Norman, who? It's 'Mother' now.
Credit: Bettina Strauss/A&E

Welcome to another season of Bates Motel, where the mothers get crazier, and the kids get more psychotic, and the body count continues to rise. In fact, that’s literally where we pick up at the beginning of the season premiere. We all remember how Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) killed Bob Paris (Kevin Rahm), right? Well, Romero is taking care of his mess by leaving him on a boat that he promptly floods in the middle of the water.

We also all remember how Norman is missing, right? (He disappeared after taking off with Bradley, who he killed after having a vision of Norma.) Dylan is putting up signs all over town and Norma is a certifiable worried mess. As for Norman, he wakes up bloodied and confused in a field talking to himself, though from our perspective, we see that he’s talking to Norma the way he was in the season finale. When an older man happens upon him and asks if he’s okay, Norman attacks him, though he’s bested easily by a simple punch.

When Dylan gets a call that Norman’s been found, it comes with the information that Norman’s been placed in a psychiatric unit thanks to the state he was found in. Norma can’t deal with this, but what’s worse is that she’s going to need to deal with this alone — Dylan tells her he’s not coming with her to get Norman because he’s going to Portland to be with Emma for her transplant. He also kind of backhandedly uses this to drop the bomb that he and Emma are together. “It all happened rather quickly.” Yes, Dylan. It did. (Still not complaining: I actually love Dylan and Emma, and anything that gives Max Thieriot a bigger story line makes me happy.)

Norma arrives at the hospital and is told Norman is under 48-hour observation. When she talks to the doctor and finds out they’re concerned that her son is dangerous, Norma finds herself almost in tears. “He’s one of the sweetest people who’s ever lived,” she tells the doctor, determined to defend her son. As much as I adore Norma and by default, Vera Farmiga, at this point I’m not even going to feel bad when Norma eventually dies, because she’s not doing much to help matters. Pro tip: Telling your doctor that your son isn’t dangerous and then saying, by the way, he also experiences frequent blackouts is not the best way to show your parenting skills. Norma also admits he doesn’t have a doctor, which leaves the mental hospital doctor shocked. (I love that Norma’s defense is that, well, I didn’t let him get his driver’s license! Look at me, I’m a great problematic mom!)

Either way, Norma can’t see Norman until the allotted 48 hours are up. And since Norman is 18 and legal, she technically has no rights to override that. Oh, and by the way? Norma could totally be seen as negligent since she admitted she knows her son has issues, but never bothered to get him help.

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Faced with complete and total horror at the fact she might lose her precious son, Norma goes to (who else?) Romero. She wants him to use his sheriff powers and do something. “Pull some strings; threaten someone; beat someone up in the parking lot,” she implores, because Norma has absolutely no chill. Romero just doesn’t have time for this, I mean, he killed Bob, dammit! (Not that Norma knows this.)

In desperation, Norma returns to Pineview, the institution she finally went to last season to try to get Norman help. You might recall that as nice as Pineview was, at the time, Norma didn’t have the insurance to get Norman in — nor did she want to wait to try to work that kind of stuff out. This time around, Norma’s aggressively pushing for her son’s admission, but, well, it’s not so easy. In addition to the insurance thing, there’s also the matter of a diagnosis from a doctor (which Norman doesn’t have), not to mention a waiting list. She leaves dejectedly and happens upon an arriving doctor, and attempts again to bypass the system by convincing him she needs to get Norman seen. Norma even goes so far to pull the single mother card, which has no effect on Dr. Edwards (Damon Gupton — pay attention because I bet he’ll become a key player), so she gives up and goes with the honest truth about his condition, including how scared she is that they’re going to lock him up. I get Norma’s desperation, to a degree — the psych ward where Norman is being held isn’t the type of place any mother would want their child, mentally unstable or not — and Pineview, by comparison, is a palace. But at the same time, I can’t help but feel like this is what Norma gets for waiting too long to take action.

NEXT: If you’re looking for vacancy, try room 5

Meanwhile, in Portland, a scared looking Emma awaits her transplant. Dylan shows up to wait with Emma’s dad and they both get a surprise when a new age-looking woman named Audrey (Karina Logue) shows up. Turns out that Audrey is Emma’s mom, which means Dylan is forced into watching an uncomfortable confrontation between Emma’s estranged parents. There’s good news, though: Emma made it through the surgery. And everything is worth it for Dylan’s expression.

