Norman seems to be at an impasse. He can neither move forward nor go back. He’s stuck between worlds, minds, and people. And should anyone extend a hand to help him move between the two realms in which he exists, Norman rejects them in hopes of finding his independence.
We saw him do this with Norma, Dylan, Emma, and even Romero. All of these people, at one point or another, tried to get Norman to see the error of his ways, but he refused to drink from their fountain of wisdom…and ultimately perspective.
So, now we’re here in season five, with an ever-maddening Norman who switches gears so quickly that we can’t quite tell which version of himself he is. Is he Norman? Or is he Mother?
In so many ways, it simply doesn’t matter which personality he is at any given moment. We see both Norman and Mother so consistently working against each other that we have a full understanding of how conflicted Norman truly is.
It all comes to a head after Caleb dies in the middle of the street with Norman and Mother arguing about what to do next. Although Chick takes it upon himself to rid the property of the body, Norman and Mother aren’t done talking. The following morning, Norman is so utterly fed up with what they’ve done and how they’ve involved Chick in their business that he resorts to packing up Norma’s dresses.
But at the same time, he’s not ready to give them up.
“Make up your mind. Do I like them or do I not like them?” Mother asks.
And so Norman packs up the dresses and hauls them to Madeleine’s shop where he expresses his desire to see her wear them. Here, Norman manages to get the best of both his inner worlds — the dresses (like Norma) are out of sight and out of mind, but he can revisit them if he wants to when he sees Madeleine (and Mother).
While all this is happening, we catch up with Romero is still on the lam. I’m not sure that we knew this before, but Romero is a crafty dude. He knows how to take care of himself and ultimately finds his way around despite being injured.
Later, when Sheriff Green rolls up to the motel to tell Norman about Romero’s escape from prison, yet another wrench is thrown into Norman’s well-oiled, delusional machine. It’s not just that Romero has escaped and is likely seeking revenge, it’s also that Jim Blackwell was a parolee and the sheriff is interested in speaking with him.
In an attempt to clean up this mess, Norman and Mother set out into the woods to retrieve the Blackwell’s car. The problem? They can’t find the car and Mother is being insolent which deeply upsets Norman. So he does what he knows best: he tries to rid himself of Mother who, in his mind, isn’t helpful at all. He strangles her until she’s almost gone, and the next morning Norman wakes with a sore throat himself.
Norman is essentially fighting between his two selves, trying to kill the one he likes least which happens to be Mother. But he clings to her as well for nostalgia’s sake. We see this, too, through his relationship with her clothing and with Madeleine on whom he projects so much of his love for Norma.
The problem is that Mother simply can’t be all that Norma was. Norman can’t recreate Norma from memory the way he would like to, and so he becomes frustrated at Mother and at himself. It’s a terribly sad situation and one that Norman can never really find his way out of. He’s created it and is a willing participant in it, no matter how much he fights his own mind and emotions.
He did have one success in this episode though: he refrained from letting Mother take over and kill Madeleine during a dinner date.
So, that’s a plus, isn’t it?