If Norma (Vera Farmiga) finally admitted her son belongs in an institution during the fourth season premiere of Bates Motel, then she’s a completely broken woman in the second episode, Goodnight, Mother. At the beginning of the episode, she’s leaving frantic messages for Pineview and Dr. Edwards. “He had a bad episode yesterday. His blackout lasted hours. I’m letting him sleep, but I need to get him into your facility as soon as possible.”
Norman (Freddie Highmore) can’t remember the previous day at all. His head hurts and he’s worn out. Nevertheless, he’s relentless in asking his mother what was so urgent that she had to lock him in her room. Going to the grocery store isn’t an excuse he’s going to accept; he later demands to see the grocery bags. What used to be feeble attempts at controlling Norman are now desperate attempts to simply calm him: “We’ll play some cards, watch a movie, bake a cake. It’ll be fun.”
In the bathroom, Norman “remembers” dragging Audrey down the basement stairs and cramming the still-alive woman into the freezer. Here lies the twist, though. It’s not himself “as” Mother that he remembers; it’s Mother herself that he thinks he saw do it. So in the episode, the tables are turned a little. As Norma tries to get him to sign commitment papers, Norman in convinced she’s the murderer who’s trying to get him out of the way so she can “run amuck.”
It’s largely a cat and mouse game within the walls of the scary house on the hill, and it’s a suspenseful episode. As Norma climbs into the muddy pit out front to see if her son buried Audrey in it, a family drives up to check into the motel. Mother and son demonstrate a battle of wills as to who will assist them. Then there’s creeping through dark halls, pulling guns from under mattresses and giant scissors from drawers as each of them tries to gain control over the other.
The catalyst is a little staged, but still effective. As Pineview is literally faxing commitment papers to the motel office, Norman stands chatting with the family he’s checking in and Norma lurks outside trying to retrieve them before he can read them. She fails, though, and it’s all the proof he needs to believe she’s out to get him. Well, that, as well as a visit from his dead father who tells him that she killed him and he needs to control her before she destroys him.
Norman later tells Norma, “There’s something dark in you, Mother, that needs to be stopped. I know you killed that woman. I think you killed Bradley Martin and Blair Watson because you were jealous of both of them. I think you killed my father and you’re trying to blame me.” He’s right, of course, but doesn’t realize it was his split personality version of Mother who did all those things, not the woman standing physically in front of him.
Hold on a minute… why is Pineview faxing commitment papers when Norma has no money or insurance? Well, Romero (Nestor Carbonell) has a change of heart and digs up the drug money buried under the bricks of his fireplace to bribe the head of the facility. “My mom was in and out of these places. I know how it works,” he says. He even decides to marry Norma! When he tells her, she seems genuinely grateful, but there’s no time to celebrate when she believes Norman has become dangerous.
Dylan (Max Thieriot) and Emma (Olivia Cooke) are in the episode for only a couple scenes. When her father (Andrew Howard) tells him, “If you’re serious about having a relationship with my daughter, you need to think about doing something else than selling pot” and “To be honest, you’re too good to be doing that,” I have hopes that Bates Motel will drop the White Pine Bay drug industry storylines. We won’t know yet, though, as Dylan considers his words and leaves Emma at the hospital.
The episode ends with Norman being escorted away in the back of Romero’s cruiser. He’s not dragged kicking and screaming; instead, her remains quiet as a mouse, which is far scarier. He does sign the commitment papers, only to avoid another night in “county.” As Norma tells him, “Thank you, honey. I love you. I hope you know that,” Norman doesn’t say a word. She’s left alone, crying at the foot of the stairs, and the audience is left waiting to see what will happen next.