“I’ll Be Home For Christmas” is a wistful holiday tune, and the key phrase as it concludes is, “if only in my dreams.” I think that’s where we’ll find most of the action going forward on Bates Motel, becauseÂ they went there.
TV deaths are a strange animal. Sometimes they’re sudden, and sometimes they’re unexpected. They can yield rage or a shrug. The death of Norma Bates wasÂ a foregone conclusion before Bates Motel ever began, and yet, when it came, it felt too fast. I realized when watching “Norman,” the fourth season finale, that perhaps that was what was most jarring. We knew it was coming, but the when of it, as Norma found the teensiest measure of uneasy happiness, was just doubly brutal. We, like her shiny, surprisingly affectionate and adoring new husband, are left to mourn a woman we were just beginning to know on her own, apart from Norman. That seemed to be a life she was never going to be allowed to live.
I wrote here a few weeks back how much I did not like the repeated onscreen violation of Norma, and it pains me that one of her few final episodes walked her back down that road. I wish we had dedicated that episode to happier things given how short Norma’s time was. I don’t buy that that was the only way to get her truly closer to Alex. We’ll never know for sure.
In the opening moments of the finale, we learn that Norman was successful in the murder portion of his intended murder-suicide, but genuinely seems to be dispossessed of the notion that he was the one responsible. Even when Romero pushes all his buttons, and comes to blows, he doesn’t wholly grasp what he did. He thinks he was on the murder end of that.
Even more disconcerting is that he keeps waiting for her to come back home. He sits down at theÂ kitchen table for his dinner and eats quietly, with a place set forÂ Norma across from his. He looks up, fully expecting to see her there, happily chatting away with him, but she’s not. And he’s lost and sad–their last meal together was fractious and focused on Romero. He flushes his pills, no longer in need of the stability, and is happy when he sees his dog, Juno,Â alive and well again, but still no NotNorma. Norman tells Juno she’ll be home soon.
As we know, he’s had an ongoing relationship with the Norma in his mind, who’s been omnipresent in his time at Pineview, but the longer she’s MIA in the absence of actual Norma’s death, the more frantic he becomes. Strangely, his doctor doesn’t come calling (even though there is a pic of a house call in the press set–so I think that was shot but didn’t make the cut, and it was an oversight that I felt.)
The detective comes calling andÂ Norman paints a vindictive portrait of Romero, and doesn’t contest the detective’s idea that Norma maybe did this. Norman says yes, she was upset.
When Dylan calls, NormanÂ breaks off contact with him, to support Norma’s severing of ties, but he never tells Dylan she’s dead. Glaring oversight number 2 is that I feel sure somehow at least Emma’s dad would find out because he’s still trying to sell a house in white Pine Bay (plus, the Internet). But for now, he doesn’t know.
That leaves Norman on his own to plan the funeral, which he does. He selects a dress and takes it to the funeral home, waiting in the lobby and straightening the dress out beside him. As he chats with the funeral home directors, he talks about her in the present tense, and insists on seeing her. He goes in and the makeup artist isn’t happy about the intrusion. The directors stand behind him uneasy, even though he’s promised he won’t be upset.
He approaches her slowly and leans over the body and whispers that he wishes he’d known the plan, still putting the responsibility on her. He’s loving until he sees Romero’s ring and he slides it angrily off her finger. He leans over to say goodbye and as he takes his last look, her eyes quickly open and close. He looks around to see if anyone else saw it and then he tearfully leaves.
At the actual funeral, where he sits alone because he hasn’t invited anyone, he gives a derailed eulogy that denigrates into violence again whenÂ Romero showsÂ up and Norman triumphantly shovesÂ his ring back on him and Romero goes off. He goes home, and still no NotNorma, so then he realizes he needs her there, so he digs her up and brings her home.
And I realizes as skeevy as thatÂ entire scene is, it’s required because the whole of Psycho hinges on the fact that Norma is a skeleton in a rocking chair, so of course he has to go get the body. He digs up her grave, pulls her out of the coffin, rolls her off to the side so he can refill the grave, and then props her up in the passenger seat and drives her home. He lays her out on the sofa, and still no magical undeadening. Then he glues her eyes open. And that’s as horrific as it sounds as she lies there doll-like.
Then Chick comes calling with a casserole and reminds Norman, in as heartfelt a manner as possible, in what I believe is their first meeting, that he must understand that Norma is dead now–it’s unclear whether he actually sees her laid out on the couch (the producers say yes). Chick leaves, with the reassurance that he’ll check back in on Norman, and that seems to be the thing that finally triggers reality. Norman races upstairs, loads Norma’s gun, puts it in his mouth, and then the piano in the parlor downstairs starts to play, followed closely by Juno’s bark summoning him downstairs.
