There really is no place like home. For Norma and Norman, home is where there’s love and protection. These two characters, who are both fragile in their own right, need a shield from the outside world. Norman’s coping mechanism has been to hide behind Mother. Norma, on the other hand, has been vulnerable from day one.
But tonight, she found her shield. At the risk of sounding cliche, I suppose you could call Alex Norma’s knight in shining armor. With Chick threatening to expose her relationship with Caleb, Norma finally found enough strength to come clean to Alex about her past. It was truly one of the most devastating things that’s happened on this show. Norma’s pain was so palpable and just…real. My heart ached for her and for what she set forth to accomplish in her confession.
Typically, Norma goes on the defense whenever she feels her sense of security being threatened…which is all the time. But in this instance, her usual fight or flight response was subdued by her love for Alex (which she confessed wholeheartedly just the scene before). Norma’s expectation was that Alex would leave and she’s relieved when he doesn’t. I’m very interested to know how this relationship will develop over the rest of the season. Will it blossom? Or wilt?
On the opposite side of town, Norman is having breakthrough after breakthrough at Pineview. Dr. Edwards finally explains to Norman who he becomes when he blacks out and that he may possibly have dissociative identity disorder. Norman doesn’t seem at all surprised by this information. In fact, it makes sense to him that an alternate version of Norma exists within him. He even admits to being confused about encounters with his mother.
Later in the episode, Dr. Edwards manages to channel Mother to tap into what Norman’s upbringing was like. We, the audience, learn that it was absolutely deplorable…at least according to Mother. Norman’s father Sam was excessively abusive, even pulling a gun on Norman and Norma. We also learn that Sam raped Norma with Norman in the room.
As she recalls these instances, Mother begs Dr. Edwards not to let Norman remember them. Essentially, Mother is the embodiment of Norman’s sympathy and love for Norma. It speaks to an extreme sensitivity that absorbs others’ pain. It’s unfortunate that Norman is also capable of the complete opposite.
A lot of this episode seemed to be about how family members, no matter their circumstances, are truly parts of each other. Parts of Norma live within Norman and are sort of warped by Norman’s own trauma and experiences. We see that the same is true of Norma and Caleb. Norma hates and loves Caleb all the same. She even ponders whether the reason she hates Caleb so much is because she also hates herself.
I think the more time Norma and Norman spend away from each other, the more they come into their own. It’s fascinating to see how they operate without each other, especially because so much of this show hinges on their relationship. To me, their emotional and psychological growth this season highlights how unhealthy they really are together. It’ll be interesting to see how they change and if they revert back to old habits once they’re reunited.
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.