This was definitely one of the more pleasant episodes from all three seasons, and yet, it ended in creepiness and the inevitable incest as pretty much all Bates Motel episodes do.
The first moment that set my heart a-flutter was Dylan (Max Thieriot) and Emma’s (Olivia Cooke) friendship blossoming into something more. (Dylan, I don’t care that you call her your “friend.” I saw the way you were making heart eyes at her. You can’t deny it!) To thank her for helping him out with Norman (Freddie Highmore), while Norma (Vera Farmiga) wasn’t there, he asks her out to dinner. Yeah, okay. That’s the only reason. Sure, whatever. Their planning session for when they’ll go on their date is interrupted by her dad who angrily tells her she should be resting rather than working.
Later on, Dylan visits him at his taxidermy shop, which is where he hears about Emma’s sad fate. She’s on the hospital list for a lung transplant, but she probably won’t get it in time. She just keeps getting worse. What could possibly help is if they donated $20,000 to move her a few spots up the list. Now, Dylan could hide this under the umbrella of just being friends and wanting to thank her, but he’s willing to risk everything to get her this money. When he hears about a gun running job that’ll give him $25,000, he doesn’t even hesitate to volunteer. He’s completely willing to do it for her.
It doesn’t seem like this relationship is one-sided either. As Emma’s on her way out for her “date,” she gets stopped by her dad who doesn’t want her to go out or basically do anything lest it hurt her health even more. Now, Emma’s already made it clear that she wants to live her life on her own terms. We’ve seen her fling herself off of a rope and into a lake just to be able to do something everyone else gets to experience. We’ve seen her stand up to Norman and even Dylan countless times about setting boundaries for what she can and cannot do. And now we see her tell her dad that she just wants to spend some of whatever time she has left with this “really amazing person” who accepts her for her who she truly is. The sincerity of how important this is to her and how important he is to her is clearly evident to her father, who lets her go have some fun.
It doesn’t turn out to be the fun either Dylan or Emma expect, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
After Norma gets her new phone, since she shot her old one multiple times, she learns that Alex (Nestor Carbonell) has been shot. When she gets back home, she finds him already inside. He seems to be quite taken aback with her lack of care at the fact that he almost died and ends up leaving after he finds out where he can find the USB containing the critical information that can take down Paris and his men.
He retrieves it and learns that his mother’s name’s on the list of people that could get in trouble with the FBI if they ever found out. And here we finally get a little bit of backstory on Romero. He visits his dad in prison right after to ask him about this. Apparently, his dad used to be a dirty cop and put his wife’s name — who, I’m assuming, committed suicide about 20 years ago — on the checks to get drug money.
While this is happening, Dylan sits Norma down to tell her about the downward spiral Norman experienced while she was gone. He really seems to be the only level-headed character in this show with his wanting to put Norman away because he isn’t safe to be around. He points out that this has been circling them for sometime, but they’ve just been looking in the other direction for Norman. Norma understands this, but she still would rather keep Norman at home and safe. Unfortunately then, only she wouldn’t be safe from him. She quickly changes her mind when Dylan tells her Norman actually dressed up and acted like her.
She can’t think about this too much, though, because James (Joshua Leonard) pays her a little visit after their tryst. While he’s there, they take that opportunity for him to give Norman a little therapy session. It starts off alright with Norman telling him about the “buzzing” in his mind that doesn’t go away unless he’s alone in his basement with his taxidermy-ed animals. But Norman doesn’t let James gain the upper hand. Instead, he makes the situation all the more uncomfortable by asking him how it was sleeping with Norma. How was his mother like in bed? James obviously doesn’t want to talk about that, but Norman keeps insisting. Until finally, James uses this to psychoanalyze him. “Norman, do you want to sleep with her?” This question takes Norman so over the edge that he starts angrily choking him. It seems like he’ll keep at it up to the point of killing James until he seems to become aware of his actions and lets him go. James runs off, but not before telling Norma that she needs to seek professional help for Norman. I thought that’s what he was there for.
Confused, Norma goes downstairs to check on Norman and, of course, completely takes his side after hearing his confession that he misses her and how they used to be. She feels bad about running off on him and decides that to make it up for him, they’ll have a nice family dinner.
Although it was intended to be a more intimate dinner between the two of them, more people start joining in. When Norma hears about the “Dylemma” date, she tells them that they should eat with them instead. And when Romero calls her drunk to ask him if she can pick him up, she also invites him to eat.
Before that, she lets him take a nap to sober up a bit in one of the motel rooms. As she’s tucking him in, he confides in her about his parents and the USB. She completely understands and agrees to the sentiment that life is so hard sometimes. When he takes her hand in his, it seems to mean that although life is hard, it’s pretty bearable alongside certain people. Alongside her. Because although they might bicker like an old, married couple, they’re continuously the people they can each turn to. It’s a comforting relationship, which is why I wasn’t that shocked that Alex started nudging him toward him for a kiss. Luckily, she got close enough to tease us, but ends up moving away. She knows he’s drunk and being very honest with both of them, so when he tells her he thinks she’s beautiful, she just smiles and tells him he’s going to regret it.
As for the last dinner guest, it’s none other than Caleb. Despite Dylan telling him to not drop by the house, he does just that. At first, Norma doesn’t want to let him in since it doesn’t erase what he’s done and they can’t be friends, but after seeing his tears, she feels sympathy for him and lets him in.
The dinner seems to go alright, at least, for everyone but Norman. Norma gives a sweet speech about how she’s always wanted a lovely home filled with family and it seems like it’s finally coming true. She’s happy. In this moment, she can forget about her past with her brother. She can forget about her and Romero’s dark deal with Paris. And she can forget about Norman’s problems for just a little while.
And although this all seems swell, we’re reminded at the end of the episode that this life is far from perfect. In fact, Norma’s fate is heading in a very perilous situation (as most of us know) because of Norman. The episode closes with Norman sneaking into his mother’s room in the middle of the night and caressing her body. We thought he was creepily obsessed before, but it’s only just getting started.
- Norman’s passive aggressiveness is one of the funniest, infuriating things.
- A little saddened that they changed Emma’s dad’s actor. I mean, it used to be Professor Quirrell!
- “She’s a friend… And I’m in love with her.” – Dylan about Emma (I’m just kidding about the second part, but that’s what he meant!)
- I am so happy Normero didn’t do the drunken kiss trope. I need them to be sober when it happens. And it will happen.
- This is the most incestuous show, I swear.
- How did James leave Norma with Norman after he knows what he’s capable of?!