THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME
There's No Place Like Home develops Norman Bates into a truly reprehensive and repulsive figure, one who now no longer sympathetic but evil, selfish, and monstrous. It's an excellent episode and a fine showcase for the criminally overlooked Freddie Highmore. We finally see, really early in Season Four, the cold monster beneath the sweet face, and There's No Place Like Home is, I think, Highmore's episode, his finest hour so far, and a sign that he should have a great career.
Norman Bates (Highmore) seems happy and aware that he has problems. What he isn't aware of is that his beloved Mother Norma Bates (Vera Farmiga) has gotten married to Sheriff Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell). Norma has deliberately kept this hidden...but like all things kept hidden, it was bound to come out. It comes out through a very bad way: Norman comes across an article on the marriage while doing some papier-mâché. Hell has few furies like a clinging boy finding he has a new stepfather, and now it's Norman's turn to get even by doing a little psychological torture.
He calls the house and gets Romero, so there is already a strong suggestion that he knows. Norma is at a loss to what to do: she loves Romero, but she loves Norman. Her balancing act can't be kept up for much longer, especially since nothing legally binds Norman from staying at the Pineview Mental Hospital.
Perhaps the information his half-brother/uncle Dylan Massett (Max Thieriot) could help. As he keeps digging into what happened to his girlfriend Emma's mother Audrey. More evidence comes his way through a letter Audrey had written that was in Norman's room, but Norma still won't give the idea that Norman is connected with Audrey any consideration.
At long last, Norman Bates plans to come home, aware of all except Romero's plan to launder the money he's hidden from Bob Paris' killing through Norma, who reluctantly accepts it for upgrades to the house.
However, despite what I consider Normero's idiocy (and what must have pleased the Normero shippers by showing them indulge in the pleasures of the flesh), There's No Place Like Home clearly is Highmore's Emmy submission tape.
Highmore is simply brilliant in this episode, going through all ranges in his portrayal of Norman Bates. He is cold, manipulative, crying easily but moreover, the first time I could say that Norman Bates is evil. This was the first time I felt repulsed by Norman, a person who through most of Bates Motel was almost always shown as somewhat sympathetic.
No more, as Highmore's Norman was possessive, selfish, unwilling to let Mother go, and one who was using his power over his mother to get at her, to be as passive-aggressive as he could be. His cruelty coupled with his selfishness makes him highly dangerous, and by now there seems to be no return, no hope for redemption for our troubled child.
At this point, Norman Bates is no longer doomed to cross that line from being mentally troubled to being troubled and irredeemably evil. He has, wittingly or not, made his decision.
I confess to not remembering much of There's No Place Like Home apart from Highmore's simply excellent performance and Norma/Romero's ineptness in handling the situation. It's both a showcase for Freddie Highmore and a great set up for an inevitable and tragic conclusion to this Mother-Love.
Next Episode: Unfaithful