This episode was all about transition for Norma. From a widow to a wife; from a mother to a lover. An entire facet of Norma’s identity was reawakened in just one episode. And in some ways, the same was true for Norman.
The juxtaposition between the two main characters at the start of the episode set the tone: as Norma gazes longingly at Norman’s empty bed, Norman stares blankly into the unknown at Pineview. For Norma there’s a gaping void left by Norman’s departure and, in just a few hours from this moment, she’ll have her chance to fill it with a sham marriage and warm body. Norman, on the other hand, is completely empty. There’s no future, no past, no Norma.
Everything that belongs to Norman will now rest in Romero’s hands. Norma is hesitant to let it all go, even if Romero does ask her to. In a comical moment just before they exchange vows, Romero asks Norma to lean into him to make it look more real. Vera Farmiga’s comedic ability shines through here and makes this one of the most awkward pre-marriage cuddles anyone has ever seen on screen.
I think what sells Norma on Romero throughout the episode is that he treats her like a lady. He buys her a real ring, gives her a real kiss, and takes her out to a real dinner. And as a wedding gift, he even makes sure the pit in front of the house is filled in. It’s as if Romero steps in to close the gaps in Norma’s life–to make things whole again even if her heart does still belong to Norman.
But even still, Norma is reluctant to let herself get lost in Romero’s charm. In my view, this is partially due to her own attraction to him and her fear of muddying the waters too quickly. But I also think a lot of her hesitancy is because of Norman. There’s still a lot of secrecy where he is concerned and he remains her top priority.
When Romero moves into the Bates home, Norma goes on high alert. She’s not used to having a man who is also her equal romping around the house. In a sense, she loses a bit of control once he arrives because she’s no longer the mom or the adult of the home. Perhaps this is part of her reluctance, too. She’s at a point in her life where having control is of the essence. She and her son have secrets and the moment she lets her guard down, the world will fall directly on her shoulders.
Meanwhile at Pineview, Norman exhibits the same reluctance to adapt to his surroundings. Like Norma, he’s on alert. He isn’t sure who to trust or what to do. There are so many rules to follow and so little he can do to get out. It’s like watching a wild animal being caged for the first time.
Norman repeatedly asks staffers and his therapist, Dr. Edwards, how long they plan to keep him there. And he’s repeatedly told that it was his choice to be committed. What we see, then, is Norman slowly coming to the realization that he’s lost the battle. How can he reclaim victory?
It happens when Norma arrives unannounced at Pineview to see him. Although she’s not technically allowed to communicate with Norman, she convinces Dr. Edwards to let her have a visit. The conversation between Norman and Norma quickly goes sour, with Norman telling her that he’ll never forgive her for what she’s done.
A devastated Norma goes home in tears, only to be comforted by the open arms of her new husband. Normero is canon.
At the tail-end of the episode, Norman gets his true revenge: he tells Dr. Edwards that he believes Norma is insane and might be killing people. I wonder where that little tidbit will lead Dr. Edwards…?
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.