‘Bates Motel’ S4E2: Goodnight, Mother

★ ★ ★ ★

No episode has ever had as much impact as "Goodnight, Mother" has had on the course of events to come. After years of attempting to deal with the potentially deadly situation she has created for herself, Norma finally realized that it was time to worry more about her own safety than Norman’s when his psychosis metamorphosed into paranoia.

For a while, Norma was able to cover up Norman’s instability by blaming it on other elements in their life: the death of his father, the death of Blaire Watson, his kidnapping, and the list goes on and on. She was able to call him "troubled" — "dangerous" never being on the tip of her tongue. But they went past the point of no return when Norman threatened both of their lives. Norman didn’t just sign into an asylum, he signed away any chance of returning to how things were.

Bates Motel: S4E2

The last 10 minutes of the episode were the most impressive. Consistent, tense, and better nailing the psychological horror tone Bates Motel has tried but barely grazed before, being forced to watch Norma attempt saving her own life at the expense of her son’s made for an interesting dynamic. Watching a doting mother like Norma be terrified enough to grab a pair of scissors to defend herself against Norman, of all people, shows just how bad the situation got. The psychological manipulation Norman used to get her to come down into the basement (ignoring her long enough for her to get worried about his well-being) was a far better use of the Norman/Norma conflict that emerged recently.

That being said, I commented last week that there weren’t enough mind games stemming from Norman’s mental condition to fully address the severity of it. A glimpse into his point of view and the hallucinations that follow after his daylong blackout broke through to a series of tricks Norman’s own mind was playing on him to make sense out of the situation and "witnessing" "Norma" "kill" those people. Norman’s father even made a comeback to explain that it was Norma who killed him, not Norman. It’s nice to loop back to the original explanation for Norman’s father’s death before it was revealed Norman was behind it all along.

The only outcome of the hallucinations that doesn’t work is that Norman realizes Norma’s "guilty" at the top of the episode, which just leads to a series of passive-aggressive (and over-the-top) villain speeches from his end that are far less threatening than his basement conversation in the final 10 minutes. It isn’t exciting to see him dodge the accusation, and when he does accuse Norma of the murders, there’s a switch that flips in her head that adds more depth to that one scene than had been seen in much of the episode.

Dylan and Emma (Dylemma) have been too preoccupied with Emma’s surgery to know anything that’s going on back at the motel and they’re going to arrive to a disaster zone. But for now, we’re getting some cute couple moments from the two of them. It’s going to be curious to see how Emma will react to Norman being institutionalized, especially given how she and Norman were a thing not that long before.

Sheriff Romero made the life-changing decision to marry Norma to give her insurance and, both odd and not, he doesn’t seem to have any qualms with it. Their tension is finally being addressed and it’s adorable watching Romero hide his true emotions about the idea of marrying Norma. It’s clear that he has feelings for her, but just how does he feel about Norman? With Norman "out of the picture" and a danger to Norma, just how strained will that already troubled relationship between the two of them be? Not to say Romero’s time seems like it’s about to be up, but someone coming in between Norman and his mother probably doesn’t have a fairy tale ending waiting for them.

The show dynamic has changed with Norman’s psychosis before, but never on this magnitude. It’s going to be exciting to see what the show does next with Norman being locked away, Norma dealing with the aftermath, and everyone they know having to readjust to the reveal that Norman isn’t the Norman they used to know.

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