Bates Motel “The Pit” (written by Bill Bialas) was all about confrontation: Confronting your enemies; confronting the ones you love; and confronting the darkness within yourself. And as we learned in this intense, character driven episode, sometimes that which is unearthed during such confrontations cannot be buried again.
At the start of the episode, Norma is still reveling in the feelings from having everyone together the night before. Dylan is headed to the farm (so he says) and his interactions with his mom as he leaves are sweet and tender. These days, they’re getting along better than ever. Norman, on the other hand, is being distant and awkward with Norma. And outside’s the Bates house, a giant hole (AKA a big metaphor for the episode) is being excavated. Norma sees it and races outside to see what’s going on (but not before Norman checks out his own mother’s butt as she bends down to look out the window). And so the fun begins.
Norma is her usual self and starts ranting at the workers, who tell her that Bob Paris has ordered a hole to be dug for a pool. Of course, there are no blueprints to verify this, and the hole is a whopping 23 feet deep. Norma tries to get in touch with Paris in order to view the plans for this so-called pool, but other than that, she and Norman go about their business while the men dig on. After everything the Bates have been through, a giant hole is just not that big of a deal.
Meanwhile, Paris and his henchmen have kidnapped therapist James Finnigan, and are basically torturing him for information about Norma that they can use as leverage. Finnigan, being new to torture and all, tells them everything that Norma confided in him the night she stayed over his house, including how her husband really died. It seems to me that Finnigan could have just as easily made something up in order to get away, but his revealing the truth to Paris was an integral story point for this episode, so I see why it happened. After Finnigan is released and rolled out of the car, bloody and terrified, he decides the wisest course of action is to leave town.
Dylan, it turns out, wasn’t headed to the farm, but instead is prepping for the gun delivery orchestrated by Chick. When Chick was introduced this season, he was a humorous and unique addition, but frankly he hasn’t had much to do, and if he’s around next year, I hope his character gets a better and more relevant story, because his sarcastic, “I’m a cunning criminal” routine has already gotten old. In any case, when Caleb finds out what Dylan is up to, he won’t let Dylan go alone, which sets the two up for a father/son mission that is destined to go bad. In fact, by the time the two reached their destination, it seemed certain that one of them wasn’t coming back from that mission.
And from the set up, it looked like that somebody would be Dylan. Between his cute, flirtatious call to Emma (to tell her he wouldn’t be around for a few days), and the excitement and optimism of both of them regarding their budding relationship, it just seemed like Dylan was too happy. And since nobody is allowed to be that happy on Bates Motel, I was pretty sure Dylan wasn’t making it out of the episode alive.
Sure enough, things went bad pretty quickly, and when the gun running criminals proclaimed Chick a liar and decided to send him a message by killing Dylan, it seemed like this really was the end for him (and it must be noted this scene was brilliantly nerve-racking: I was yelling out loud at the characters not to do it). But Caleb had anticipated trouble and stowed a gun under the truck, so just when Dylan was on his knees about to be murdered, Caleb starts shooting and ultimately saves Dylan’s life. So surprisingly, both father and son make it out of that mess with their lives. Honestly, it was a big relief.
Sheriff Romero was also busy in this episode, starting with getting Norma’s car back from the dealership – just because he couldn’t stand thinking of her being sad without it. Romero and Norma’s relationship is a volatile and complicated one, but it’s clear that their interactions have been building to a crescendo this season. When Norma sees what Romero did, she is touched and grateful and softly kisses him on the cheek, lingering there quite a while – providing one of many romantic “almost but not quite” moments we’ve seen between these two recently.
But things start to unravel when Romero goes to Bob Paris to tell him not to mess with Norma. Paris zeroes in on the sheriff’s weak spot, revealing Norma’s deception regarding her husband’s death and telling Romero that Norma is just using him to protect herself and her son. Paris’ tactic works, and Romero confronts Norma about how her husband really died. But Norma will always stand by Norman, and so she perpetuates her original lie.
