I knew something was up last night when Bates Motel started trending before I finished live Tweeting 12 Monkeys. I’m spoiler averse, so I had no clue what that might mean, but I figured it couldn’t be good. When I finally got to watch it, I was sort of waiting for the gotcha, and then when it came, I didn’t trust it.
The basic set up, from the jump, is that at some point Norma is going to die, and by Norman’s hand. The presumption would be, that with five seasons locked in, we were looking at that happening sometime next year. Well, we might have been wrong on that, and I say might because by all appearances, Norma died last night. I just don’t believe it.
The other two men in Norma’s life–Alex and Dylan–try to tell her Norman needs to be back in Pineview, and instead of maybe hearing them out, Norma pivots wildly to accusations of jealousy against both of them, turning their concerns based in love into something ugly and nearly violent, all to protect Norman.
Norman has a session with his doctor and on the face of it, is concerned that he will have to pick up the pieces when Alex leaves Norma, which he sees as inevitable, and we see has always been his truth–every time, it’s come back to him holding her up when life steamrolled right over her. Only this time, maybe for the first time, she’s in a good, healthy place without him. And that itself is more terrifying to Norman than anything else they’ve survived together–that she could survive now with someone else.
After last week’s ax scene, Alex pushes Norma to take Norman back to Pineview, and then he seeks counsel from Dylan, who confirms he has seen Norman be violent. Alex suggests that they can sign Norman into Pineview if Norma won’t. Dylan asks for a chance to talk to her first, and he goes home, and in a scene that goes from bad to worse and will haunt him if Norma really is dead, he ask her about Emma’s mom’s earring and she lies. And she never comes out and says what she knows, that Norman did something.
She begs him to leave the earring with her, and he won’t. She tries to bait him that she’s his mother and that’s when he unleashes on her that never, not once, not ever has she been a mother to him. And that actually doesn’t wound her the way you’d expect because she responds by asking him, again, to leave the earring.
He storms out and meets Norman at his truck. He embraces him and tells him he needs help, and Norma races up behind him and begs him not to say anything and he doesn’t. He hugs him again and goes, and Norman wants to know what just happened and she glazes it over as nothing. She leaves to talk to Alex and he heads upstairs to pull Christmas lights from the attic.
Instead, he finds Emma’s mom’s suitcase and the murderous scarf, and Norma’s muddy robe, and when he puts the robe on, he flashes back to what he did (although we’re saved from actual onscreen flashbacks). Then he buries the suitcase in the yard.
Alex has the terrible lunch where he’s nearly baited by the DEA and then arrives at his office to findÂ a seethingÂ Norma. SheÂ hurls the same jealous accusations at him that she did Dylan, andÂ says they’re done. He’s telling her calmly and rationally that he loves her and is fearful for her safety but she’s not having it. She’s laser focused on what she views as a betrayal. She leaves he sweeps everything off his desk in a rage. She comes home, numbly standing in the glow of the fridge as Norman looks on and then,Â as Norman expected, she collapses in a heap of tears in the kitchen and Norman picks her up.
She gets ready for bed and writes Alex a letter that she will always love him, takes off her ring, and slides it inside. Still upset, she climbs into bed and Norman joins her, laying down next to her above the covers and they talk about when they wanted to go to Hawaii, and that they should do that again, just walk away. Norma’s tears turn to laughter and she falls asleep as Norman sings to her.
He turns off the light and they lie in the dark together a little while and then he calmly gets up, and goes down to light the furnace, which has been telegraphed all season and especially last week as an appliance of doom, andÂ then walks around the house methodically closes all the vents except the one under Norma’s bed. He closes the door to her room, lies down beside her and holds her close and falls asleep.
The house is eerily still and quiet and dark. We dwell on that a bit until Alex drives up outside and goes to the door. At this point, I full expected the house to blow up, but I realize the house is as much a fixture as Norman. Alex calls out and gets no answer so he lets himself in, and is uneasy about how quiet it is.
He goes upstairs and enters the bedroom and realizes they’re too quiet. He races around the bed and grabs Norma and realizes she’s unconscious. He breaks the bedroom window to let air in and then starts coughing. He scoops Norma out onto the landing and opens the windows, and then goes back and gets Norman and drags him out.
He starts madly doing CPR on her to the point that he’s frantic and wailing calling her ‘Baby” and she doesn’t wake up. Norman starts to cough awake beside her and Alex looks toÂ him and back to Norma and then picks her lifeless body up in an embrace and weeps.
It’s terrible and awful, and yet I was sort of thinking ahead to, ‘well, she’s dead, or she’s not dead, but either way Vera Farmiga stays on staff as NotNorma next season.’ And then I started to think that if she is dead and Alex doesn’t kill Norman, that in itself is surprising.
If we take the events as presented to us onscreen and trust that what looks like happened did happen, I totally buy that Norman would think suiciding himself and Norma would be the only way out, the only way for them to remain together “Forever,” hence the title. It’s a terribly sad end for Norma, which was to be expected, but it’s particularly brutal for a woman who finally glimpsed a moment of happiness and then seems to have been punished for it, almost to a point of self-sabotage because she was doomed to put Norman first, regardless of his apparent illness, growing dependence on her, and lessening grip on reality.
If he’s killed her, and fully intended to kill himself, too, and didn’t succeed, where does that leave his sanity, when he still has a Norma of his very own inside his mind?
Alex will have his own shitstorm if he’s lost his wife and now is in the sights of the DEA for the murder that closed last season and opened this one. Will we lose him, too? And if so, with Dylan and Emma presumably off in Seattle, do they turn around and come home at their potential peril or does that leave Norman alone in his insanity next year?
Or, conversely, if Norma survives, where does that leave her relationship with Norman when he’s proven now that he is dangerous to her personally, despite her belief he would no sooner harm her than he would harm himself, and he tried to do both. And since he’d already threatened suicide before, her logic was already flawed in that argument. So many possibilities.
I think if all this had happened last season, I’d have been much more invested. They all did fantastic work, it’s justÂ that now, after a scattershot and multi-focus season, I’m not impacted the same way.
We’ll see where we go. One episode left. Here’s that final scene again. Bates Motel airs at 9/8c on Mondays on A & E.
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