And there, in a perfect Christmas card, is his beautiful mother playing “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” on the piano beside a brightly lit and beribboned, also nonexistent, Christmas tree in a gorgeouslyÂ cheery room. He’s so glad she’s come back, that he thought she’d left him. She turns and smiles and says she’d never leave him, he knows that. He sits down beside her at the piano, completely mad now, disbelieving it’s really her, and says they’re finally together. She agrees, “Forever and ever.”
He puts his arm around her waist and his head on her shoulder, and the camera pulls back on the lit room, framed by Christmas lights on the house and the hotel. Interestingly, there is no reverse POV that none of it is real and Norman is alone in a dark house on Christmas.
â€” Bates Motel on A&E(@InsideBates) May 17, 2016
MadnessÂ realized. He received his greatest, most terribleÂ and wished-for gift on Christmas.
Where I land on this, is wondering what story they’ll tell in season five now that we’ve leapt wholly into this Norman without Norma scenario. As he loses his last grasp on reality and finds peace in his own personal Norma, do the people around him acquiesce toÂ his odd tendencies, or do they attempt to intervene? With Alex scooped up by the DEA,Â does any murder investigation die withÂ Norma?Â Do Dylan and Emma stay blissfully unaware in Seattle only to at some point return to a normal Norman ruse they naively accept? Does Norman evolve into an active serial killer who eliminates anyone who might be a threat to his fantasy dream world with Norma?
Psycho doesn’t end with Norman’s death–he’sÂ still alive. Bates Motel was always billed as a precursor to that, so we can presume he will not die in the context of this series. Given that, what grim story is left to tell in 10 hours? Do we want to watch that story, given that it’s so wholly sad and hopeless as we figure out who Norman is with Norma only alive in his mind? ? I don’t know.
I dislike that we spent Norma’s last season with herÂ separated from Norman, soÂ that this new “permanent”Â separation feels less impactful. I also wonder if thisÂ Norman’s revenge becauseÂ she put him in Pineview, because she found a way to love without him? Or was it mercy because she was bereft again? Or was it claiming her as his and only his? So many questions.
I was also surprised that the whole of season four only spanned two weeks, which makes it even more startling that Norman was allowed to leave Pineview that quickly. When Romero tells the detective that Norma was his wife for two weeks, that makes her loss infinitely more tragic–her entire life spiraled out of her hands so fast.
All that said, the work Freddie Highmore,Â Vera Farmiga, andÂ Nestor Carbonell did wasÂ extraordinarily nuanced. I cared about these characters because of them. I’ll care about the figment of NotNorma because it’s still Vera Farmiga. I didn’t expect Bates Motel to go here yet. That trigger’s been pulled. We’ll see where it leads.
Bates MotelÂ returns in 2017.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.
Catching Up with Ted Lasso and Previewing Season 2
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] The not so dirty little secret about how I approach a new series is that I sometimes make a call based on the headspace I’m in at the time. It’s been a minute since I’ve picked up a show after the first season and then binge…
Interview: Henri Esteve on Grown-ish Season 3
An interview with Henri Esteve, who plays Javi on Freeform’s Grown-ish. He talks about his season three experience.
For All Mankind Season 2: Talking with Wrenn Schmidt, Krys Marshall, Jodi Balfour, and Sonya Walger [Exclusive]
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] One of the hooks of For All Mankind is that it’s very much a story about the women of NASA. In Season 2, we explore the journeys of the women in the program, either through their own service or through their family affiliations. Four of those…
Rosy McEwen Talks The Alienist: Angel of Darkness Season Finale [Exclusive]
[Warning: Spoilers for the season finale episodes.] How’s everyone after that finale? I will freely admit I got a little misty in episode eight as John told Sara why he loved her, and later that he wanted her despite what he might forfeit, and then at the end when he…
Rosy McEwen Talks The Alienist: Angel of Darkness [Exclusive]
Hands down, one of the best surprises of The Alienist: Angel of Darkness is that the serial killer this season has been front and center alongside the cast as a fully-formed character. We’ve watched Libby Hatch devolve from a prim, mild-mannered nurse to a woman in a rage hell-bent on…
The Alienist: Angel of Darkness Relationship Recap: John and Sara
[Warning: Spoilers for “Belly of the Beast” and “Memento Mori”] If you’ve read me for a while (thank you!), you know two things — I lean way, way in on the characters I adore and I loathe love geometry arcs. So, I’m torn about where we are and where we…
Louriza Tronco Talks The Order Season 2 [Exclusive]
[Warning: Spoilers ahead for Season 2.] The Order’s second season is dark yet delightful entertainment on many levels, and one of its biggest sources of joy and snark is the sassy Gabrielle Dupres. Last season, she was assertive and deadly and fairly annoyed with the world. This season, she’s been…
Previewing Netflix’s Virgin River
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] Full disclosure: I have a Netflix account for my Mom, but I’m not a regular viewer. If I get a heads up on something, I’ll go look for it, but I don’t have a wander across its offerings, which, as I understand it, is how most…
Final Thoughts From the Killjoys Team [Exclusive]
This is the day of the week I’d normally hit you up with a Killjoys preview, but now that we’ve put the series to bed and released Team Awesome Force into the wild, I have one more treat for you–some final thoughts excerpted from my conversations with the Killjoys folks….
