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“BATES MOTEL: Season 4, Episode 9” (TV Review)

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After bearing witness to Norman’s ax-wielding meltdown in Episode 8, Episode 9 finds Alex concerned (and rightfully so) for the well-being and safety of Norma, who refuses to admit to him (and herself) that his request to have Norman go back to Pineview is warranted. Norma goes through her checklist of angles to get out of it but goes with her trusty ol gaslighting approach by telling Alex that he is overreacting.  

The personality nuances that the writers have created for Norma are genius and I can confidently say that because never in my life have I loved, admired, loathed and hated with every fiber of my being a character the way I do for her. Hers is the kind of frustrating behaviour that keeps me up at night, and never in my life have I felt so much sorrow for someone so abhorrent. This entire season has been a consistent display of how truly toxic Norma is, which is even more shocking considering she’s ostensibly one of the show’s protagonists.

As Norma is busy trying to get Alex out the door, we see Norman upstairs in the bathroom as he takes his pills. That may sound very trivial, but it is an example of some incredibly beautiful work done by the cinematographer and writers, intentionally capturing the deteriorating bathroom wall behind Norman. Throughout the season, the Bates home has shown its cracks in tandem with Norman’s mental state, and as you see the peeling paint throughout the house and the broken furnace, the foreshadowing of the Bates family fate becomes more clear.

"Forever"

This episode finally gave Max Thieriot his moment in the spotlight this season as the normally subdued Dylan has a very explosive moment with Norma. Summarizing the dynamic of his relationship to Norma, especially as opposed to her reationship with Norman, I was glad to see Dylan do something other than follow Emma around; there were times throughout this season where this writer was convinced Dylan was written in as an afterthought. With the conversation ranging from maddening to emotional to eventually heartbreaking, seeing these two characters have it out over irrefutable proof of Norman’s homicidal nature was so telling of how little value Norma sees in Dylan. Yet as a viewer, I am glad the writers gave Dylan the opportunity to have this confrontation with Norma, even if it was really hard on the heart to watch.  

As for the ending of the episode, BATES MOTEL really highlights the great but exceedingly uncomfortable chemistry between Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore. The way they whisper to each other about love with hands intertwined is really icky to watch, and it’s goes to show how powerful each performer has sold their role as mother and son, respectively. Yet what happens next was so shocking, I had to watch it multiple times to actually believe it happened: after creepily singing his mother to sleep, Norman goes to the faulty furnace and lights it, closing the vents as he makes his way back to the bedroom, all the while as a cover of “Mr. Sandman” sets the malevolent tone. The direction, camerawork and cinematography of this scene are absolutely stunning, with the POV moving through the ducts as the vents close one by one. While committing a murder/suicide is incredibly disturbing, I think it was the calmness in Highmore’s performance that I found the most disturbing.

In a heart wrenching conclusion to a wild episode, Alex comes home to find Norma and Norman unconscious, moving quickly to get some oxygen in the house and revive the two. To see the typically poker-faced Alex break down and sob over the lifeless body of his wife was incredibly powerful and painful as viewer. While the scene is incredibly shot and acted, the scene exudes the kind of sadness that stays with you. With next week’s finale wrapping up an emotionally tumultuous season, this writer hopes Norma lives, despite knowing eventually where the series must go. As for plot twists and shocking scenes I have no idea how they will top this episode but the writers have never failed before and I highly doubt they will let the fans down now.

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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