)
Romero goes to the morgue and asks the coroner if he can see Norma’s body, but she doesn’t think he should be there. He gets upset and goes ahead and opens the drawer anyway, uncovering her face and putting her wedding ring back on her finger. He kisses her and says he will always love her, whether she’s here or not, then covers her back up and leaves.
The next morning, Norman is in the bathroom and asks Mother what he has to do. He then decides to toss all of his meds in the toilet, right before the phone rings. He answers it, expecting his mother, but it’s the funeral home calling to see if he’s available to discuss funeral arrangements. He agrees to come by later that morning and the funeral director, Wilcock, asks him to bring whatever he would like Norma dressed in. Wilcock asks if his stepfather will be joining them, but Norman scoffs because they were only married two weeks.
Norman carries Romero’s TV down the steps and drops it, then starts kicking it in anger as Detective Chambers shows up. He invites her in and Norman tells her his side of the story: that he came up to say good night, sat on the bed next to her, fell asleep and the next thing he remembers is the ambulance. Norman takes her upstairs to the bedroom where she asks about Norma’s state of mind. He admits that she was upset because she was leaving Romero and continues on about his mother’s bad taste in men and how Norman believed that Romero had him put in Pineview to keep Norman out of the way. He goes through Norma’s closet and pulls out a blue evening gown, asking Chambers if she thinks this is good for Norma to wear and she calls it lovely, before saying that she’ll see herself out.
Norman goes to the funeral home and Wilcock’s son brings him in. Norman initially talks about Norma in the present tense, and Wilcock and son call him on it, but ultimately tell him that you never truly lose those you love. They ask him if she should be embalmed and Norman creepily talks about taxidermy, but doesn’t want his mother embalmed. He asks to see his mother and while they don’t normally allow the public in the prep room, Norman convinces them to take him down where the Goth ginger Wilcock daughter is prepping Norma. Norman goes to his mother, touches her face and then holds her hand, seeing Romero’s ring which he takes off and pockets. He whispers to her that he wishes she’d just tell him the plan, then he hallucinates her eyes opening and closing, so he kisses her forehead and marches out.
Romero goes to see the guy who fixed Norma’s furnace and asks if he explained to her that the old furnace was lethal, which he did. He asks if Norman was there when he told her, and when the guy says he doesn’t remember, Romero roughs him up and the guy says it’s possible he could have heard it. Romero lets him go and the guy says he did everything he could by warning her.
Norman returns home and hears Norma singing inside the house, but when he runs in, she’s not there. But you know who is? Juno! Yes, Juno, the dead dog he taxidermied is now alive and well, in Norman’s head of course. Norman tells Juno that Norma will be back soon, she just wants them to be strong, and she wants the world to think she’s dead so it can’t hurt her again. He gets a phone call from Dylan, who tells him he’s officially done with Norma (yes, buddy, you sure are) and that he doubts she’ll ever reach out to him (she really won’t). Dylan wants Norman to know he’s always there for him and they can still talk, but Norman says he thinks it best if they don’t talk as that’s what Norma would want him to do. He tells Dylan he’ll miss him, but this is goodbye. (At least he has the decency to cry while he cuts his brother off.)
It’s time for the funeral and of course Goth Ginger is playing the organ. Wilcock is concerned that the guests haven’t arrived, but Norman tells him there are no guests, so they should just begin. He then proceeds to give the oddest eulogy you can imagine, referring to his mother as “Half Queen, half little girl” and that her innocence illuminated everything she did. He says to her portrait that he knows he’s supposed to trust God’s plan, he just thinks it would be nice to know what the hell that plan is. Romero shows up and Norman steps down to hand him the wedding ring, which he takes but then punches Norman and continues hitting him until he bloodies Norman’s nose. Wilcock asks him to leave or he’ll call the police, and Romero responds in the best way, “I am the police, dumbass.”
Romero goes to his office, even though he’s on a mandatory family leave. He grabs a handgun but when he leaves, the DEA pulls up and places him in custody for perjury for lying about his personal relationship with Rebecca. (What evidence do they even have besides Rebecca’s word?)
Norman is in his mother’s room alone, but talking out loud to her, saying that he’s had enough of waiting and that she can’t just leave him here alone. He drives out to the cemetery where he digs her out of her grave, and apologizes for leaving her here, but says he didn’t know what he was supposed to do. He fills the grave in and then takes her home and puts her on the couch, telling her she can wake up now. He begs her to open her eyes, but no response, so he grabs some glue and glues her eyelids open, and her eyes are no longer blue, they’re milky white. Chick’s voice calls out from the entry way, so Norman goes to greet him and he’s there with a chicken enchilada casserole. He says he heard about Norma and thinks she was too lovely for this world, going on to say the world will be a darker place without her. He gets a glimpse of Norma’s body on the couch and tells Norman that death is hard for our brains to accept, and then asks Norman if he understands that she’s dead. Norman starts tearing up, and Chick promises to check on him in a few days before he leaves.
Norman finally has the realization that Norma is truly gone and goes to her body to give her a kiss before running upstairs. He finds Norma’s gun and is just about to shoot himself when he hears music from downstairs. When he runs back down, the house is decorated for Christmas and Mother is at the piano playing and singing. (Hilarious, it’s “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”.) Norman sits next to her and says he thought she left him, but Mother says she would never leave him. He holds her hand and tells her they’re home and finally together, and Mother responds that it’s forever ever. She begins playing again as Norman puts his head on her shoulder and we get a glimpse of the house lit up with Christmas lights.
- Norman’s deep dive into his psychosis was chilling to watch. And what an incredible set-up for the fifth season, as we’ll watch the effects of this play out. Even knowing how Norman’s story ends up hasn’t made it any less fascinating to watch.
- One wonders how much of Norman throwing his pills out was just out of grief and frustration or was it him knowingly doing it so that he could see Mother again? I tend to think it’s the latter.
- Just when I think Freddie Highmore can’t possibly get any better, he gives another amazingly layered performance. Kudos to Nestor Carbonell also for hitting the mark on Romero’s full-bodied grief and rage.
- This week’s episode of “Poor Dylan” involves NO ONE TELLING POOR DYLAN THAT HIS MOTHER IS DEAD. I get Norman’s motivations, but I guess Romero was too hellbent on revenge, he couldn’t drop Dylan a text. I’m sure this isn’t the last we’ll see of him, even though he’s in Seattle, especially not with Caleb still out there waiting to return.
- It’s a little odd that Chick was even in this episode at all, much less the one to nudge Norman into realizing that Norma is truly dead. But I guess someone had to do it, and hey, might as well be a guy who is pretty much cool with Norman digging up his dead mother’s body from her grave.
- So that was the fourth season of Bates Motel! And what a truly brilliant season it was, which will just make the wait for Season 5 feel way too long.
Photo Courtesy of A&E