Michelle Lovretta Talks Wrapping Up Killjoys [Exclusive]
[Warning: Spoilers for the series finale.] To quote Miss Jackson, “That’s the end?” Yes, friends, it is. And like I promised you, everything would be, was, and is alright. I went to the Killjoys source, series creator Michelle Lovretta, who wrote the last episode, to break down that delicious finale….
What They Said: Three Revealing Conversations from Survivor’s Remorse “Closure”
WARNING: Spoilers for Survivor’s Remorse “Closure” The latest episode of Starz’s Survivor’s Remorse featured conversations that showed characters really digging deep into their thoughts, emotions and motivations.
Two Takes: The Catch “The Knock-Off”
Who can you trust? If this episode of The Catch was any indication, the answer is just about nobody. Betrayal was running rampant as Felicity (Shivani Ghai) arose from the dead to seduce-con Margot, Gretchen (Maria Thayer, Gotham, The Mindy Project) played gold-hearted Alice 2.0 before swindling Ethan, Tessa jumped…
What They Said: Top 3 Quotable Moments from Preacher “El Valero”
Both Quincannon and Jesse refuse to give up on what they each think is rightfully theirs. While Jesse is struggling to face the consequences of his actions, Quincannon has laid his past demons to rest and is hellbent on moving forward and putting Annville on the map again. Despite a…
What They Said: Favorite Quotes from Supergirl “Worlds Finest”
Oh, Supergirl. That ending was cold. But I can’t hate on you because the latest episode has quickly become one of my favorites.
What They Said: Top 4 Quotable Moments from Black Sails “XXIII”
The dialogue in “XXIII” is phenomenal. It’s always a fun ride when Black Sails carries its viewers along without giving them the chance to catch their breath. When an episode moves at this unforgiving pace, there is no chance for a breather nor is there a respite from the information…
What Lucifer Said: Favorite quotes from Supernatural “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”
Supernatural episodes are almost always funny but thanks to the dialogue and a certain man speaking said dialogue, I laughed a lot during “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” You know, when I wasn’t busy fearing for Sam’s life or wondering what in the world was going on with Dean and…
What They Said: The Flash, “Legends Of Today” and Arrow, “Legends Of Yesterday”
Two nights of Arrow +Â The Flash = what more could we ask for?! I don’t know what it is about blending these shows, but I canâ€™t help but feel that every time they come together, they somehow become greater than the sum of their parts. And thatâ€™s saying a lot…
What they Said: Top 4 Quotable Moments from Graceland “Little Bo Bleep”
Shoot outs. Fake outs. And long-awaited revelations. “Little Bo Bleep” was a jam-packed episode that wrapped up some loose ends and totally frayed others. Â It finally gave us one Sarkissian in jail and pulled back the curtain on Briggs’ master plan, but it also set up Jakes for a world…
What They Said: Favorite Quotes from Poldark “Part 4”
â€œWhat have I told you, I don’t require my wife to crochet and sip tea, but I do require her to remember she’s not a beast of burden.â€ No, Iâ€™m not talking about The Rolling Stones! I have to admit though, just for a second, the lyrics popped into my…
3 Moments of Goodness from Brooklyn Nine-Nine “Johnny and Dora”
The most satisfying part of this season’s finale has to the Jake and Amy kiss. Well, they kiss three times but the last one is the best one — and it means something. The Charles and Rosa dynamic was also great. I love how she’s convinced he doesn’t know anything…