When we last turned off the lights at ‘Bates Motel’, Norman had just finished going full Mother mode. He killed his ex-girlfriend, Bradley Martin, by bashing her head on a rock and then he put her dead body inside her car and dumped both into a lake. I’d like to say there’s still a chance for Norman, but as the Season 4 premiere clearly proves, all hope is lost.
The new season begins with Sheriff Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) out on the water in a boat, where he ditches the dead body of Bob Paris (whom Alex pumped full of bullets in last season’s finale). Alex scuttles the vessel and escapes via rowboat. Returning to his house, Alex buries a large sum of cash underneath the brick flooring of his living room. I’m guessing the good sheriff may get a visit from the DEA in episodes to follow, but there’s nothing more on that in the premiere.
Norman wakes up in the middle of a field in a wooded area. He’s still talking to his mother as if she’s right there next to him. A farmer comes along and asks Norman if he’s okay. Norman demands to be left alone, gets really agitated and tries to attack the guy, but the farmer promptly knocks Norman out with a single blow.
Back at the motel, Dylan gets a call from a nearby county hospital notifying him that Norman is being held in the psychiatric ward. When Norma gets the news, she immediately hops in her car to drive to the hospital. Dylan says he can’t go with her. He’s off to a different hospital in Portland, where Emma is about to have a lung transplant.
Norma arrives at the county hospital, only to learn that Norman is under mandatory 48-hour observation and a decision about whether to release him or commit him will be made after that.
Meanwhile, at Emma’s much cleaner and nicer hospital, Dylan waits for results of the surgery with Emma’s father. Although Emma gets through surgery okay, the doctors tell them that the next 24 hours will be the most important. A woman shows up at the hospital and reveals to Dylan that she’s Emma’s mother, Audrey (Karina Logue). As soon as Emma’s dad sees her, he tells her to get the hell out of there.
Not wanting to see Norman committed to the sketchy hospital he’s currently at, Norma returns to the private mental health facility called Pine View, which she visited last season, and asks about admitting her son. Unfortunately, she’s told that there’s a waiting list and she’ll need to have Norman examined by a doctor before he’s even considered as a patient there. On her way out, Norma bumps into Dr. Gregg Edwards (Damon Gupton). Norma explains Norman’s situation to him, and even tries to lure him with her sexual charms, to which Dr. Edwards tells her he’s gay. Still, he promises to take a look at Norman once he’s out of the county hospital.
Returning to the motel, Norma finds Audrey waiting for a room. Audrey doesn’t immediately reveal that she’s Emma’s mom. However, she finally confesses to that the next morning when Norma is leaving to check on Norman at the hospital.
The doctor at the hospital tells Norma that Norman can be released, but she’ll need to put him under professional psychiatric care immediately or Social Services will come back and commit him to the hospital for a more permanent stay.
Later, Audrey comes up to the Bates house hoping that Norma will deliver a letter to Emma. Norma angrily refuses and tells Audrey that she wants her to leave. Audrey asks if she can at least keep her room for the night. Norma says that’s okay, but she wants her gone in the morning.
Norman tells his mother that he had a dream that she killed Bradley Martin. Horrified about what Norman may have done (or may yet do), the next morning she gets up early (she’s sleeping next to Norman, naturally… this show still loves to tease with its incestuous overtones), locks Norman in his room and drives off to see Alex, where she promptly asks him to marry her. No, Norma hasn’t had a change of heart when it comes to the sheriff. She just wants to get Norman on his health insurance. She even offers to sleep with Alex, but Romero refuses and asks her to leave.
While the above is going on, Norman wakes up to find himself locked in his room. He freaks out and eventually breaks down the door. Once again going into Mother mode, Norman puts on one of Norma’s robes and starts acting very feminine. Of course, it’s at this time that Audrey decides to come back up to the house to talk to him. She asks Norman if he’ll give Emma the letter from earlier along with a stuffed bunny rabbit. Norman invites her in for tea and all seems to be going well, until Norman loses control and violently strangles Audrey, yelling at her about being a bad mother for deserting Emma. As the episode fades to black, Audrey’s lifeless body lies on the couch with Norman overlooking it.
This is a solid – if not spectacular – season premiere for the show. I like that it primarily focuses on the main series characters. Even one of the new characters we’re introduced to doesn’t stick around very long. In previous seasons, I haven’t been very drawn to all the show’s side stories and subplots, particularly those involving the drug trade in White Pine Bay.
If there’s one thing really missing from the premiere, the writers (this episode was written by executive producers Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin) have forgotten to include much in the way of dark humor, which has really been missing from the series since its first (and still best) season. We get a little here when Norma goes to ask Alex to marry her, but earlier episodes used to be packed with great one-liners, yet there’s nary a one to be found so far in Season 4.
Still, it’s quite early and it remains to be seen what the big storylines will be this season. (Please don’t involve drugs… please don’t involve drugs!) As always, actors Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga (who I understand is the writer of an episode later this season) are the real reason to watch the series. It will be particularly fun to watch Farmiga this year, as she’ll get to play both reality Norma as well as the alter ego Norma that Norman has created in his mind.