Audrey, naturally, finds her way to the motel, where Norma sets her up for the night. In the morning, she’s woken up by a call saying they’re discharging Norman and in a fit of good mood related kindness, brings Audrey breakfast. Audrey admits she’s Emma’s mom, and talks about how much Emma admired Norma and how much she cared about Norman. Poor Audrey — she really is being genuine, but Norma just isn’t emotionally stable enough to hear that people are depending on her right now. It gets worse when Norma gets to the hospital and hears that her son had “a psychotic incident.”

Although Norman’s being released, the doctor is firm about the fact Norma can’t ignore his need for care, to the point where if she doesn’t prove he has a doctor and a treatment plan within 48 hours when Social Services calls, Norman will be returned to the psych ward. It makes the resulting reunion between Norma and Norman that much creepier (“Mother?”) and look, I’m all for worried mothers being protective of their children. But if you watched this scene and didn’t feel something that made you feel uneasy, then maybe you belong in the psych ward, too. All the kudos to Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore who are so unfailingly good at selling their relationship that you don’t doubt for a second that Norma and Norman have an unhealthy, but also at the same time intriguing, relationship.

After bringing Norman home, a frazzled Norma is once again interrupted by well-meaning Audrey, who attempts to ask Norma to help pass on a message to her daughter. Norma’s still not equipped to deal with this surrogate mother thing, which leads Audrey to unload her anger and stress on Norma and chastise her about not knowing what it’s like to deal with a child who has something seriously wrong with them. (Oh, trust me, Audrey. Norma knows.)

After Audrey leaves, Norma gives Norman a hair cut, because why not? It’s not like things haven’t been creepy enough during this hour. She gently breaks the news to Norman that he needs to see a doctor, but Norman makes her promise she won’t send him away. He laments about the fact that he had terrible dreams when he was there, dreams of killing Bradley. Spoiler alert, Norman: That wasn’t a dream, and I wonder when we’re going to have Norma find out about that. (If you remember, Bradley was THOUGHT to be dead, but in the season finale Norma finally found out she was alive thanks to Dylan, and no one knows what went on between Norman and Bradley after they snuck away.)

They sleep in the same bed together later that night (again, because why not), but Norma wakes up early to call Romero, claiming she needs to see him ASAP. Why? She’s gone to plead the ultimate case in desperation. Faced with Norman being taken away, she needs to get him into Pineview, but she doesn’t have insurance. And Romero does, so Norma thought she could just marry him. You know, for kicks. And benefits. Somehow, Norma is shocked that this is a big deal to Romero, who turns her down. (Gee, I have no idea why.)

When Norman wakes up alone, he’s upset that Norma has left… and even more upset that he’s been locked in the room. After freaking out and trying to escape, he falls into Full Norma Mode, dressing himself in her bathrobe, putting on lotion, and becoming “Mother” in a more developed way than we saw when he started to spiral into these visions last season. Unfortunately, Audrey picks this moment to try her hand at once again getting a message to Emma through the Bates family. She’s happy when Norman answers the door because she knows how close Norman and Emma were; although, I feel she should be a little more concerned about the fact that he’s answering the door in a clearly insane state, complete with Norma’s mannerisms and in her clothing. Still, she comes in to talk and he serves her tea, and Audrey starts to explain about her situation with Emma’s father. She just wanted Emma to understand why she left her, because she felt unsafe and maybe he can give her a gift and a letter? I’m sure this conversation would be perfectly fine with any normal person, but Norman is, well… not normal. And his response to hearing that Audrey chose to leave her child? Getting so enraged that he kills.

“You love someone more than anything and they leave you!” The thing is, we know he’s not talking about Emma and Audrey… ah, yes. Bates Motel is back. Enjoy your stay.

Bates Bits:

  • Today in lessons from Norma Bates in how to propose: “It’s not like you’re doing anything else!” Followed by her telling Romero it would just be on paper and would barely mean anything.
  • “You look awesome.” Cue all my tears.
  • Norman’s visions in the hospital were super creepy, especially when they flashed to him dreaming of early days with Norma. I love how this show layers the Norma/Norman relationship, showing us tidbits like this that fill in the background for why Norman acts the way he does. But on the other hand, we can’t hate Norman completely — he has his issues, but he’s really just a scared and confused kid. Highmore is so good at walking that line that we’re constantly playing yo-yo with our emotions.

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