Norman had a huge breakthrough this episode. But, as we’ve all come to expect with this show, breakthroughs this big don’t come without their struggle.
We start the episode with Norman. As he sits solemnly in his room at Pineview, he recalls images of the dead: Miss Watson, his father, and Keith Summers. It’s clear that he spends time ruminating about these deaths. Did Norma do it? If not Norma, then who? Norman has clarity only on two things:1) that he isn’t the culprit of these terrible crimes and 2) that he doesn’t deserve to be at Pineview.
As such, Norman is becoming increasingly indignant with Pineview staff. He berates them for their ignorance and refuses to take the medication they’re tasked with giving him. In turn, he relies on Julian to teach him the Pineview ropes…which ultimately lead to a cryptic call to Dylan.
“It’s the price we all pay for keeping secrets,” Norman says upon revealing that the ‘truth’ about Norma will finally come out. Dylan is unshaken by this and the moment is let go.
Realizing that any word spoken against Norma is a strike against himself, Norman seeks a different plan of action. The ever reliable and totally not crazy Julian is eager to help.
On the other side of town, Norma and Alex are settling into their new roles as husband and wife. For Alex, his feelings for Norma are difficult to hide. Unfortunately and despite their newlywed lovemaking, Norma still isn’t comfortable letting herself get swept away. But there are a few small moments where we get to see her satisfaction with how well Alex is treating her. These brief glimpses into Norma’s inner state tell us a much larger story of a woman who’s long been abused and downtrodden. Is the Romero marriage her come up? Will she finally make good in the eyes of the world?
Back at Pineview, Norman resists any form of help from his doctors or the staff. In some ways, it seems that the more settled Norma becomes, the harder it is for Norman to cope. Norman believes he’s earned the right to be released now that he’s accused Norma of the murders. But Dr. Edwards has other plans in mind. The doctor reveals that he’s reported the accusations to the authorities but also explains that Norman just remain in his care.
It’s enough for Norman to plan an escape and Julian leads the way. This reprieve from institutionalization allows Norman and Julian to come to something of an understanding. They are lone wolves looking for belonging. Julian relays that his family has discarded him because he doesn’t meet their idea of the status quo. In some ways, this is also true of Norman. But for each of them, their motivation for seeking freedom is completely different.
As Dr. Edwards puts it later in the episode, Julian wants to be chased so he can feel cared for in a way that his family isn’t able to provide. Norman, on the other hand, wants to be free of the world’s perception of him…even if it comes at a cost. In this way, he and Norma are one. For Norman, escaping Pineview and proving that Norma is unstable would automatically free him of the stigma that’s been hovering over him since Miss Watson’s death. Similarly, there’s a part of Norma that doesn’t want to be defined by Norman. Later in the episode, we see Norma prettying herself up to meet Alex, only to be distracted by a photo of Norman that’s displayed on her vanity. Rather than linger on the thought and image of Norman, she quickly puts the photo away.
After a long night of hitchhiking, Norman and Julian eventually find a strip club. Norman eyes a girl he likes and accompanies her to the VIP lounge where he blacks out and slips seamlessly into Mother mode. Throughout the scene, we see Norman/Mother navigate the intimacies of this rather interesting situation.
But before it goes too far, Julian interrupts with a bang. He’s out in the hallway screaming for Norman and fighting with large bouncers. Norman/Mother steps in only to be thrown aside and knocked violently in the head which returns him to his normal state. Norman’s breakthrough starts here. It seems that being knocked out of Mother mode and into Norman mode so quickly gave Norman a sense of what Norma and Dylan have been so concerned about all along. This time around, Norman didn’t have the chance to sleep his blackout off. He went from one state of consciousness directly into another.
Norman later tells Dr. Edwards that he’s scared because he can’t remember what happened. “I don’t trust what I think is real,” he says. This tells me that Norman is second guessing himself and his accusations against Norma. And that’s a big, scary step for this show.