Thanks to the wonderful folks at Comcast, this week’s recap of ‘Bates Motel’ almost didn’t make it to you. My DVR didn’t record this episode as scheduled because the cable company’s guide listed it as a repeat. (This was apparently a problem nationwide, as Josh had the same issue.) Fortunately, I caught this in time to record an early-morning rerun of the episode.
I feel sorry for those who had the same issue. Not only is ‘Forever’ the best episode of Season 4, it’s perhaps the best of the entire series run.
It all begins in the aftermath of the previous evening’s squabble (to put it mildly) between Norman, Norma and Alex. Norma wakes up the next morning alone in bed. She goes downstairs to discover that Alex spent the evening on the couch – with his gun nearby in case Norman caused any more problems. Alex insists that Norman needs to be re-admitted to Pineview, but Norma believes that outpatient therapy will be enough. Meanwhile, Norman watches the two hug each other goodbye as Alex leaves for work. (Does he really think Norma will be any safer just because it’s daylight?)
Norman has another session with Dr. Edwards in which he spills his feelings about his new stepdad, telling the doctor that he’s seen this pattern from his mother before. Norman believes that Norma is afraid of being alone and sooner or later she’ll drive Alex out of their lives, forcing Norman to pick up all the broken pieces of another failed marriage.
Norma calls Alex from Pineview in an attempt to apologize to him, but the two just get into another fight about whether or not Norman needs to be committed.
Meanwhile, Emma packs up things for her move and gives Dylan an earring she found in a coat that Norma lent her. She asks him to make sure it gets back to his mother. Of course, she has no idea the piece of jewelry most likely belonged to her dead mother.
Rebecca has a lawyer and tries to cut a deal with the DEA to avoid jail time. She tells them that she’ll wear a wire and get Alex to confess that he killed Bob Paris.
Alex asks Dylan to meet him at a town restaurant, where he relays his concerns about Norman and asks Dylan if he’s ever seen his brother get violent. When Dylan confesses that he has, Alex says he wants to commit Norman without Norma’s approval – but he’ll need the signature of an additional family member. Dylan agrees that Norman needs to go back to Pineview, but tells Alex he wants to talk to Norma first.
Dylan drives out to the Bates’ house to talk to Norma and confront her about the earring. Norma says it’s hers, but Dylan already knows it’s not. This leads to a verbal argument between the two where Dylan eventually admits that he and Alex talked about committing Norman to Pineview. Norma gets pretty upset that he and Alex have conspired behind her back, but Dylan says he’s done with her as a son. He can’t be involved anymore. On his way out, he sees Norman walking back up to the house and gives him a big hug, telling his brother that he needs help and should commit himself back to Pineview for his own good. He then says goodbye to Norman, possibly for the last time. This is a fantastic scene and should disprove those who’ve complained that Max Thieriot isn’t a very good actor. This scene certainly makes me wish he’d been given more moments like this during the series run.
Back inside the house, Norman wants to know what just happened between his mother and Dylan. Norma tells him that Dylan and Alex both think he needs to go back to Pineview, but that she knows what’s best for him. She tells him that she’s going to go talk to Alex, leaving Norman at the house alone.
Rebecca meets with Alex at a diner (Romero spends a lot of time at town eateries, doesn’t he?!), and he’s surprised that she hasn’t left town. When she asks him awkward questions about his relationship with Bob Paris, he quickly figures out that she’s wearing a wire. He leaves the DEA a message – telling them to go to Hell – and storms out of the restaurant. Returning to his office, he finds Norma there to yell at him. She tells the sheriff that he had no business going behind her back regarding Norman’s well-being and that she’ll never trust him again.
While going through some of his taxidermy work in the basement of the house, Norman sees a suitcase with Audrey’s (Emma’s mother) name on it. Opening it up, he finds Audrey’s scarf, some of her hair, and the housecoat (Norma’s) that he was wearing when he strangled her – which is now both dirty and bloodstained. Putting on the coat, Norman gets that creepy look in his eyes that tells us he’s having another psychotic break.
Norman buries the suitcase near a tree outside the house. Later, when his mother returns home and Norman asks her where she’s been, she tells him he was right about Alex and then breaks down in tears. Norman tries to comfort her. That night, after Norma pens a “Dear John” letter to Alex and sticks her wedding ring inside the envelope with the note, Norman joins her in bed and tells his mother that maybe they need to move away and get a fresh start elsewhere. He suggests moving to Oahu. (Coming next year from A&E: ‘Bates Cabana’!) After singing his mother to sleep, Norman gets up, heads down to the basement and turns on the furnace (the one with the gas leak that I predicted would eventually become a significant plot point). Then he goes around the house closing all the other vents, making sure the poison gas heads only into Norma’s bedroom. But it’s not just murder Norman has in mind. It’s a murder/suicide. He joins his mother in bed.
Alex arrives at the Bates house either really late at night or really early in the morning. (It’s still dark outside.) No one answers the door, but he still has a key, so he lets himself in. He finds the lifeless bodies of both Norma and Norman upstairs in bed. He throws a chair through the window to ventilate the room, then carries Norma’s body downstairs. (Of course he’s going to help her first.) He returns upstairs to get Norman. With both of them now out of the room, Alex starts CPR on Norma, but it’s to no avail and he cries over her lifeless body. Norman wakes up on his own and looks over to see the sheriff holding his (dead?) mother.
This is one fantastic episode, a great payoff to loyal fans who’ve stuck with this series. Is Norma really dead? After sitting through a number of TV shows recently where dead or seemingly dead characters are miraculously saved, I sure hope so. I can’t imagine the show-runners scripting a more emotional end for the character, and we all know (thanks to Norman’s multiple personality disorder) that the character’s death doesn’t necessarily mean the actress needs to leave the series. Kudos to the cast this week. Every single one of them gave great performances.