What do you do when your world, your personality, your mindset are split in two? What do you do when one half of you is good and pure, and the other half works intently to destroy that purity?
Well, if you’re Norman Bates, then you report yourself to the police.
And that’s exactly what he did at the end of this most recent episode. After hours of toiling over what to do with Sam’s body, a slapping contest with Mother, and thwarting Mother’s attempt to kill Dylan, Norman simply dials 911 and reports himself as the culprit of Sam Loomis’ murder.
It’s a daring plot twist for sure, but not entirely unexpected. All season we’ve seen Norman struggling to come to terms with both Norma’s death and the realization that he himself is a vessel of darkness and evil. We’ve seen him enjoy the comforts of Mother, but also reject her incredible attempts to cloud his self-awareness and take over.
But now that Norman finally understands the truth, he can’t stand himself. Nor can he stand Mother.
As Mother and Norman figure out what to do with Sam’s body, the two are at odds. Norman is reluctant to follow through on Mother’s plan to conceal Sam’s death, and Mother is dead-set on making sure no one finds out. This leads to a state of panic, and a hilarious but very interesting moment in Sam’s car where Mother slaps Norman for being hysterical, and Norman slaps her right back.
Here we see the two sides of Norman rising to the same level of consciousness and power. Both personalities understand what’s at stake, but they’re operating on completely different instincts.
“There’s a lot at stake right now. If they connect these crimes to you, they are either going to kill you or they are going to put you in a mental institution and they are going to feed you meds. Whichever it is, it’s going to be the end of us,” Mother explains.
It really is that simple. For all of the show’s complexity in dealing with Norman’s mental state, Mother’s statement here truly does reflect Norman’s inner conflict. He doesn’t want to let go of the very thing that’s protected him from so much all these years: his mother. And Mother is all he has left of her.
So, who wins in this situation? Norman, the good-natured young man who longs to be coddled by his mother? Or Mother, the alter-ego Norman created for Norma to mask his own pain?
In this episode, I’d say Norman. Sure, he goes along with Mother’s plan to get rid of Sam’s body and learns that he and Mother have done all this several times before. But ultimately, Norman doesn’t want that to be what defines him. He knows himself enough to know that he’s better than what Mother has made him.
And there’s no greater evidence of this than when Dylan pays the Bates home a visit. Here, Norman apologizes to Dylan for all that’s gone awry, for not being in contact with him, and for not handling Norma’s death with more care.
Throughout the conversation, Dylan quickly realizes that Norman is unwell and in need of medical attention. So, like any decent human, Dylan snags some anti-psychotic meds from a pharmacy in hopes that they’ll set Norman on the right path.
But when Mother prompts Norman to ask to Dylan to leave, Norman struggles–not just because he needs Dylan’s company, but also because he realizes how much Dylan cares for him.
“Let me live how I need to live,” Norman says, tears in his eyes. It’s yet another truth that Norman spills forth in an effort to retain some sense of normalcy following Norma’s death. He needs Mother because he can’t bear an existence where he can’t access her.
At Dylan’s urging, Norman moves to actually take the medication that his brother has secured for him. That doesn’t sit well with Mother.
Frustrated, Mother forces her way into the situation and takes a swipe at Dylan. But Norman proves to be stronger than she is and stops her from taking the one family member he has left. And it’s there that he understands that this needs to end. He must turn himself in. He needs to face the music once and for all.
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.