Bates Motel 3.9 “Crazy” (penned by a trio of the show’s writers) established Norman’s increasing psychosis, and bought home the heartbreaking reality that there may be no turning back for this disturbed young man, or for those that choose to be in his life.
The episode opens where 3.8 leaves off, with Norman encountering Bradley Martin. Bradley, it seems, is sick of being dead. She wants to come back to White Pine Bay, and she wants Norman to help her come back to life. One would think that with all Norman has been going through recently, he might just refuse to help Bradley; however, despite all his troubles, Norman has always tried to be a good guy, so he hides Bradley at the motel, secretly bringing her food and clothing.
After things went bad on the gun run, Caleb is furious with Chick. It turns out Chick is an informant, playing both sides of the law. That revelation seems to have come from out of nowhere, but it does have story potential for next season, so it’s excusable. Caleb wants the money he and Dylan are owed, but Chick has different ideas and pulls out a gun. So Caleb, driven by rage at having almost lost the son he just found – unleashes hell on Chick, beating him to within an inch of his life, and ultimately getting his $50,000. He gives the money to Dylan for Emma’s lung transplant, but Caleb will now have to lay low. This was a good way to tie up Caleb’s current storyline, but still leave room for his return next season if he continues to be a series regular.
Meanwhile, Norma goes to see Bob Paris, and pleads with him not to dig up anything related to Norman’s father, lest Norman possibly be implicated in his dad’s death. Of course Paris hasn’t been shown to have empathy for anyone, and he seems willing to take down anybody who stands in the way of what he wants. And he wants his flash drive.
Later, Norma storms into the police station, demanding to know why Romero hasn’t returned her calls. Romero, who never beats around the bush, tells her “Because I don’t want to talk to you, Norma.” Norma is trying to get her hands back on the flash drive, but the sheriff has decided he will handle things from now on – and that includes ceasing communication with Norma for good. Clearly, Romero is hurt by Norma’s constant lies, but after the two of them have come so close this season to finally getting together, it was disappointing to see things fall apart between them.
Faced with the possibility of having her husband’s cause of death dredged up, Norma does what she always does when she is in a bind – she panics. She storms down into the basement and impulsively starts throwing all of Norman’s taxidermy animals away, reasoning that his hobby might look bizarre should anyone investigate Norman. Her rationale doesn’t make much sense, especially given the fact that Norman was taught the trade by his ex-girlfriend’s father. But the writers needed a reason to get Norman agitated so he could confront his mother again.
When Norma argues that Norman might be in trouble if the case is reopened, Norman points out that Norma doesn’t look so good in all of this, either. Then Norma sees that defiant side of Norman that has been coming out lately. With his face way too close to his mother’s, Norman ominously tells her, “I will always love you. You are the first thing that I think about when I wake up in the morning and the last thing that I think about at night. But I’m not the one rummaging around in the basement. I’m not the one sleeping with their therapist… It makes me wonder. How do I know it wasn’t you who killed my father?” We’ve been seeing Norman interact with Norma in this menacing way much more frequently, and it doesn’t bode well for her. In fact, it did seem to make Norma uneasy, but she just reverted back to the only way she knows how to regain control over a situation: She ranted at Norman to stay in the house until it all blows over.
Bradley spends most of this episode holed up in one of the motel rooms, dragging Norman into her plans for resurrection. For Norman’s part, he was acting a bit detached from her, but still eager to help, maybe out of a feeling of nostalgia for what they shared together at a more innocent time. Norman and Bradley go to Bradley’s house, where Bradley sees her mom has gotten a new man, changed all the furniture, and turned Bradley’s bedroom into an exercise room. Bradley is upset that her mom has clearly moved on, remarking in a much too foreboding way “I really am dead.”
This episode also provided a bit more backstory on Romero’s past, revealing that Romero’s dad started a pot ring in the 80s when he was the county sheriff. A DEA agent comes to town to question how Romero could then still have been elected sheriff, and how he could claim to have known nothing about the criminal activity going on in White Pine Bay. The agent made some good points, and Romero had no answers. Poor Romero. As a sheriff with a conscience, he’s been caught between a rock and a hard place for quite some time, his jaded attitude the result of years of compromises he’s had to make for the sake of the town’s prosperity.
We also get to see a bit of Dylan and Emma together in this episode. After Dylan gives Emma’s dad the $50,000 to push Emma’s name up the lung transplant list (and it was a bit odd that Emma’s dad never even asked where the money came from – but it’s plausible that he was so relieved to have it for his daughter that he just didn’t care) he goes to her room to see her. It comes out that Emma knows Caleb is Dylan’s dad. But true to her sweet nature, Emma is anything but judgmental about it. In fact, despite all she knows, Emma has never judged anyone in the Bates family. It’s one of the reasons her character is so likable, but it’s also one of the reasons she’s always at risk – this may be a case of just not knowing when to hightail it away from the lot of them.
Norma and Romero have one final show down when Norma breaks into Romero’s house looking for the flash drive. Romero tells Norma he already turned it over to the DEA – he was too tired of all the concessions he’s had to make, all the secrets he’s had to keep hidden. But Norma is incredulous. She only sees how Romero’s actions affect her and Norman. Next comes a volatile confrontation between the two, with Norma violently and repeatedly slapping Romero until he subdues her. Norman then finally reveals the truth about how her husband died – saying it without saying it. When the two are literally and figuratively closer than they have ever gotten to something happening between them, Norma’s anguish and anger get the best of her, and she screams at Romero not to touch her as she runs out the door.
Before Caleb leaves town, he goes to see Norma one last time. Caleb is worried for Norma, so he tells her what happened (last season) when Norman tracked Caleb down at a motel after Norma threw her brother out of the house. Caleb describes how Norman channeled Norma’s persona, accusing Caleb of raping “her.” But Norma is in denial, telling Caleb “There’s nothing wrong with Norman. There’s nothing wrong with him.” But Caleb has it right. He knows Norman is on the verge of hurting somebody. And deep down, Norma knows it too.
As the episode winds down, Bradley feels that she no longer belongs in White Pine Bay and decides to leave town. Only she wants Norman to go with her. In the motel room, Norman and Bradley start fooling around, but the moment is ruined because Norman keeps seeing his mother. He tears out of the room, only to be met by Norma outside. This Norma seems calmer than the usual Norma hallucination, so even though she’s wearing the blue dress Norman especially likes, for a moment we don’t know if she’s real or not. But then we get a shot of Norman talking to himself, and we see how far his mind has unraveled – he’s created an illusion that is as multi-layered as the real person. Norman and “mother” then go back up to the Bates house, where everything is safe and Norman is free to be who he really is.
This wasn’t a particularly fast paced or shocking episode; it served more to set up the pieces for the season finale. But it did give us confirmation that Norman can no longer distinguish fantasy from reality. And that won’t be good for anybody.
This show has the difficult task of addressing very serious subject matter while simultaneously striving to entertain its audience. Mental illness has been portrayed on the small screen before (Homeland, Monk, and The United States of Tara, just to name a few), sometimes for comedic effect, other times for drama. Bates Motel, first and foremost, is a psychological thriller. But it’s also a family drama. So while we get to see the machinations of a young “Psycho” we’re also privy to the heartbreak of Norman and his loved ones as they watch his mind fracture. Ultimately, this story is a tragedy. Yet, it still manages to be funny, quirky, and nail-bitingly tense. Bates Motel is performing a high wire act that balances all of these elements and makes it look effortless. Well done, Show. Well done.