Trauma is a funny thing. It lingers. It lurks. It always comes back to haunt you. And for several of our favorite Bates Motel characters, past traumas came rushing back this episode.
On some level, each of these characters are starting over. Norma and Alex have gotten married; Dylan and Emma are planning a new life together; Norman is getting the help he needs at Pineview. But no matter how far away from their former selves these characters get, their pasts rest directly on their shoulders.
Here’s how their struggles resurfaced:
Norman and Caleb have been recurring triggers for Norma throughout the entirety of this show. For every moment of joy, there’s a moment of deep sadness that comes to the surface. The strife she’s endured as a result of her love of these men taints her entire being. Her complicated relationship with Caleb, which will always be reflected in Dylan, is something she’s always going to have to face. And when Chick randomly shows up to fix the glass stained window that was damaged in last week’s robbery, all those terribly confusing memories come rushing back.
It’s a sad thing to see, honestly. Once Chick figures out that Dylan is the product of incest, he pounces on the opportunity to take advantage of Norma’s vulnerability. He taunts her with the reality she has tried so hard to ignore. “Are you ashamed because he raped you? Or are you ashamed because you loved him?” he says.
Chick plies her with the suggestion that they’ve been hurt by the same person. It’s a manipulation tactic that Norma is reluctant to fall for. Even still, she’s reduced to tears.
This encounter comes mere moments after Norma is smiling and aglow upon looking at photos of her and Alex in the local paper. For Norma, happiness comes at a high price.
I think part of the reason Norman is so far gone is that he’s been dealing with his own traumas as well as Norma’s. In tonight’s episode we heard him talk about his devotion to Norma and how he can’t stand that he’s added to her suffering. All he’s wanted to do is protect her. Norman speaks very openly with Dr. Edwards about this and his candor helps Dr. Edwards understand the depth of the mother-son connection.
It’s clear that Dr. Edwards isn’t so sure whether that mother-son relationship is healthy, but he doesn’t allow Norman to put the blame on Norma’s shoulders. Instead, he questions Norman about his own perceptions of the relationship which brings about the subject of Sam’s death. This particular event is a trauma that Norman carries alone. We hardly ever see Norma deal with her emotions regarding Sam. It’s something that Norman and Mother have kept as their own which we see evidence of when Mother comes to visit.
While Norman is sure that Norma has visited him, Dr. Edwards suggests otherwise. Episode by episode, Dr. Edwards is able to collect evidence that proves Norman is ill. In this instance, Dr. Edwards can prove that Norma never set foot on Pineview grounds which sends Norman into an emotional tizzy. He blacks out and assumes Mother’s personality before the doctor’s eyes.
What’s remarkable is that Dr. Edwards isn’t at all unprepared for this. It’s as if he pushed the right buttons to bring Mother to the surface. Essentially, he uses some of Norman’s own trauma against him.
Dylan and Emma
At this point in the season, Dylan and Emma are ready to start anew. Emma’s lung transplant has gone well. Dylan has set his sights on new territories and job opportunities. But they’re not completely free of their pasts either.
Convinced that Dylan will be turned off by her post-transplant body, Emma lifts up her shirt to show Dylan her rather large and unsightly scar. Although she may not be lugging around an oxygen tank, that scar will always serve as a reminder of her life before the transplant.
Dylan, who is now motivated by Emma to turn over a new leaf, takes the opportunity to show Emma that he has battle scars too. In an effort to show Emma that these scars don’t define them, he makes light of his own and the two dissolve into laughter. But the fact remains: Even as young as these lovebirds are, their pasts are still something of a burden.
But isn’t that true for us 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.