Norman's episodes escalate while Norma realizes just how dangerous her son really is

By Andrea Towers
March 15, 2016 at 01:19 AM EDT
Bettina Strauss/A&E
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At some point during Bates Motel, you have to just pull a Norma and wonder when it will finally get to be too much. It’s a thought I had multiple times during tonight’s episode because, while I trust the showrunners and their plans for the season, we’ve also reached a point where I’ve started asking myself, how long can this go on? How long can we have Norman, fully aware of his issues and falling deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole, and Norma, fully aware of her son’s issues and attempting to get him help while talking to other people about his episodes? All that said, I’ve always had faith in Bates, which I think is one of the most underrated series on television. And after tonight, I’m looking forward to seeing where this story goes.

We open the episode with Norma on the phone explaining Norman’s latest episode to Dr. Edwards, only she’s not really talking to him as much as she’s leaving a message (the first of several failed messages, it seems). Norman is resting in his room; apparently he can’t remember yesterday at all. He asks what happened — “You had a bad day yesterday,” says Norma. Understatement of the century. I have a bad day when I have emotional breakdowns, so I can’t imagine what a bad day is like when you kill someone. Norma asks what the last thing he remembers is, and Norman tells her about realizing he was locked away. He asks her point blank what she needed to do that made her react like that, and Norma tries to soothe her son’s fears by saying she went grocery shopping. Figuring that Norman’s reactions are caused by stress, she tells him that she wants him to be home with her so they can spend the day together doing things like cooking, watching movies. You know…typical mother-son things.

As Norman washes up, he remembers bringing Emma’s mother’s body down to the basement, locking her in the ice box. (He also envisions her waking up and trying to attack him.) All this heightens his senses and makes him suspicious of Norma, and he interrogates her about the truthfulness of her actions while he was locked in the room. Norma wants Norman to stay at the house, but Norman is vigilant and keeps up his questioning, especially when Norma says she needs to check on the woman who apparently checked out last night.

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Norma’s comments have Norman questioning and overthinking, and he goes downstairs only to find the ice box empty. When Norma finds him, she questions why the dead animals are out of the freezer, and Norman responds that maybe someone took them out to make room for something bigger. Because he transformed into Norma during his episode, he’s still looking at the situation as Norma, seeing her as the one who needs to be watched because she’s done all these terrible things. It’s uncomfortable watching Norman become so controlling toward his own mother, and yet, we can’t tear our eyes away because Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga are just THAT good.

Later on, Romero comes by to both check on Norma and apologize for not being able to help her out by marrying her. He asks if she’s worried about being alone because, though Romero may have issues, but he still cares. Norma tells him she’s not scared to be alone, but Norma, maybe you should be. We also get a reminder of and reference to the pit that was dug last season and then forgotten about. (Is this where Mother will finally end up, after it all?)

Realizing Norma’s situation and undergoing a change of heart, Romero goes to get the money he’s hidden in his house and brings it to Pineview. He bribes the woman to admit Norman, and when asked if Norman Bates is related to him, Romero makes everyone’s jaw drop with his answer: “I’m marrying his mother.”

NEXT: I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace

While Norma obsesses over the pit in the front yard, Norman reads her some Charles Dickens, and really, the excerpts from Great Expectations could not have been more appropriate. There’s another vision — though it’s not clear whether it’s Norman’s or Norma’s — of Emma’s mother, this time being buried in the pit. Clearly unsettled, Norma manages to get Norman away long enough to go down into the pit and check things out. We obviously think she’s going to come across Emma’s mother’s body, but all she finds is…a big glove. When she climbs out of the hole due to the arrival of a family who wants to check in, Norman is waiting for her. He more or less forces his mother to go inside while he deals with their guests, and I feel like this is the moment you can see Norma realizing her precious angel might not be so innocent anymore. (He also creepily points out that she seems more skittish than usual, which has to raise some red flags.)

