Previously: Everybody agreed that Zane was the worst drug lord, which is quite an accomplishment if you think about it. Nick Ford really wanted Zane dead, and was willing to put the screws to Norma to get it done. Eventually he kidnapped Norman, which was Shakespearian in its irony considering neither Nick nor Norman knew that Sherriff Romero had evidence that Norman (or some part of him) had definitely had sex with and probably killed Nick's daughter Blaire in last year's finale. So now Norma Bates has two problems! (Norma Bates actually has in excess of one thousand problems.)
While Norma was staging a one-woman Occupy White Pine Bay protest on her boyfriend George, whose cultural capital and general wealth were merely the thing she decided to freak out on him about – since the real reason is almost impossible to explain, but very easy to see from where we're standing – Romero was looking for Norman for several reasons, and Norman himself was chilling out in an old wooden box that was getting rained on, and slowly going a new kind of crazy.
Which is where we rejoin him at the top of the hour, no longer quoting his favorite speech from Meet John Doe but now just begging politely for somebody, anybody, to help. Over and over, in his sweet little voice.
This is my favorite speech from Meet John Doe. I can't say I have ever repeated it to myself in exactly the same circumstances as Norman Bates, because I have never been a drug-war hostage, but I have definitely said it to myself a few times when people started getting me down:
"...My friends, the meek can only inherit the earth when the John Does start loving their neighbors. You'd better start right now. Don't wait till the game is called on account of darkness. Wake up, John Doe — you're the hope of the world."
But when you think about how much people are continually trying to take away from Norman Bates, for no other reason than his mesmerizing innocence, maybe this is the most appropriate one of all:
"...If you can't lay your dirty fingers on a decent idea and twist it and squeeze it and stuff it into your own pockets, you slap it down. Like dogs! If you can't eat something, you bury it! Why, this is the one worthwhile thing that's come along... It may be the one thing capable of saving this cock-eyed world."
Romero spots Dylan running out into the road – as Bateses (and Massetts, and Calhouns) are prone to do – and pulls right over, where Dylan immediately confesses to murdering Nick Ford. They head back to the house to look for Norman, and Romero immediately finds Nick's bodyguard looting the house with Nick's smashed-up dead body still downstairs. A short pistol-whipping later, they've located and freed a barely conscious Norman Bates. Dylan hugs the shit out of him, just holds onto him for an unbelievable length of time, which as you can imagine brings the kid back from the brink almost entirely by itself.
It's funny how easy it is to see Romero and Dylan as a buddy-cop movie, despite them having barely dealt with each other in the past. I guess when you're the only two men on earth that Norma Bates doesn't automatically assume are sex cannibals, that bonds you. It's a lot of pressure!
But not as much pressure as what was going on inside that box he was in, which was a creepy sex memory of this one time Miss Watson gave him a blowjob and then he cut her throat while fucking her and grinning at himself/us in the mirror, and then stole her pearls most definitely as a sex-murder trophy. So that's another thing Norman has on his plate today, besides dehydration.
Norma arrives at the hospital at about Mach Ten, almost shoving Dylan through a wall to get to Norman, but the second she's at his bedside she gives Dylan a strongly worded warning that she loves him very much. The fact that she could be saying this solely because he just saved Norman flits across his face, and he bounces, which suits her just fine either way. Despite knowing that Norman needs his rest, after a long night of being abducted and put in a box in a field, Norma is driven to wake his ass up anyway.
Norman tries to explain his sex-murder of Miss Watson – and how it actually brings a lot of other mysteries into focus, such as what he is doing when he is blacked out and why Norma always acts so squirrely about it – but she just tells him to shut the fuck up and do some of her ignoring techniques that she regularly uses to survive her nightmarish hellscape of a life with such aplomb.
Back home, Norma can't even believe her own shitty lying as she tells Emma that Norman has the stomach flu, and that's why he, um, disappeared for 24 hours and is now covered in blood and bandages. I have had some stomach flu that made me feel like that, for sure, but Emma is already pissed at them for having secrets, so she just side-eyes them and heads back to the office.
Supporting Norman on the long walk up the hill, Norma explains how Emma is quitting on them because of always being left out of the show, and gives a very funny "what are you gonna do" twist to the very logical explanation of how no matter how much she likes and will miss Emma, this season has been way too intense to tell her about.
Then she heads to the grocery store for a run-in with Christine, who fucking hates her now, after her big flip-out on George. "You are a trainwreck," she spits – even Norma is like, "That's valid" – and then makes it very clear that she'll build that highway bypass with her own goddamned manicured hands if necessary. Man, I loved Christine but you knew – from the second Norma slept with George, if not sooner – that whole family was going to end up dead, or at the very least pissed as hell at Norma Bates.
Over dinner, Norma weirdly lies to Norman about sleeping with George. Which, I have enjoyed their creepy love-triangle about this, this season. Last season it wouldn't have made as much sense for them to be so openly jealous and vicious about sex, but once Shelby happened it only made sense that they'd circle their wagons and act twice as married as before. And now that we know them better, it's barely even gross: They're just doing Norma/n, really. What else are they gonna do, double-date? That would be ten times as fucked up. I can't even contemplate that.
