The Attic: ‘Bates Motel’ Seasons 3-4 Review *SPOILERS*
Welcome to The Attic, where a boy’s best friend is his mother.
As Bates Motel continues its run of the fifth and final season on television, I felt it was important to catch up so I could follow along until the end. Two weeks ago I posted an article reviewing the first two seasons, and while I loved them, it is in the third and fourth seasons that things really start to get crazy. Following the death of Miss Watson, everyone is getting back to normal as senior year is about to start for Norman. But he is still struggling with her murder, and he is now more convinced than ever that his mother really has committed these murders. As we see this suspicion grow, his rage swells too, which leads to more blackouts and more guilt that he pins on his mother. It is a sick cycle for sure, but one that must happen in order to get to the infamous murder we all know is coming.
And yet, Norman and Norma become increasingly closer, and the lines between a healthy relationship and an inappropriate one blur more and more. When Dylan learns that Norman has been sleeping in their mother’s bed, he questions Norma if she thinks that might not be a good idea. She is clearly torn between what she wants to do, and what she is hearing from Dylan as well as her own growing concerns for her youngest son. Norman and Emma begin to homeschool together, and they even start dating for a while, but he is too focused on his mother and drifts away from his friend before their romantic relationship can really get off the ground.
This leaves the door open for Dylan to express his feelings for Emma, thus beginning one of my biggest and favorite ships I have ever been a part of. Not since Scully and Mulder have I waited desperately for two people to kiss on a television series. After he secretly gets the money for her lung transplant, it became clear that he was very serious about her and even her father could see that. If Dylan hadn’t gotten the money, she very well could have died in her twenties. She has strong feelings as well, and their first kiss had me grinning from ear to ear like a schoolgirl. I absolutely love these two. Watching their budding relationship was one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen.
A large conflict blows up between Norma and her sons when the boys inform her that her brother, Caleb, who raped her when they were young, is still in town. They tell her that she should meet with him and let him apologize for the trauma that he put her through. She is furious and speeds out of town in her car. This leads to Norman waking up the next day and prancing around the house in her robe, shocking Dylan when he realizes that Norman thinks he is their mother. I love watching these scenes because, as disturbing as they are, Freddie Highmore plays it so well that I can’t take my eyes off of him. Once Norma returns to town she gives the boys what they want, and surprisingly enough there seems to be a bit of healing between her and Caleb.
As she is able to leave that worry behind, her focus shifts to the Sheriff, Alex, who steps in to protect her even more now. The once suspicious tension between them is now replaced with what can only be described as sexual tension. I have adored Alex since the show began because, as I said before, I love the actor. However, I never really liked his character in the beginning. But in the third and fourth seasons, you see him becoming the white knight Norma didn’t know she needed, and I loved watching that play out at a nice pace.
This romantic shift comes to a head when Norma asks Alex to marry him. It is not with romantic intentions at first, but that interest is clearly there despite the denial on her part. After she decides that Norman needs to get into the very nice, and very expensive, local mental institution, she comes to the conclusion that Alex’s health insurance would cover it, if they were married. She is determined to keep Norman in a nice place and not risk him being kept in one of the horrific psyche wards she finds him in after a blackout leads him to getting locked up. After some time to think about it, Alex agrees and they wed at the courthouse.
Their intentions were to keep everything simply for show, but after he moves in their romantic feelings for each other become something they can’t ignore anymore and they fall into a loving relationship with ease. Chick, played by Ryan Hurst, is the crazy old man who lived next to Dylan’s marijuana farm. He has now decided to start coming around the motel and this can only mean trouble.He threatens Norma with a proposition. Either she tells him where Caleb is so that he can kill him for beating Chick up and demanding the money he is owed for making a “gun run” or Chick will expose that she slept with her brother to the whole town. This leads to Norma breaking down and telling Alex before anyone else can. I love the way that even this doesn’t deter him from being with her. But Chick, for whatever reason, decides not to expose her secret in the end, and he backs off from his threat.
Of course their happy life can’t last, as we all know, and when Norman finds out about their marriage, he barters to be released so that he can return home. As Norman gets more erratic and threatening towards him, Alex is effectively chased away from the house and is forced to move back into his own home. Their furnace suddenly breaks, and Norma is told not to use it due to a gas leak. But near the end of season four, we watch as the pair lay side-by-side in her bed. Norman gets up, and heads into the basement. He lights the furnace and closes all of the vents in the house except for those in Norma’s bedroom.
At this point I was almost screaming at my television. I knew this day was coming, but I still didn’t see it coming in this moment. He lays down beside her and they both drift off. I was surprised to see that he was trying to kill himself at the same time, as I assumed he would try and kill Norma and Alex together. But suddenly Alex pulls up outside to check on Norma; as he steps into the house he quickly smells the gas. He rushes to pull the unconscious pair out of the room and resuscitate his wife, but it is too late… Norma Bates is gone. Alex has lost his wife, his love, and that is heartbreaking to watch. Norman has spent less time in the room, and he wakes up coughing. The look on Alex’s face says it all; he knows that Norman is to blame.
By the end of season four, Dylan and Emma have decided to move to Seattle with her father, to be closer to the doctors that Emma will need. They are completely clueless that Norma is dead, as Dylan’s relationship with her has been virtually nonexistent since their last fight. His relationship with Emma, however, is the shining light in this series where everything else is a disaster.
Through the drama, I have greatly enjoyed the nods we have seen to the Psycho film. When Norman aka “Norma” killed Bradley, he dumped her body in the trunk of her car and pushed it into a pond. He stood there watching it sink, and in the end a few bubbles escape to the surface as the car disappeared. This was pretty much a complete copy to how Marion’s body was hidden in the film, and I liked the throwback. The addition of candy corn was a nice touch as well. As some of you may already know, Anthony Perkins can be seen munching on the candy in Psycho, and as soon as I saw the dish on the front desk in the motel I squealed with joy. It needed to show up, and it did. I love those small nods to the film, and I definitely appreciate the more subtle ones because they feel like they’re showing respect, and not just trying to copy it scene-for-scene.
I have loved every minute of this show, and so far seasons three and four of Bates Motel are even better than the last two. Norman has sunk deeper into insanity and Freddie Highmore is shining brighter than ever. Everything has come together brilliantly and it has created an even sturdier foundation for the film and how those events are going to play out on the show. Norman has dug Norma’s body up from her grave, and is now playing opposite her in his own mind. Her body may be lifeless, but that’s no match for Norman’s psyche. These last two seasons have also given me two of my favorite couples, and that has been a very pleasant surprise.
Season five promises to be the craziest yet, and I can’t wait to meet the reimagined doomed Marion Crane in the flesh. I will review the fifth and final season after it concludes, so stay tuned for that!