The fact that tonight’s Bates Motel (written by the brilliant Freddie Highmore) started off cold in more ways than one was almost a promotion for a hour filled with awkward confrontations and massive explosions leading to what will no doubt be two highly intense final episodes. Norma wakes up freezing and unable to sleep and finds the heater broken. Norman, also awake from the cold, comes downstairs as Norma’s trying to figure out if she can fix the issue. He comments on the things that have changed that he’s not very fond of: the large television and the DVDs, Romero’s most recent gifts. After he interrogates her about why she needs such items, Norma gets him to go back to bed…kind of. Norman shows up in her room and asks to sleep with her, and you can almost see the debate happening in Norma’s head as good angel and bad angel make their cases. In the end, of course, Norman ends up with Norma. There’s no creepy cuddling, though, just a sense of awkwardness as they lie awake, which leads Norman to ask what happened to them while he was gone. “I guess we got a little used to being apart,” says Norma. See, this should be something that you SHOULD get used to, but I digress.
In the morning, Romero calls to check in — he’s been staying away until Norman gets comfortable with being back home. She tells him that things have changed, which leads Romero to become even more suspicious of the real closeness of their relationship. I really, really feel for Romero. He loves Norma genuinely, and I believe they could make a really happy couple together if Norman wasn’t in the picture and if Norma let herself actually love someone without any strings attached. During breakfast, Norman takes more notice of things that are different, such as the new drapes. Aside from being pissy that his room was turned into a sewing room, he’s also pissy about Romero, especially when Norma lets on he spends a lot of time at the house. Norma tries to convince him of Romero’s goodness and urges him to be thankful for what he’s done for her — for them.
So Norman respects Norma’s request and pays Romero a visit. (“Can you please tell the sheriff his wife’s son is here to see him?” CLASSIC, Norman.) Romero meets him warily, and Norman politely thanks him for all he’s done for the family…and then promptly instructs him he can get a divorce. Because now that Norman is home to be with his mother, he can get a part-time job in addition to the motel and make money and get insurance and Romero is just not needed anymore. You know, Romero’s nice and all, but he doesn’t KNOW Norma like her precious son does. “Certain things can never change. Things that you know nothing about and never, ever will,” he tells him. Romero is taken aback by both Norman’s request and his insistence, and it’s perhaps the first time he’s realizing how insane Norman really is when it comes to this relationship.
While shopping for space heaters in town, Norma runs into Dylan and invites him and Emma along for tree shopping as a last chance to spend time with the family before he moves. Dylan realizes she hasn’t told Norman about Romero yet, but Norma insists it’s just not the right time — and that she will. It’s the same speech and excuse she gives Romero when she shows up at his house. She’s missed him, but Romero’s not in the mood for being cutesy. He tells Norma about her son’s visit, which Norma was, obviously, unaware of. She’s shocked to hear what Norman told him (because her precious, sweet son would never say those things!), but Romero just wants her to tell Norman the truth: They love each other, and he has to deal with it. So she needs to make a choice between her son and her lover. Romero loves Norma so much, you guys. And Norma loves him, too — she assures him she’s not giving him up.
Dylan and Emma arrive at the house, where Emma has a polite but awkward reunion with Norman. He tells her he’s happy for her and Dylan, but things are clearly off between the former BFFs, and Dylan is still more than a little suspicious of his brother after seeing Emma’s teddy bear in his room. His wariness intensifies on the way to buy their tree when he sees how Norman reacts with Norma (who is angry and moody thanks to Norman’s unauthorized visit to Romero) and especially after Norman apologizes profusely for his mom’s behavior in almost a psychotic way. Dylan later tells Emma that things feel different now that he’s kind of removed himself from Norma and Norman: He’s finally realizing how screwed up his family is and that he doesn’t want to be a part of it anymore. He wants something good. Could Emma and Dylan be the only people who get out of this show intact? Or would that be too good to be true?
NEXT: Norma Bates and Alex Romero request the pleasure of your company
In less happy news, Norman approaches his mother while shopping and provokes her into telling him why she’s upset, and Norma yells at him about not telling her about visiting Romero earlier. Norman tries to tell her that she shouldn’t have to force herself to love Romero or sleep with him just because she’s trying to help him, and he wants to help her. That’s what he learned in therapy, after all. Norma finally breaks and tells him she loves Romero and is with him because she wants to be, and Norman literally vomits out his feelings. Spoiler alert: They’re probably not happy ones.
After Dylan and Emma leave, Norma finds Norman in his room. She has them go sleep in the motel because it’s still too cold, but Norman elects to sleep in a different room because he’s still angry. Norman tries to sleep but fails and is distracted when he sees Romero arrive and enter Norma’s room. While an upset Norma tells Romero she told him and how hard it was and while Romero comforts her, Norman sneaks into the adjoining room and listens through the walls. Because that’s normal. He goes even further, removing the picture on the wall and using some tools to widen a hole so he can literally be a peeping Tom as they start to have sex. Because, again, this isn’t creepy. I have to hand it to this show — the slow descent of Norman from happy, normal boy to psychotic serial killer has been such a beautiful, nuanced story to watch that it’s only now, almost four full seasons later, that we’re appreciating what Highmore has done with this character. (And what Vera Farmiga has done with Norma. Seriously. Give this girl her Emmy already.)
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When Norma finally gets someone to fix the basement, Norman also spies on the conversation and overhears her talking about her happy married life and the fact she’s planning to clean out the basement. His basement. Norma reveals she invited Romero for dinner and is through with Norman’s hissy fits, thinking he’s trying to find any reason to be mad at her. (No, not really, Norma… It goes a little deeper than that.) The dinner that follows is even more awkward than the one a few seasons ago, from Norman interrupting a cute kiss to calling Romero “sheriff” and being overly polite. Romero tries to make conversation, and Norman again tells them he’s looking for a job to pay for his own insurance. The tension escalates once Norman realizes that Romero is more entrenched in their lives than he realized, and when Romero says he’ll get used to it, that’s when Norman officially goes off the rails. No, he won’t get used to it, because nothing is going to change because “you’re never going to get in between us.” When Norma tries to defuse the situation by assuring Norman that more than one person can love someone (with an actual valid argument, not just a groveling apology to make Norman calm down), Norman instantly blames Norma for keeping him too close to her, smothering him only to cut him loose.
And Norma lashes back, finally fed up with everything. She loves Romero, and he has to deal with it, and that’s that. It’s really the first time we’ve seen Norma standing up for herself, and I like to think having Romero by her side has helped give her confidence in the sense that someone loves her enough to give her a healthy relationship that she can take comfort in. Norman goes outside to angrily chop wood because that’s a thing people do when they’re pissed off, though I’d wager giving Norman an ax isn’t the best idea. Romero tries to talk to him stepdad-to-son, and that goes about as well as you’d expect, especially when Romero oversteps his bounds (in Norman’s eyes) by asking, “Don’t you think she deserves to have a man in her life?” Norman advances on Romero but doesn’t actually hurt him, which is interesting because we’ve seen this happen a few times: Norman in a state of anger where he COULD kill but not strong enough to be that heartless person. It’s only when he’s dissociating that he can commit his crimes. It’s sad because you realize Norman does have some heart. But he also has his issues.
It’s enough to freak Romero out, though. And the terror is only beginning.