Well, ‘Bates Motel’ is certainly going to be a wild and crazy ride this season. In the Season 4 premiere, we got a pretty heavy dose of what we love most about this show: Norman’s dominating dark side and Norma’s tragic desperation.
The episode started right where we left off last season—just hours after Bob Paris and Bradley Martin are murdered. Norman is missing and Dylan is on task to find him. Norma, on the other hand, isn’t particularly pro-active in the search efforts.
When we first see Norman, he’s waking from the previous night’s sleep in the middle of the field. He’s still mid-blackout and rises only to furiously rant at Mother. When a lone farmer stumbles upon him and offers help, Norman goes on the attack…only to be punched out cold by the harmless looking farmer.
Norman is then taken to a psych ward where he’s under a 48-hour observation. He doesn’t know where he is or why he’s there. All he knows is that he wants his mother. He even has visions of her, but there’s a duality to them—he remembers light and happiness with Norma as well as the darkness of Mother. For him, they are one and the same.
Norma rushes to the facility and learns that she can’t see him. She also faces some pretty tough truths from Dr. Palma, Norman’s psych ward psychologist. The doctor explains what we all know: that Norman’s blackouts are dangerous and he’s in serious need of help. It’s not that Norma doesn’t know this. She’s just in complete and utter denial about how this would affect her and Norman’s life together.
Helpless, Norma turns to Romero but he refuses to help. In a last ditch effort, she inquires once again at Pineview Institute but they can’t help her either. So, she appeals to the first doctor she sees, at first with some mild flirting and then with the truth. It’s a revealing moment for Norma—she’s vulnerable and scared, and through those emotions, she recognizes the need to be entirely truthful. I think we’ll be seeing more of that vulnerability throughout the season, which is a nice change from the often manipulative Norma we typically see from episode to episode.
Norman is eventually discharged from the psych ward but Dr. Palma has conditions: Norma must get Norman help or else.
Meanwhile, Emma is in Portland undergoing a lung transplant. Dylan rushes to be by her side and finds that Emma’s mother, Audrey, has shown up. It’s unexpected—for us viewers and for Emma’s dad Will. There’s conflict and discomfort in the waiting room and Audrey ultimately leaves. The problem with that is she shows up at Bates Motel.
And on top of that, she overstays her welcome. Not only does she ask Norma to help her reconnect with Emma, but she also asks to speak to Norman which is a huge no-no.
Norma expresses some disgust with Audrey…as if she and Audrey aren’t, in some way, struggling in similar ways. They are both mothers of sick children who are grasping at straws to do what they can for their offspring. I think Norma passes judgment on Audrey because she left Emma. But how is this any different from the way she left Dylan and eventually Norman for that one night? It isn’t. It took Norma a long time to reconnect with Dylan and for Dylan to reconnect with her. Yet Norma is denying Audrey the chance to have that experience with Emma.
And that denial costs Audrey her life. In her own last ditch effort, Audrey sneaks up to the house to speak to Norman. But it isn’t Norman that answers the door. It’s Mother…and we all know what that means.
Tara Martinez is a New York-based writer with a passion for pop culture and a penchant for analysis. She frequently covers film, television, and representations of women in the media.