BATES MOTEL: NORMA LOUISE
It's a long night at the Bates Motel (the time appearing on screen signals this to good/bad effect). Norma Bates (Vera Farmiga), enraged that her son Dylan Massett (Max Thieriot) has allowed her brother/his father Caleb (Kenny Johnson) to stay with him, runs off in a fury. This devastates her other son and namesake, Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore). Out of this wild hour we get perhaps some of the most shocking, emotionally wrecking, and flat-out nutty moments we've seen from this season.
And given that this is Bates Motel, a show not known for its rational take on anything, that is saying a lot.
As I stated, Norma has run off to Portland, where unbeknown to her she is being followed. She gets a new wardrobe (which to my mind, makes her look like a hooker) and checks in to a hotel. She then goes to a bar and is picked up by a stranger who thinks she has just ended her most recent relationship. This is a thwarted one-night stand, as she ultimately rebuffs the offer. She then flees in her new car to James Finnegan (Joshua Leonard), trained psychologist and her teacher/friend, and after some reluctance from James, her new lover. James begs her to not rush back to the motel, insisting she needs time to herself. She refuses, telling him, "I hear ya, but I can't take care of myself. I'm a mother." Eventually, she does go back to the motel, where she does go see her brother, who tearfully begs her forgiveness for the crime of incest (which brought about Dylan).
During all this long dark night, Norma's younger son Norman does not take this well at all, and I mean AT ALL. Dylan and Emma (Olivia Cooke) attempt to take care of Norman, but he really is beyond help at this point. Norman totally freaks out, demanding his mother come back. He completely breaks from reality and checks out. "I want my mother," he keeps mumbling. Finally, Norman takes matters into his own hands. Dylan walks into the kitchen to see a horrifying sight:
There is his younger brother, dressed in their mother's bathrobe, making breakfast. He looks at Dylan, and begins speaking in a higher voice. With an effeminate manner, this figure tells Dylan to wake up Norman for breakfast. Norman has become Norma, definitely in his mind and now in body.
That's it. Game over. Norman Bates is nuts!
When Norma and Caleb reunite, Dylan is moved, but Norman clearly is angry. This is not going to end well.
In a subplot, Sheriff Romero (Nestor Carbonell) is shot, and is visited in the hospital by his Sheriff race rival, Marcus Young (Tomiwa Edun), who tells Romero the race is over but he could always use a right-hand man behind the scenes. Romero doesn't agree, and as Marcus gets in his car, Romero managed to get out of his hospital bed and shoots Marcus dead, then drives off.
Norma Louise is again another strong Bates Motel episode, with another brilliant performance by Vera Farmiga. As she goes through this dark night of the soul we see her going through all these emotions that overwhelm her (and you the viewer). We see her vulnerability, her arrogance, her rage, her heartbreak. Really, Farmiga is just simply too sensational to be contained. She is brilliant, brilliant, brilliant: the mixture of vulnerability and ego colliding to something extraordinary.
This episode is also a highlight for the other actors. Highmore's total break from reality is frightening, but we also see what kind of person Norman is just by his face. When it darkens as Caleb and Norma see each other reveals he does not take this hopeful turn for his mother well. Thieriot has grown so much as Dylan, both as a character and an actor. He too matches Highmore and Farmiga at this final scene, where the tears he's barely holding in breaks you: the twisted way he was conceived finding a sense of closure. Cooke as Emma is still the unsung heroine of Bates Motel, and we get the sense that the now-established #Dylemma shipping may be reasonable.
Carbonell's role is smaller, but he still commands his scenes. When he literally blows the competition away, it's astonishing. Leonard too as the moral James, a man who genuinely cares for Norma but who also struggles with his sexual desires, does excellent work.
If something brought Norma Louise down, just a little, it's the 'ticking clock' thing. The time appears at least twice, but either I didn't notice it or it didn't come up again until the end of the episode. I also think Chick (Ryan Hurst), who still looks like a strung-out Mac Powell from Third Day, is there to provide a story thread for Johnson's Caleb but one that I am not too crazy for.
Still, minus that, Norma Louise is a brilliant episode in a brilliant series. We can only marvel at how much better Bates Motel gets.
Next Episode: The Last Supper