“BATES MOTEL: Season 4, Episode 8” (TV Review)Fearful Features,Movies/TV,News Amy Seidman
Episode 8 of BATES MOTEL is titled “Unfaithful” and the title couldn’t be more apt, as that’s exactly how Norman views his mother’s position with her new husband. Of course, Norma justifies her marriage and protective motherhood as “trying to protect” everyone from everything but for this viewer, the act is wearing thin. As for Norman, his anger and newfound inner brat is, while unappealing, not unwarranted. It becomes evident to him that he doesn’t fit into these new lives which leaves him feeling a growing resentment, planting more seeds towards the inevitable.
This episode provides many examples of Norman trying to assert his male dominance as he feels that it has been threatened, and rightfully so. One such thing is the giant TV in his living room that wasn’t there before, an intrusive threat to the ambience of the house that doesn’t fit into his life much like Romero himself. Norman’s stay at pineview has clearly made him more assertive and wise to Norma’s psychological game, and it comes off as confrontational. While relatively the opposite, the writers are taking advantage of the audience’s expectation for Norman to be passive and misguided, and that could be attributed to Highmore’s inaugural writing credit on the episode.
“Unfaithful” best conveys the glaring theme of power struggles with a dinner between Norman and his “parents.” Highmore is excellent in this scene, as this new iteration of Norman refreshing serves Norma resistance with no minced words. This is such an intelligent and thoughtful way of showing the growth in Norman, and it’s like watching a victim of Stockholm Syndrome get back into their own skin and fight to keep it that way.
Meanwhile, Farmiga and Carbonell aren’t left to the dust either, and the pair’s push-back against Highmore represents some of the finest acting all season, bouncing between calm and intense with every passing moment. And the scene culminates in an intense stand-off with an ax that ostensibly could have been the point of no return for Norman; instead, we get an even scarier version of Norman than “Mother,” and that’s Norman at his most insecure, literally destroying his own home.
This entire episode has been an exercise in the underestimation of Norman, his position in his family and his power as a man. With a schizophrenic murderer at the center of it, BATES MOTEL is something that really muddies up the mind, heart and soul. The series is very unique in that it is designed to make it difficult to feel a finite emotion for a character as it’s a constant struggle to identify who is good, bad, and dangerous. Nobody is a victim of circumstance on BATES MOTEL, and I really appreciate the choice by Carlton Cuse, Kerry Ehrin and writers to do that.
BATES MOTEL was 100% the Norman show this week, and it really gave Freddie Highmore the platform to display an uninterrupted portrayal of Norman Bates at this point in his life. This episode feels very different from the rest of that season, much more contained and introspective, which can likely be chalked up to Highmore’s phenomenal script. While not a nail-biter, I do feel that this is one of the season’s strongest episodes, and I hope that Highmore becomes more involved in the writing process because his bond with the character adds something so dynamic to an already flawlessly written show.