While Norman is getting herself cleaned up, Romero calls with good news: He got Norman into Pineview AND he’s decided to marry her. Win-win! That good news is quashed when Romero tells her that they need Norman to sign consent papers because he’s eighteen and therefore legally an adult. Norma’s very aware that Norman won’t sign those papers, which are being sent to the motel office…where Norman is conveniently checking his guests in. And Norman is actually being a very good, normal manager, chatting with the group from Portland about marketing and such, at least until he sees the fax come through. Norman sits in the dark reading over the papers from Pineview, but all he can hear is his father’s voice in his mind. He has a vision of him telling Norman he needs to control his mother before she destroys him, and when he finally leaves to go into the house, Norma attempts to find the papers herself. She doesn’t, obviously, which makes her return to the house that much worse.

Norman doesn’t want to go out. Norman doesn’t want to do anything but watch his mother and stay by her side and question her about everything and watch her cook. Norma, feeling a little uncomfortable, tries to get him to leave, but Norman says he’s not leaving her alone because he doesn’t trust her. “I’m afraid of you, and I love you. And that’s a bad combination,” he tells his mother, a statement which is both truthful and creepy. They end up eating dinner in silence (well, Norma eats; Norman just sits there), and finally, a fed up Norma asks him to stop it. And that’s where Norman really starts to lose it. “There’s only one way to stop it, and I don’t want to do it,” he tells his mother before telling him that she SHOULD be scared of him. Finally, we’re getting somewhere on the “please make Norma realize how creepy her son is” front. He goes off on her, telling her that she killed everyone because she was jealous of them and that she’s trying to blame him by locking him up. Norma bolts, clearly terrified, and Norman starts yelling at his mother to obey him, chasing her through the house.

Norma finally makes it to the bedroom, where she attempts to get the gun hidden under the bed, but Norman’s already there…and refusing to hand it over. Norma tries to act intimate with him, pulling off the incredibly uncomfortable scene of kissing and hugging as only Vera Farmiga can do, but Norman freaks out when he realizes she’s just trying to take the gun away. Out of options, Norma locks herself in a room and calls Romero for help, telling him he needs to be admitted as soon as possible. Like, tonight.

Later on, Norma comes out of the room and finds the house quiet, with only an old video from the laptop playing. Norma creeps downstairs and gets a pair of scissors out of the drawer before she makes her way to the basement, where Norman is sitting with his back turned at the table. “I knew this was the best way to get to you,” he tells his mother, who hides the scissors behind her back once Norman surrenders the gun. He shows her the papers and tells her again he’s not letting her lock him up. So, what’s the solution to this? “We just don’t belong in this world anymore,” Norman tells his mother seriously and sadly. “We’re broken.” It unnerves me to think about how many times Norman has probably contemplated death and/or a murder-suicide with his beloved mother. 

They’re interrupted by Romero, who takes Norman away while a distraught Norma apologizes. In a last fit of desperation, after hearing Romero will take him back to County (that terrible psych ward), Norma grabs the papers and forces Norman to sign them. And, shockingly, a resigned Norman actually does. Something tells me this won’t be as easy as getting Norman admitted to Pineview and getting him help. And personally, I fear for anyone that has to work with Norman Bates and try to figure out his psyche.

But like I said, I’m here for the ride.

Bates Bits:

  • “I am only a human being. I don’t know how to handle everything perfectly.” This might be the most astute comment Norma’s had since this series started.
  • Oh, Dylan and Emma. After Emma starts to breathe on her own, Dylan talks with Emma’s father, who tells him he needs to think of doing something else besides selling pot if he wants a relationship and future with Emma. And, well, he has a point. But he’s kind about it at least, hinting that Dylan is meant for more than that. Dylan visits Emma before he leaves, and she thanks him for being there. He asks her if she wants him to come back when he’s done with taking care of things in White Pine Bay. Of course she does. I really love the person Dylan is when he’s with Emma, and I’m so terrified something is going to happen to them before the end of the season.
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