“BATES MOTEL: Season 4, Episode 10” (TV Review)


Despite Norma looking very much deceased in last week’s episode, it was still debateable whether or not she was truly dead, possibly due to the fact that it is almost unheard of for one of the two leads to be killed off at this point in the game. With Norman’s mind increasingly diluted by psychosis, the show is always in the air as to what is real and what is not, and of course, there is also the case for characters having been brought back from the “dead” before, such as with Bradley Martin. Alas, that was not the case for poor Norma Bates.

What this writer loves about the direction and camerawork on BATES MOTEL is that the simple things, things that would normally be treated as a pickup shot, are given the deluxe treatment and turned into something with depth and character. The shot of Norman in the ambulance is lit by the flashing of blue and red light from the emergency vehicles on the Bates property, which blends into a flashback/memory of Norman as a young boy playing with his mother. Notably, this is only flashback/memory of the series that isn’t shot with blue tones, as it is a sweet memory, shot with softness and warmth. Returning home, however, Norman starts taking stock of what happened, and while he tries to maintain some sense of normalcy, he soon realizes what his new normal is.

The obvious red flag as to where and how BATES will be bleeding into PSYCHO can be found here, as Norman flushed all the pills that keep “Mother” from taking the lead over his mental state. But Norman is not the only one whose cracks are starting to show: Sherriff Romero has become a visibly broken man. Once very stoic and unshakeable, he now wanders the town bleary eyed and lashing out at everyone who crosses his path while pledging to prove Norman’s guilt in Norma’s “accidental death.”  


From there, the episode pits Alex against Norman, including battling over her wedding ring (literally), before Alex is arrested on perjury charges. Here, however, is where the show balances out the intensity with pitch black humor. It’s a risky call for the writers, but it’s hard not to laugh as Norman digs up his mother’s body and the episode becomes a more macabre version of WEEKEND AT BERNIES. However, the writer’s do save one more intense surprise: out of the blue, Chick makes an appearance to give his condolences to Norman along with some homemade chicken enchiladas. Noticing Norma in the living room, Chick offers a few choice words that finally snap Norman into reality, who breaks down and shoves a gun in his mouth.

I am not sure yet where Chick will fit into the grand scheme of things, but I will say that in retrospect, I have not given Ryan Hurst the credit he deserves. Chick is a very complex but stunningly nuanced character; a difficult character to bring to life on a show with so many big personalities. Meanwhile, Nestor Carbonell encapsulated a lost soul transformed by grief, so beautifully constructed that this writer is convinced he is pulling his reaction from personal tragedy. But the episode’s MVP is no doubt Freddie Highmore, who has grown so much since the series’ beginning that it would be criminal to ignore during Emmy season, especially considering his extra investment as a writer. Highmore’s future is far brighter than Normans, and I think that he will continue to do things that will stop people in their tracks.

However, the finale of the episode is all-too-appropriate, as Norman’s suicide attempt is stopped by the sound of his dead dog as well as Norma playing “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” on piano. The camerawork here paints the Bates home like a Hallmark Christmas TV special; lit warmly, the ending would be so saccharinely sweet if it wasn’t so deeply situated in mental illness. I am not going to start to guess what the final season will bring, but this season has yet again been hard evidence that BATES MOTEL really comes alive and stands out from any other. While I hate the thought of only having one season left, I respect the choice to end it on what will be a technically masterful high-note.

About the author
Amy Seidman

Amy Seidman is a Toronto based writer for Fangoria Magazine, Delirium Magazine, Shock Till You Drop and Thrillist. She has a tattoo tribute to Castor Troy from Face/Off and is currently working on her Bates Motel fan fiction “Masterbates Motel.” She is proud of her life decisions. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram..

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