Romero’s reaction here, though, was a bit confusing. He knows all too well Norma covers up the truth, and he knows at the heart of it is her need to protect Norman. Why he was so put off this time is a mystery, but I suppose a case can be made that with their new found closeness, Romero felt betrayed that Norma would continue the deception. And indeed, by the end of the hour, Romero has had enough, and he makes a decision to turn over the flash drive to the DEA.
Throughout the episode, Norman’s distance from Norma is increasingly distressing to him. He’s haunted by the thought (and Finnigan’s suggestion) that he may want his own mother. To make matters worse, Norman’s chance at normalcy with Emma is destroyed when she breaks up with him in front of the giant hole. She cites his mental state and his lack of interest in her, which may be contributing factors, but it’s also pretty obvious her recent interest in Dylan is the main reason. Regardless, as Norman started crying and becoming more agitated with Emma, and based on the way the scene was shot, I thought maybe Emma was going into the bottom of that pit. But that would probably be too much, even for Norman. Yet, it’s a testament to the show’s ability to so effectively create tension that it makes a viewer wonder just how far Norman might actually go.
After his break up with Emma (and after sitting motionless in that rocker the entire day), Norman needs to do something. He has it out with his mother, but it’s not so much a confrontation (that will come later) as it is a confession. Once again, Freddie Highmore is excellent in this scene. By the time he finally blurts out in anguish and tears that he’s afraid he’s sexually attracted to Norma, you can’t help but feel for this deeply disturbed, frightened kid. Norma’s response was partly right in that she was empathetic and non-judgmental, and her reasonable explanation regarding Norman’s emerging sexuality and resulting confusion would have been fine if she left it at that. But then she negated all of it by giving in to her need for the claustrophobic closeness that defines her relationship with her son. And as the two nuzzled each other in bed while Norma told Norman not to let anyone’s words come between them, it was blatantly clear Norma just unwittingly added more fuel to the fire of Norman’s combustible psyche.
When Norma goes to Finnigan’s house to confront him about what he said to Norman, she learns Paris tortured Finnigan, who subsequently revealed very damaging information about how Norman’s father really died. Norma races home – and in true Norma fashion – stomps down to the basement and frantically tells Norman they’re in deep trouble – again. Norman is so thrown by what his mother is saying he questions if she’s really even there (which is not far-fetched if you’re Norman), but then becomes livid that Norma revealed such things to Finnigan. The confrontation culminates in Norma justifying her actions by proclaiming the stress she’s under in caring for her son, screaming out the prophetic statement “You’re going to kill me, Norman.” These writers are masters at foreshadowing, and hearing Norma say that was particularly chilling.
And just as the real Norma leaves, Norman sees the hallucination Norma – the provocatively dressed, manipulative woman who is intent on seducing the worst out of Norman. Norman runs away – away from this version of Norma, away from himself, and down those infamous motel steps, turning just long enough to see the iconic shot of “mother” at the window. It was only a matter of time before we got that shot, and it couldn’t have been more effectively placed in that scene. Norman then chases after his (long dead and stuffed) dog, who always seems to show up when Norman needs comfort. But as he runs after something that doesn’t exist, he sees a car parked in the middle of the road. And out of nowhere, Bradley emerges. And though it would be reasonable to think Norman is seeing things again, viewers have known since the beginning of the season that Bradley would return.
The episodes in this latter part of the season have all ramped up the action and increased the foreboding tone of the series. As Norman descends deeper into madness, the show is cueing us that soon there will be no turning back, and that realization makes for some ominous, truly frightening moments in this already intense story. Every character is at risk in one way or another, and anything can happen. This year, Bates Motel is delivering on the promise that we’ll see just how Norman Bates becomes Pyscho. The end result of that promise is a terrifying – yet most definitely fascinating – hour of TV every week.