Bates Motel 4.7 (written by Philip Buiser) was a quiet episode, preferring to show things slowly unraveling rather than slamming the audience with another shocking revelation like in previous episodes. Norman’s self-awareness may be at its highest point, but so is his manipulation of those around him. For Norma, that means facing a choice of holding onto her happiness with her new husband or letting her son come back home. In the end, “There’s No Place Like Home” showed us that Norma will always choose Norman.
As the episode opens, Norman is with the supportive Dr. Edwards, who explains to Norman he had yet another blackout. Obviously these blackouts are becoming more frequent, but at least Norman is more aware of them now. Throughout the past few episodes, we’ve seen Norman’s new self-awareness have a calming effect on him. But that sense of peace came crashing down when Norman was in art therapy – creating a paper mache sculpture of his beloved dog, Juno, no less – and sees a picture of his mother on one of the newspaper strips. Norman puts the pieces of newspaper together, and sees the caption under Norma and Romero’s picture says they’re married. It’s clear that Norman’s world is not the only one that is about to come crashing down.
For now, though, Norma and Romero are happy together. They’ve both been so good for each other, but Romero could truly be Norma’s salvation, if she would only let him. He sees her for who she is, and he loves her unconditionally. Norma never had that with any of the men in her life, and even though her children truly love her, Norma’s relationships with Dylan, but most especially Norman, are too dysfunctional to count. Norma now has both unconditional love and a functional relationship with Romero. She should be holding onto it for dear life.
Norma’s happiness is evident in her plans for some home improvements, proving she’s finally able to think of something else besides protecting Norman from himself. When Norma tells Romero about her dire financial situation, however, Romero reveals his last secret – Bob Paris’ blood money. Norma doesn’t want to take it, but Romero convinces her that she deserves it, and something good should come from that money, so why not new curtains?
Things cannot stay happy for long, though, because inevitably, Norman won’t let them. It all comes to a halt with a phone call to the Bates House and the words “Hello. Is my mother there?” When Norman gets his mother on the phone, he declares he will be signing himself out of Pineview. The devastation on Norma’s face hearing Norman’s plans is evident, but it isn’t just because she and Alex will likely be pulled apart; Norma also believes Norman is getting help at the facilty, and she doesn’t want to see that end. As the conversation continues, Norman doesn’t let on that he knows about Norma’s marriage, but instead questions her about why Romero is there. Norma falls back on her go-to defense mechanism, and lies. It’s here that we see Norman being manipulative, asking Norma if there is a specific reason he shouldn’t come home. Now he’s testing Norma’s loyalty, and her dishonest answer only makes Norman more determined to get back home before Romero can come between mother and son. Luckily, Norman’s discharge from Pineview gets delayed by paperwork and other official protocol.
Meanwhile, Norman is feverishly working on his release letter, describing his grand plan for continued therapy to Dr. Edwards. But medication and outpatient counseling are not enough for Norman. The sad truth is that Norman might realize that somewhere deep down, but his possessiveness over his mother is his guiding force. Between picturing Norma and Romero having sex to distancing himself from Julian by insulting him, Norman’s sole goal is to get back home before Romero takes his place. If he has to delude himself to get that done, he will.
Norma tries to slow the dangerous acceleration of Norman’s plan, talking to Dr. Edwards and confiding in him that she doesn’t think Norman is ready to come home. Edwards agrees, but the only way he can keep Norman in Pineview is to petition the court that Norman is a danger to himself and others (a callback to a previous episode title) but again, Norma just won’t face the truth, so she denies (to Dr. Edwards and herself) Norman’s violent tendencies, eliminating the only chance to keep her deeply troubled son where he belongs.
Norma attempts one last ditch effort to go and talk some sense into Norman, but when he pulls out the newspaper clipping and tells Norma he knows about her marriage, the two fall back into their old dysfunctional patterns. Norma lies her way out of everything, portraying her marriage to Romero as one of convenience, and Norman takes the opportunity to manipulate his mother into feeling sorry for him. It works, and Norma acquiesces, giving Norman permission to come home. This episode showed a much more scheming Norman, both with Norma and Dr. Edwards. It made a character who was always very sympathetic much less so. It seemed like a deliberate move by the writers to start pulling the audience out of Norman’s corner.
Norma returns home to see Romero has bought her a big screen TV, just because she likes to watch old movies. The gesture was more than sweet, it was a testament to Romero’s consistency in thinking of Norma’s needs in all aspects of her life, even the trivial ones. But Norma ruins the moment by confessing that Norman is coming home. Romero is understandably upset that Norma made the decision without even discussing it with him (after all, he is her husband now), but he quickly shows his support, and even wants to be a good father figure for Norman. Romero’s kindness is hard to watch in a way, because it’s a reminder of how things could possibly go in an alternate Bates Motel universe. If Norman would only stay in Pineview and learn to manage his condition, everyone would have a chance at happiness. Norma and Romero could be together, Norman could have an identity outside his mother, and the three (along with Dylan and Emma) could actually be a family. But none of that will ever come to pass, because Norman is too far gone to see past the cocoon he wants to wrap himself and Norma up in. Ultimately, Norman gets what he wants, and as he arrives home, we get the iconic shot of mother and son in front of the infamous house (courtesy of Nestor Carbonell’s skillful direction in this episode). Norman’s back, and the feeling of foreboding is overwhelming.
“There’s No Place Like Home” was very well done, effectively setting the stage for the last episodes of the season. Nothing good can come from Norma and Norman being back together in that house. All of Norma’s happiness with Romero is about to end. All of Norman’s confidence that he’s in control of his condition will be for naught. Dylan and Emma might make it out of White Pine Bay, but even their happy ending is questionable. This is the beginning of the end, and we know it, but all we can do is sit by and watch it unfold.