Episode three of season four of Bates Motel, ‘Til Death do You Part, begins with the at-one-time-inseparable Bates mother and son…separated. Norma (Vera Farmiga) stares sadly at Norman’s empty bed while Norman (Freddie Highmore) questions why someone took his belt at Pineview. The episode quickly moves to the highly-advertised wedding of Norma and Sheriff Romero (Nestor Carbonell), which is over before the neon sign of the opening credits flashes wearily.
The episode is all about establishing a new status quo. While Norma gets used to having Romero around the house, Norman gets used to having Dr. Edwards (Damon Gupton) just down the hall. Outside the primary storyline, Dylan (Max Thierot) attempts to get out of the weed-growing business and Emma (Olivia Cooke) adjusts to not having to drag around a hunk of metal with her wherever she goes.
There’s not a lot of story advancement in most of the episode, but the new dynamics are vital to the development of the characters. If, like me, you’ve always thought the best parts of Bates Motel are the acting and the characters, it’s a great episode. The emotions that flash across Farmiga’s face as Norma at first denies thinking of Romero “in that way,” then realizes she may in fact love him, are heartbreaking.
The relationship between Norman and Dr. Edwards offers a tour de force for Highmore, giving him someone new to battle emotionally. Norman’s beef with Edwards is different than what we’ve seen with his mother, allowing Highmore to approach his character’s insanity from a new direction. This means his rage comes out full force as he also manipulatively blames Norma for locking him away.
The last third of the episode heats up. Norma tells Romero that she “can’t think about anything but Norman. I feel like I abandoned him. I tried so hard to protect him until I couldn’t.” Although there’s a 72-hour rule at Pineview, she forces her way in to supposedly comfort her son. But he won’t have it. “I don’t forgive you. I don’t want to forgive you. You’ve painted me into a corner I can’t get out of and I’ve never been more disappointed in anyone.”
Norma copes by drinking a little too much wine and offering herself to Romero. Norman doesn’t cope. He attempts to storm into Edwards’ office, then after being locked up, tells him, “I have reason to believe that my mother is insane and may be killing people.” Edwards replies, “You realize if you make this accusation, I’ll have to report it.” Norman confidently nods, “I do.” That’s a great set-up for future episodes, with perhaps another shift in the status quo.