To quote the esteemed Chick Hogan in the final line of this week’s episode of Bates Motel, “Holy shit.” We are pulled deeper into how the world of Norman Bates – and the greater White Pine Bay area – has been functioning since the untimely demise of everyone’s favorite mother.
Norman’s interactions with those outside of the home begin with a determined confidence. He boastfully visits an incarcerated Romero to flaunt that he’s alive and well. And despite additional threats from his stepfather, Norman manages to maintain those fluttering blinks that sweep the bridge between his sanity and psychosis. When he conveniently bumps into Madeleine at the coffee shop across from her hardware store, Norman appears to be engaged behind his semi-paralyzed grin. He declines Madeleine’s offer to set him up on a date but bounces back once he learns it will be a double date (or a ménage à trois?). Norman exhibits a never-before-seen machismo when he meets Madeleine’s husband Sam Loomis when they both immediately recognize each other in their roles as Hourly-Rate Room #1 Guest and Motel Desk Clerk. Norman maintains his bobblehead superiority even when Sam threatens to kick his butt if his wife learns about last week’s afternoon delight.
Chick Hogan visits unannounced and entices Norman into the basement with an offering of a dead peregrine falcon ready for stuffing. You gotta love the symbolism…the fastest bird in the world about to be immobilized for all eternity. Chick offers Norman a taxidermy partnership in which he provides the dead animals and sells the stuffed masterpieces while Norman does the dirty work in between. Chick makes no bones about it – he needs money thanks to his final run-in with Caleb. And just to be sure Norman accepts the deal, he asks how the freezer is working out. You know…the one he helped repair along with some other odds and ends around the house.
While she makes few appearances in Episode Two, Norma is fed up: pretending to be dead sucks. Norman doesn’t seem to care much, sidestepping and repeatedly dismissing her musings as “childish”. In this realm where Norman has more influence over Norma’s dialogue, we see instances in which Norman does not allow himself to hear what she would truly have to say. During her Teach Yourself French lessons at the kitchen table, it is the computer that calls Norman a traitor….er, traître…when he refuses to tell her where he’s been. She tells Norman that she will take care of Romero if he tries anything further but is robotically unable to answer if that means killing him. Despite being surrounded by a cozy home filled with polished furniture and fresh flowers, Norman cannot enable the Norma in his mind to admit she’s still in love with Romero.
Romero’s blinding anger carries through from the season opener into this episode but abruptly switches to meticulous scheming. After Norman visits him to brag about the unsuccessful murder attempt, Romero’s frustration leads to an unnecessary brawl with a fellow inmate but he quickly yields and regroups. He plays into the suggestion of the prison medic that his former life as a cop provoked the ass-whooping and meets with a lawyer to request a transfer to safely serve the remainder of his term. After all, he says, he needs to take care of the son his dead wife left behind.
Caleb obeys Emma’s request and leaves their retro California home. Dylan is relieved yet guilty to feel relieved. Emma knows too well what it means to cut ties with a dysfunctional parent. The air hangs for a moment while Dylan recalls the earring in Norma’s sweater and the note from Emma’s mom he found in Norman’s room. We, the viewer, also hold our breath as we process that neither of them know both mothers are dead. Caleb takes the bus to the Bates’ home. In his dark and dismal walk through the house (Ed. Note: Too dark. Please stop. Seriously.), Caleb comes upon the disarray of a home that has neither hide nor hair of his sister. He does, however, come across a copy of “The Lost Art of Mummification” at the foot of Norman’s pristine, unslept bed. Checking into the Kings Motel, Caleb is told by the clerk that the sister he plans on visiting committed suicide almost 2 years ago. After an agonizing visit to Norma’s grave, Caleb seeks the advice of a double scotch only to be greeted by Chick who was writing despairing thoughts about his wife in a journal at a table nearby. Quoting Casablanca (man, I love this guy), Chick immediately learns that a) Caleb is not to be fucked with tonight, and b) Caleb just learned about Norma’s death. Caleb shouts that Norman will not get away with killing Norma and takes off.
Norman’s rush of raging hormones and potential blackmail comes crashing during the Loomis double date. Blind date Joanne dangerously brings up Norman’s dead mother. Norman excuses himself to the men’s room where Norma is waiting to scold him. He demands she climb out the window and hide in the car before anyone sees her. While climbing out, she asks, “Do you still like me?” This is when we see Norman fold, as if he didn’t expect to hear that question. A hasty exit from the restaurant leads to a bar where more than one neat bourbon is imbibed. The brilliant splicing of face, voice and reflection between Norman, Norma and the bartender is unparalleled in any such scene so far. Norma is not OUR Norma but Norman is clearly HIS Norma – a Norma who complains of being trapped in the life of a caretaker. Pan to a drunken Bates in front of the bedroom mirror, admiringly holding a dress to the reflection; what was once predictable is now freaking stunning.
I say this now with eight more episodes to go BUT…the closing scene of this episode played like a series finale. A WTF cliffhanger of a finale, but a finale nonetheless. Caleb’s tenacious tear through that house, howling for Norman, shouting his accusations, only to get hit over the head by his sister – figuratively by the ghastly sight of her corpse, and literally by his crazed nephew wearing her dress and a blonde wig. And to find that vengeful yet concerned Chick followed Caleb and saw it all happen?! “Well, now you know, Chick. I’m still alive.” And again I quote, “Holy shit.”
In his poem “The Convergence of the Twain”, Thomas Hardy depicts the once-opulent and gilded Titanic as dimly seen at the bottom of the still ocean. Norma Louise is our Titanic. Seemingly unsinkable, she crashed into her demise while we watched from our couch-fashioned lifeboats. At the end of the episode (bewitchingly named after Hardy’s verse), I find myself asking, “Who is the iceberg?” Is it Norman and his incapacitated demands of Norma, even in death? Is it Caleb, who was as incapable as Norma of balancing familial protection with love? Is it Romero, who released Norma from her cocoon, causing her to lose sight of when to be alert and vigilant? We’ve seen what the convergence of Norma and Norman looks like these days. How will Caleb’s expression continue once he gains consciousness? And how-the-eff will Romero react if he ever sees what Caleb just saw? Aw, geesh.
Executive Producer Kerry Ehrin told us that this final season would have “the most dark comedy” of all. (Yahoo!TV) I snickered more than once at the fantastic ridiculousness of Norma embracing France, complete with language lessons, an ascot, cigarettes and a cloche hat. Yet another way for Norman’s psyche to self-scold…this time, in a Romance language. Merde alors! And how about Chick’s mimicking high-pitch reply when Norman announces/warns Norma that he and Chick are headed to THE BASEMENT? “The basement, it is!” Let’s not forget Norman being called by someone sounding like Norma while ogling Madeleine from afar; turns out it’s the barista reading his written name off a fresh-brewed cup of coffee. Such a tasty blend of macabre and giggles. Refill, please!
(Nothing to see here. You can’t make me watch the previews. La la la. I see nothing.)