Previously on Bates Motel, “Forever”
Well, I’m devastated.
As I said in my review of last week’s episode, everything was laid out perfectly for Norma’s death, yet I didn’t see it coming. Honestly, this is mainly because Vera Farmiga. I mean, how do you have Vera Farmiga doing what she does (flawlessly) and kill her off in the penultimate episode of your penultimate season? How the hell is Bates Motel (the show and the establishment) supposed to function without her?
When I first started watching this series, if you had told me I would come to love Norma and mourn for her like some of my favorite departed television characters, I’d have laughed in your face. Throughout the first season I blamed her for Norman’s behavior, much like he did two weeks ago when he said she kept him so close he didn’t know how to breathe without her. But as a mother, I also understood Norma Bates. She couldn’t bear to be apart from Norman and the series has done a wonderful job exploring why she had such an unhealthy attachment to him and such an unhealthy detachment from her other son, Dylan. We learned that it was not just the fact that Dylan was the product of rape by her brother, but because Norman was also there when she suffered abuse from his father. A young Norman gripping her hand while he hid underneath the bed she was being raped on is one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve ever witnessed on television.
So, yes, I understood Norma’s all-consuming love for Norman, and I sympathized with how hard it was for her to do the best thing for him when it was also the hard thing – at times it frustrated me beyond measure. Sadly, that inability to set healthy boundaries and be a better parent was her undoing.
And I suppose that’s another reason her death has affected me so strongly. I’d always assumed that Norman would hurt someone else in a way that she couldn’t ignore or excuse – perhaps Emma or Dylan – and that would be the catalyst for her to change and for him to sink deeper into darkness. Naive, I know, when you consider Norma did know he’d killed before and she stayed in a constant state of denial.
Speaking of denial, Norman spends the majority of the finale refusing to truly believe Norma is dead. Even when he sees her corpse in the funeral home he whispers to her that he’s awaiting instructions on what to do next. In his sick mind, she’s pulled off some elaborate prank that will allow them to escape Romero, White Pine Bay, and all of their perceived troubles. It isn’t until Chick, of all people, stops by with a condolence casserole and sees Norma’s body (freshly dug up) on the sofa that Norman snaps out of it and understands she’s gone.
In those few moments of clarity, he decides to take his own life, but stops when he hears Norma playing the piano and singing from the parlor. Of course, this is just his mind once again going to a place of make believe in order to cope with a harsh reality. And because of the movie Psycho, we know this is a fictional world he’s going to remain in for a long time, and that Norma’s won’t be the last death he’s responsible for.
Knowing that he won’t pay for what he’s done will make the final season interesting. Romero – briefly detained and arrested for lying to the DEA about his relationship with Rebecca – knows that Norma didn’t kill herself and tells Norman to his face he plans on proving it. Sadly, Dylan is unaware of his mother’s death by season’s end. He calls Norman from a new number, offering an olive branch between the two, but still refusing to have a relationship with Norma. Not only does Norman not tell him about Norma, he tells his brother he never wants to talk to him again. When Dylan does find out, he’s most likely going to assume, like Romero, that Norman murdered her. Will the final season be compelling knowing that nothing they do will matter? Or does the show plan on deviating from where the movie says Norman ends up?
As much I rave about Vera Farmiga’s work in this series, I can’t not mention Freddie Highmore’s masterful portrayal of Norman. He spends every season shifting between confused man-child, detached psychopath, and petulant manipulator. In this episode, he ran the gamut and I’ve not loved to hate a character this much since Joffrey Baratheon – okay, maybe Ramsay Snow.
Still, I’m heartbroken. I know we’ll see Farmiga again as her piano-playing vision in Norman’s mind reminds him they’ll be together forever. But it won’t be the same. I’m having a hard time accepting that Norma Bates is no longer alive – because, really, was there ever a character more alive than Norma Bates?
Bates Motel S4E10