Anyway, Norma says the word "semen" to her teenage son about fifty billion times over some pot roast, and then tries to blow off his sex murder by saying it was just sex and not murder. But the jig, it is up. Norman makes that most pitiful face of the faces he makes, about how he is now for sure a sex murderer, and there is a little relief at the bottom of it, as her hysterics – and then her creepy, willfully oblivious calm – confirm what he has wanted to know all season, which is that he does do things when he blacks out, and they are not great things to be doing.
He says he remembers it, not like a hallucination or a dream, but like you remember the taste of gingerbread at Christmas, no matter what time of year it is. Kid can't even sex murder somebody without coming off like a peaceful lake in a world of concrete. We have the benefit of seeing Norman, and seeing Mother, and knowing the difference: He doesn't have that, because he's not there when she is. So Norman can't be expected to love Norman anyway, the way we can.
(But. If he were to strike a bargain, say. If Mother were to take it on, formally. We know he'd never hurt a fly: But what if he never had to?)
Norma spends the night rocking – shudder – at his bedside, until the sun comes up. Has no idea he's already retrieved Bradley's gun, and plans on using it in the morning. Then she heads to the office, where she picks up a variable number of tickets to Montreal and then agrees to present Norman for a polygraph test when Alex Romero drops by. She's so happy to see him, until he reminds her that he is there because her son's semen was found inside a dead child molester, and the way justice works in White Pine Bay is, you can't just be putting the wrong random dudes in jail. Set them on fire, hang them in the streets, blow their heads off mid-lap dance, sure, but that would just be too much. A bridge too far.
Up the hill, Norman is making a list of heartbreaking tasks to do before he commits suicide: Finish taxidermying a sparrow for Norma, so she can be free. Eat apple pie for the last time. Find places for all his other dead things. Make room in the family for Emma. Spend one last happy night with Norma. Dylan's not on the list, but this is the one time that wouldn't hurt my feelings. My feelings are already hurt.
Emma agrees to bring a book up the hill for Norman, dragging her tank like she does, and then he sits her down with – I knew it the second he produced it – their old copy of Blake's poetry. "Tyger, Tyger." The whole room is full of dead creatures, watching over him; he has a plan.
Emma sitting on the bed, he shuts the door and softly tells her about Caleb Calhoun, and Dylan Massett; how everything started. It's not his secret to tell, exactly, but it does explain why Emma's feelings weren't matching up with the facts – and let's be honest, without that part of the story Norman wouldn't even exist. Emma breaks down, of course, in sadness for both Dylan and Norma, and that's when he strikes: "My mother loves you, Emma. She loves having you here." Check. Emma gets the mom she needs, Norma gets the daughter she's always deserved. They're both going to die young and beautiful, but only one of them knows it.
For a moment you think Jodi is selling Dylan out to her brother Zane, using the same language as when she was quasi-manipulating Dylan to kill Nick and/or Zane in the first place, but then – whew! – the camera pulls out to reveal that Dylan and Romero are in on it, and Zane is going down one way or the other. Hope it's in the face, whatever happens. Right in the smacker.
Man, I just love Jodi. The Pamely Isley of White Pine Bay. I hope she sticks around for a long time, just being a peaceful beautiful drug lord earth-goddess, sharing fun calm times with Dylan and romping around with her pets and botany hobbies. I'm sure it'll be fine, this show always keeps its guest stars around forever and ever. Had me worried there for a minute!
Okay, where are we on Norman's Pre-Suicide To-Do List? Oh, I see everything has been checked off except for "Mother." At least he's been productive today. They do some serene dishes and discuss the delicious apple pie he will never eat again after he kills himself, and she talks dreamily about how she loves to cook for him, and how his polygraph will turn out fine because if it doesn't, you just stomp your foot and call it a dick and scream about the unfairness of life, and then it will do whatever you want, right? Norma's Theory of How Everything Works has to eventually prove out, I think. One of these days.
For his part, Norman is totally chill like he always is, just being all not-nervous and un-solicitous and free to just be a child for once. Just kidding, he is being eerily sweet and calm because he is about to be dead and can afford to ease up and relax for the first time in his life. Now, you and I know that suicide is a dillweed move, but if anybody could ever make the case. They dance together to "Dream Lover" on the phonograph, with a dead owl watching from the mantel, and it is in fact the perfect night.
Zane storms his sister's house and she eventually stabs him with some garden shears, getting shot for her trouble; Zane then turns the gun to Dylan, and Romero takes him out in a dramatic fashion, after taking down his droogs outside. Romero creates a whole narrative for the night that Dylan does not exist for, and then gives Dylan the sad news that, like it or not, he is now the new drug kingpin of White Pine Bay, because without anybody on the Iron Throne the whole kingdom falls into disarray, and the quality of life goes way down – which the rich bastards like George will not be having thank you, but also to which Alex Romero has pledged his life because it's better than chaos – and therefore Dylan is trapped, utterly.
