This episode marks the beginning of the end. The beginning of the cat and mouse game that will seal Norma’s fate.
As Norma tries to save Norman from himself, her secrecy stirs Norman’s suspicions. In his alone time, he has visions of Mother entrapping Audrey and forcing her into the basement freezer. When with Norma, he circles her like his prey, asking her question after question about her whereabouts and motivations. Norma blows this behavior off until Norman confronts her about what happened to Audrey. He accuses her of killing Audrey and it’s then that Norma understands why their motel guest never checked out. It’s made clear throughout this episode that the chasm between Norma and Norman is growing wider each moment they play this game. The cord between their hearts is being severed by Norman’s psychosis and they’re both struggling to keep their wits about them. This is never more apparent than when the two argue over who should check in the Hipster Family that arrives that afternoon. Here, they fight for power and authority over one another and neither is willing to give in.
Norman is convinced that he is the saner of the two and that he needs to be in charge from now on. Throughout the episode, he overrides Norma’s decisions and emotionally overpowers her with his own manipulations. At this point in the story, Norman’s entire upbringing is manifested in his behavior. He’s both his mother and his father. He’s got the aptitude to manipulate his way through a situation like Norma and enough anger to stir Norma’s deepest fears like his father Sam.
We see Norma actually fearing for her life in this episode which is a Bates dynamic we haven’t seen before. And to think, Norman was sleeping in Norma’s bed just the night before. It’s quite startling–to sleep in the company of someone is to be vulnerable. And up until now, Norma has made herself completely vulnerable in Norman’s presence. But this week’s episode showed a different vulnerability, one that is rooted in terror and fear rather than emotional turmoil and defeat.
At some point in the episode, Romero checks in on Norma. He senses her fear but walks away from the situation at Norma’s request. He buckles when confronted with his own soft spot for her and uses Bob Paris’ money to secure Norman a spot at Pineview. He also promises to marry her so she can take advantage of his health insurance. For this Norma is grateful but that’s as far as her feelings go. It’s hard to understand Romero’s feelings for Norma as she has rarely shown any interest in him other than using him for his position in town.
Unfortunately for Norma, Norman discovers that she plans to send him away and his suspicions grow deeper and darker. He watches her like a hawk until he can’t hold back anymore. He accuses her of killing Bradley Martin and Blair Watson and in this accusation, he also makes his confession. This is where Norma discovers the true horror of what her son is. Devastation and fear take over her and she runs to protect herself from him. But he has a gun and the upper hand. Norma locks herself in a room and calls for Romero to step in.
Later that night when all is quiet, she searches the house for Norman. Why she doesn’t just leave is beyond comprehension, but that’s beside the point. She finds Norman in the basement and he proposes that they commit suicide together. In some strange way, it’s a profession of the deep and profound love that exists between them. But Norma knows it can’t be that way.
When Romero arrives, Norma is able to convince Norman to sign papers to be admitted to Pineview. Norma has won for now…
Tara Martinez is a New York-based writer with a passion for pop culture and a penchant for analysis. She frequently covers film, television, and representations of women in the media.