Goodnight, Mother
Credit: Cate Cameron

Uh… Happy belated Mother’s Day? With one episode to go on Bates Motel, the show has (possibly) arrived at the moment it’s been building to since the premiere: the death of Norma Bates. We still have one episode to go, but even though this is one of the minds behind Lost, Norma’s demise seems pretty final. But don’t count out Vera Farmiga not being a part of the show, deat or not — there’s always the possibility of a red herring, and Carlton Cuse tells EW Farmiga will very much have a presence in season five, no matter what. (I could be remember wrong, but I believe this was always the supposed case if she was killed off before the show ended.) Still, Bates pulled no punches tonight, and it pleases me — I expected to get this moment next week in the season finale, but this show is nothing if not well-written and well-executed.

Before we talk about the end, let’s start at the beginning. Our penultimate episode opens the morning after Norman freaked out at Romero and ruined The Already Awkward Dinner Party. Romero has slept downstairs, and when Norma wakes up, she thinks things will be better now. Sure, the night was really crappy, but now that the hurdle has been cleared of Norman knowing how Norma feels about her husband, everything will be okay. Romero is uncomfortable about Norman not being at Pineview, but Norma refuses to see he needs to be put back under supervision. Because, well, “we are two parts of the same person!” That means Romero totally doesn’t get it and he’s overreacting. Norman awakens in time to see Romero and Norma sharing an intimate moment on the way out, which should provide great therapy fodder, right?

Indeed, it does. While Norma tries to bridge a gap between her son and her husband on the way to therapy, Norman loses it at his doctor’s office. He goes off about how Romero only married Norma for money and insurance and how he never liked Norman and always wanted him out of the picture so he could encroach on his mom. His worldview is so skewed that he starts talking about how he knows Norma’s going to be hurt, detailing how she’ll react to various stages of their relationship progression. “Everyone will leave, but I will never leave,” Norman declares. I’m not sure how this doesn’t scream problem, but hey, at least this is the type of stuff you should be going to therapy for.

While Norman’s in therapy, Norma calls Romero, who again tells her he doesn’t think Norman being home is the best thing for either of them. Norma is appalled that his short-lived relationship status as her husband suddenly gives him the right to know what’s best for her son, even when Romero urges her to ask the doctor. But Norma, who literally won’t see the truth until that knife is inevitably coming down on her head, just thinks he’s not giving her son a chance. She even assures her son he’s No. 1 in her heart and soul AND mind in the car. Always so supportive, Norma!

Out of options and worried about the woman he really cares for, Romero meets Dylan privately, telling him he thinks Norman is dangerous. Dylan is hesitant to talk but eventually agrees, and Romero tells him he thinks Norman needs to be committed. They can do it behind Norma’s back as long as they have the signatures of two family members, and at first, Dylan is wary of hurting his mother in this way. But Romero is afraid something worse will happen if they don’t, and Dylan does want to help his brother, so he agrees.

NEXT: The world was wide enough

While getting ready to move, Emma finds an earring in a coat Norma gave her. She assumes it’s Norma’s, but Dylan recognizes it as belonging to Emma’s mom. Dylan finds Norma at home and confronts her about the earring, which Norma brushes off first by pretending it’s hers and then by ignoring the question of why she kept it in the first place. Her inability to see Norman’s issues and violent nature are the last straw for Dylan, who blows up after pushing her to admit Norman is dangerous. Norma is so far gone she accuses Dylan of inventing his stories because he’s jealous of his brother, and Dylan tells her Romero also thinks Norman should be committed — because when it comes to Norman, Norma can’t see clearly. Norma, you are digging your own damn grave here, and I cringe every week because I don’t want you to have this fate of your own doing. Dylan storms out of the house, meeting Norman on the way and shares a genuine hug with his brother, before telling him to get help. Norman is confused, demanding to know what happened, and Norma tells him that Dylan doesn’t think he should be home. “Because everyone thinks they know more about you than I do.” NORMA.

Romero’s not having a better day: Rebecca tries to get him to admit to Bob’s murder, but he wises up to her game. Good on Romero for not falling for Rebecca’s confession and wire trap (honestly, Rebecca’s conversation seemed odd and out of place, and HEY DID YOU KILL BOB PARIS? was kind of a giveaway), but I still think that there’s more coming for our sheriff. Either Rebecca will end up on the wrong side of this, or Romero will, and I don’t think Romero can take any more heartbreak. Romero’s day gets worse when he returns to his office to find Norma, who is ultimately upset and hurt that Romero would think her son needs to be committed and that he went behind her back because “no one who loves me would ever do that to me.” And because Norma is so blinded by her love for her son, she claims she’ll never trust Romero again.

Back at the house, Norman is exploring the basement and looking for Christmas lights. He finds his old taxidermy…as well as Emma’s mom suitcase. He puts on her dirt-covered coat, and Freddie Highmore is just incredible with his acting here — you can almost see the transformation as he potentially realizes what he did and remembers his actions from when he wasn’t himself. Later, when Norma returns, he asks what happened because she’s visibly upset. Norma tries to brush it off, but her argument and breakup with Romero hits her harder than she realizes, and she breaks down crying…with only Norman to comfort her, of course. Because this is what Norman means by no one else will ever be here for her except him.

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Norma writes Romero a letter that breaks my heart (“I will always love you no matter what”). She leaves the wedding ring and the note on the dresser, and Norman meets her in bed, soothing her with promises of leaving Pineview and vacations and a new life in Oahu. This would be a super good idea if, you know, Norman wasn’t psychotic. As Norma falls asleep, Norman both comforts her and sings to her. When Norma is fully asleep (and after Norman has creepily watched her for way too long), Norman heads to the basement to light the furnace. And in a beautiful and haunting sequence set to the music of “Mr. Sandman,” Norman lets the furnace run while closing all the vents and windows in the house (except Norma’s room) before climbing into bed with his mother. The perfect murder-suicide, right? After all, “life is hard, but we still have each other, and nothing will ever change that.”

Romero comes back to the house and is concerned to find the doors locked and the house dark and even more concerned when he enters and finds that Norma won’t respond to him. He finds her in the bedroom along with Norman and manages to save both of them by dragging them out of the room. Norman wakes, but despite Romero’s best efforts, Norma remains unresponsive…and, for all intents and purposes, seemingly dead.

So, is this end of Norma Bates as we know it? Will next week find Norma having survived, or have we finally reached the point of no return? Either way, someone give an Emmy to Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore because their work this season has been absolutely phenomenal.

Bates Bits:

  • I loved the staging of the standoff between Norma and Norman, with Dylan standing in between them and blocking their relationship both literally and figuratively.
  • Will we ever find Emma’s mom’s body? I just want someone else to see Norman is dangerous, damn it!
  • I love that Romero rescued Norman. I really thought he was going to leave him and just focus on Norma, but it showed he really does care about Norma’s family…even if he knows this is going to be his downfall.

Episode Recaps

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