After spending all year accidentally working his way up this corporate ladder simply by taking care of people and doing the right thing, over and over – protecting Bradley, and his family, and even Zane; weighing out the needs of the many against the few – he is now rewarded with the crown of being the Literal King of Scum. Isn't that so sad? He's one of the purest people on television, held onto it so hard through the whole war, even unto the destruction of his entire persona and his understanding of his own body, and now he's being asked (forced really, by higher forces) to give up even his own dignity, or grace, to keep the peace. He really deserves something for his trouble, I think. We'll see how the rest of the episode treats him.
Norma summons him to a lake that evening, to tell him Norman's finally broken through: He's remembering the blackouts, he sex-murdered B. Watson, the whole thing. They try to imagine him in jail, and they cannot. He watches her, in pain, remembering that day she came to his work, and was so proud. And then she shocks her son, utterly: She bought three tickets to Montreal.
"I'm sorry, Dylan. I'm so sorry, for everything. For how you were born, how I handled it, how I shut you out. It was horrible of me, and I'm so sorry."
Every word slams through him; he forgives her before he can even speak. She was just a kid, an abused kid with no concept of what was happening or how to deal with it. Same as him. The hope of the world.
"...As horrible as it was, I wouldn't trade it for anything. Because you're here now, and you're beautiful, and you're a ... miracle, that someone like you could come out of all that. And I wouldn't give you up for anything."
I guess sometimes it can be hard to figure out why you needed to hear somebody say something. Maybe it's because Dylan deserves a break; maybe it's because I needed personally to hear somebody say it, and that's why I lost it. But I think maybe it's because we all do. At least once or twice, before the game gets called on account of darkness.
They weep, and they are saved. It's not just Norman that needs to know he's a normal John Doe. And after awhile, they wake up to something new: Dylan points out that if the lie detector reveals anything, it won't send his brother to jail: It'll put him in an institution, which will keep him – and, admittedly, us – safe. The thing they both want.
If the wrists-up-by-the-ears posture is the scariest way for a man to hold you, what would you say is the safest? Norma puts her hands to her chin, anguished and comforted, and her son wraps his arms all the way around her. It's warm enough to get her home. She's almost brightened up, by the time she heads upstairs to find him.
Mother, I made this little bird for you. I will always love you, and we will always be part of each other. Norman.
The bird perches on a branch, ready to sing; festooned in ribbons and greenery. Mr. Sandman, they sang, Bring me a dream. It's delicate, but it will last. So I don't have to dream alone, they danced.
It's gotta happen, happen sometime.
Norma runs screaming down the hill toward the office, where Emma sends her shouting across the street – through terrified traffic, of course; the bypass isn't built yet – and she tracks him down in the misty woods quickly enough. Those long legs, stumbling over themselves. When she finally throws herself on him, gun in hand, he kicks her onto her ass: "I'm sorry, Mother. I didn't mean to hurt you, but I am going to do this. I'm bad."
Once he really digs in and starts thinking about it, he realizes he killed his father, too. It just keeps coming. She flows toward him like water, pulling the gun away, and puts her face to his, forehead to forehead, looking right into his eyes. She holds the gun loosely, hanging behind him.
"How can you ask me to live with this?"
"Because I will die if you leave. If you kill yourself, I'll be there one step after."
She's not kidding. It's not a huge surprise to either of them. Nor when she promises to stick with him every inch of this next journey. And certainly not when she kisses him, sweetly and sadly, and hungrily.
"All right, Mother. You win."
The next day, he's wearing a stiff sport jacket. Dylan meets them at the breakfast table, silently. Nobody smiles, but they are a family somehow in a way we haven't seen before. There is a quiet comfort and a shared burden there. Maybe just shared more evenly.
At the facility – remember, they're doing this off the books with Romero's dad's old partner – they have to wait outside, in a dark hallway. Alex gets Norman all set up, strapped into a chair in a cavernous dark warehouse space. He answers every question honestly, while Romero paces outside with the family. You don't see how truly brave he's being until they say Miss Watson's name. He swallows it, and holds up his chin; he almost chokes on the follow-up question, and begins to hit his stride. But when the man asks if he killed Miss Watson, the world fades away.
"Norman? Norman? Norman. You need to know something very important. You didn't kill Blair Watson. I did."
The set of her shoulders, her bobbed hair: Mother is a vixen, sometimes. She seduces.
"You have to keep this a secret. Do you promise?"
They smile, flirting; they will have many secrets. The first one is this:
Q: Did Norman Bates kill Blaire Watson?
A: Not really. Not anymore.
He won't go to jail, or to an institution. The whole family will celebrate, and they will lie in their beds, feeling safe, not six inches from each other, through a very thin wall: They won't have to dream alone. And one day, when she is still young and beautiful, Norma Bates is going to die in that house. Because of what happened here, today:
He couldn't hurt a fly! And now he never will.