Only an icon like Rihanna could survive the weird and wacky world of Bates Motel…and on last night’s episode, that’s exactly what she did.
In many ways, this episode played out like a boxing match between the two opposing sides of Norman. And it was his good and decent side that ultimately let Marion survive. But did that good side win? Let’s find out:
Round One: Norman
This most recent episode started where we left off last week, with Marion (Rihanna) checking into Bates Motel. As Norman helps her get settled, it becomes painfully clear that he’s quite taken with her. Not only does he crank up the charm for Marion, but he also volunteers to make her a ham sandwich which he serves on a silver platter with a side of apples. To say that Norman goes above and beyond for Marion would be an understatement, and that’s something that both Marion and Mother take special note of.
Throughout the first fifteen minutes of the episode, we see Norman fighting the urge to go into full Mother/Psycho mode. He pushes those urges down to make sure he shows Marion the best side of himself. But when he retreats back to the house to make Marion her sandwich, Mother starts to get into his head.
“What kind of game are we playing tonight, Norman?” she inquires.
Turns out that Norman’s not playing any games. He firmly asserts that he’s insane and that Mother isn’t real. He explains calmly that Mother is simply a figment of his imagination, one that he conjured up to come to his rescue. This assertion sends Mother reeling.
But then Norman fires back. “You’re not real. You have no power over me and I’m going to prove it,” he says.
Round Two: Norman
As the episode progresses, Marion becomes more and more vulnerable. Norman watches her through a hole in the wall as she showers, and we think that this is finally the Psycho moment we’ve all been anticipating, but it never comes to pass. Instead, Marion seeks Norman out to ask for his help in finding Sam. ANd it’s up to Norman to break the news that Sam is married to Madeleine. Here, we see both sides of Norman at work and this proves further that Norman has control over his urges.
We then follow Marion to Sam’s house where she finds him arguing with Madeleine. Rihanna delivers the best of her scenes here as she breaks down emotionally and smashes Sam’s car in a fit of rage.
Ultimately, it’s Norman’s control over his violent tendencies that allows Marion to finally see the truth of her situation. So, this round goes to Norman.
Round Three: Mother
Back at the motel, Norman gets a call from Dylan and learns that Emma’s told him about Norma’s death. The two brothers argue and Norman chalks everything up to Norma’s death being too painful for him to process. But that’s not good enough for Dylan. I have a feeling he’ll be coming round next week. Let’s just hope he survives his stay…
The call ultimately startles Norman and he isn’t even sure if the call was real. Guess who shows up to reassure him? Mother, of course. Bright and sunny, Mother waltzes into the scenario offering Norman food and comforting words.
“Don’t act like her,” Norman demands. He doesn’t want his already vulnerable perception to be confused by what he knows to be the truth.
“You’re not real. I made you up.” It’s a statement Norman says over and over, all the while Mother badgers him and pushes him to admit that she is real.
After putting up a good fight, Norman eventually gives in.
Round Four: Mother
After, Norman checks in on Marion who he finds in complete distress. She’s made a mess of the room and isn’t quite sure what her next move is, so Norman comforts her (as is his usual approach to the women in his life). When Marion gets too comfortable, Norman starts to feel that darker side of himself take over…so he urges Marion to leave and never return. He encourages her to start fresh and live her life as she was always meant to.
“You let her get away,” Mother tells Norman.
Norman tries to reason with her, to let her know that he didn’t want Marion to get hurt. But Mother has one more trick up her sleeve: the truth.
She recounts for Norman why he made her up in the first place. She explains that he needed her to escape the pain of his reality at home with Norma and his father, Sam. Mother was the keeper of Norman’s pain and she, like Norma, was his protector.
“You kept me from feeling things, bad things,” Norman admits.
And once those words pass Norman’s lips, Mother reveals the most damning truth of all: “We are two parts of the same person, both are very real.”
It’s a statement that Norman simply can’t deny.
Round Five: Mother
As all this is going on, Sam Loomis pulls into the motel parking lot in search of Marion which irks both Norman and Mother.
“I hate him,” Norman says at one point.
Mother explains that Sam is like that other Sam that so often made Norma’s life a living hell. She also explains that in order to expel the pain of the past, Norman must feel it in the present. And this sets Norman out on a mission to rid the world of one more terrible Sam.
So, in the end, Mother wins and Sam gets the Hitchcockian knife in the shower.
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.