Airtime: Mondays at 9pm on A&E
Episode: Season 4, Episode 4 (S04E04)
Tweetable Takeaway: New romances receive the spotlight and Norman realizes he has a problem in another great #BatesMotel
Early in this week’s episode of BATES MOTEL, Norma sits at the kitchen table with her new husband, talking about her son and his new girlfriend while trying not to think of her other son, who is locked away in a mental facility. Reflecting on all the recent change in her life, she says to her husband, “It’s weird how people aren’t at all together and then all of a sudden they are.” This is true enough in life and also true in this season of Bates Motel, which has seen three new pairs emerge in its early episodes. This week’s episode, “Lights of Winter,” revolved around the season’s new pairings: Norma and her husband Sheriff Romero, Dylan and his new girlfriend Emma, and Norman and his new friend Julian.
“We’re the crazy ones, remember?”
As the episode begins, we find Norman patiently awaiting his release from Pineview, which he expects to come any time that day. He refuses to take his medicine or participate in therapy, believing that after confessing to Dr. Edwards in the previous episode that it was his mother, not himself, who was the crazy one in the family, and admitting that she may have killed people, he’ll no longer have to undergo the treatment she wanted for him. After all, according to Norman’s logic, if his mother is crazy, then everything she said about him and his need for treatment must be crazy as well. Norman is so certain of his impending release that he refuses the advances of his fellow patient Julian, who offers to break Norman out of the facility. But Dr. Edwards is quick to inform Norman that while the police are looking into his allegations, for the time being he is to remain at Pineview for treatment. This sets Norman off. He tells the doctor that he doesn’t trust anyone there and tries to leave by walking out the front door. When he’s barred from exiting, Julian reappears, offering again to escape with Norman that night, an offer that Norman accepts this time. The two quickly sneak out and hitchhike to a local strip club, where Julian tries to show Norman a good time by giving him money for a lap dance.
While I don’t expect Norman and Julian to spend much more time together, Julian has already ended up making what could be a sizable impact in Norman’s life. At the strip club, Norman experiences another blackout, again falling into his Norma persona after a stripper’s undressing causes him to flash back to Ms. Watson’s murder. Before he has a chance to hurt anyone, Norman gets his head bashed into a mirror by a bouncer, knocking him out of his blackout. When Dr. Edwards comes to pick Norman up from the club to return him to Pineview, we see a more sober Norman, something that’s been missing for quite some time, as he asks the doctor whether anything bad happened during his blackout. It’s good that Norman is aware of his blackouts and conscious that something bad may have happened during one, though I don’t believe he’s ready yet to make the next logical connection, that he’s somehow complicit in the murders that occurred during past blackouts. But it’s a big step for Norman nonetheless, as he tells Dr. Edwards that he’s afraid and can no longer trust what he thinks is real, so he’s finally ready to do anything the doctor says in order to get his help.
“I guess it all turned out okay in the end, huh, all things considered?”
While Norman and Julian’s friendship may be short-lived, it appears that Norma and Sheriff Romero are finding the arrangements of their hastily arranged marriage more to their liking than they expected. Though the relationship was born out of necessity and not love, when Romero suggests they get a joint checking account to make their marriage look more real, it’s clear to both Norma and Romero, and the audience as well, that neither can distinguish the line between what’s real and what’s for show between them any longer.
While Romero goes to the bank to set up their new shared account and tie up some loose ends of his own, Norma visits Emma in the hospital. We learn that Emma is aware of everything happening to Norman back in White Pine Bay, and it’s momentarily surprising to hear Emma even referencing Norman, given how distant the two have become since they briefly dated last season. Emma reassures Norma that she’s doing the right thing in getting Norman treatment, also telling her that his time away could be good for Norma too, since she finally has the opportunity to think about herself a little instead of constantly worrying about Norman.
Norma returns to town and joins Romero at the Lights of Winter festival, which essentially acts as their first formal outing as a married couple. While Norma is basking in an unfamiliar sense of pride watching her new Sheriff husband take a photo with his constituents, she meets Romero’s former lover Rebecca Hamilton, who seems none too pleased with the new couple.
While Norma may be taking the first steps towards weening herself off Norman and allowing herself to feel something real for Romero, Romero has his own past that’s threatening to interfere with his potential future. Rebecca had been a partner in bed and crime to both Romero and the recently deceased Bob Paris while acting as the town’s resident money launderer, and the DEA has started investing her involvement. Romero agrees to meet with Rebecca under the auspices of setting up a joint checking account and learns that Bob had $3 million in a safety deposit box. The box had two keys, one of which Rebecca has, the other of which ostensibly belongs to whomever murdered Bob, which both of them know is Romero. Romero goes home to look for the key and finds it hidden in Bob’s money, which he himself is hiding in Norma’s basement. He then receives a call from a DEA agent looking into Rebecca’s potential laundering, which he denies having any knowledge of, and it’s clear that the idyllic life Romero had created for himself is in serious danger. After Romero and Norma return home from the festival they discover that Norma’s house has been broken into and turned upside down, and it’s likely that Rebecca has run out of patience and is looking for Romero’s key, ready to take Bob’s $3 million for herself and leave town before the DEA apprehends her.
“Thank you for making Dylan so happy, I mean where the hell did this all come from?”
Emma and Dylan are the last pairing on the show and, at present time, the one whose long-term prospects look the healthiest. Though they too have come together recently, the couple has quickly availed itself as an invaluable respite from the glumness present in every other storyline. While on other shows this kind of pairing, a late-run brute force arrangement of previously unromantic characters, can be indicative of the writers’ lack of creativity, in retrospect it is easy to see that Dylan and Emma were an inevitable couple, one that could prove to be a substantial element of the overall Norman Bates mythology.
When Emma tells Dylan in this episode that she’s moving to Seattle with her dad to continue treatment at the best respiratory center in the country there, and that she plans on staying for college, I was afraid the show might be ditching the character just as Olivia Cooke’s film career was about to take off. But instead something delightful happened, something that could provide both a nice ephemeral spark while also potentially setting up more profound disappointment down the line. Emma asks Dylan if he would consider moving to Seattle to be with her, a huge ask given that the two have only been together for a matter of weeks and Emma has spent most of that time in the hospital, and he says that he wants to.
First and foremost, this is a great moment for Emma and Dylan as a couple. Though they came together hastily towards the end of last season, it’s clear that there’s a chemistry between them that had always been lacking between Emma and Norman, and there are a lot of reasons why the two work well together. They’re both ultimately peripheral elements in the saga that is Norman and Norma’s lives, but their mutual attempt to enter the Bates family’s impenetrable bubble has provided the kindling for their relationship. I would love nothing more than for them to move to Seattle, for Emma to get healthy and go to school, and for the two to live happily ever after. But this is Bates Motel. We know there are no happy endings coming for any of our characters.
Although we learn that Emma knows what’s going on with Norman back in White Pine Bay when she meets with Norma, it’s important to remember that Norman is unaware that his ex-girlfriend is dating his brother. While it’s hard to say how much Norman actually cares about Emma or might feel any jealousy regarding her, the news surely won’t be welcomed lightly when combined with his realization that his mother married Sheriff Romero in order to lock Norman up in Pineview, and worse yet, that she may have actually fallen in love with him since then.
Eric enjoys watching and making movies.
Eric Colasante | Contributor