Friday, May 24, 2013

Bates Motel Season One Finale - Foreshadowing of the Norman/Norma Transformation

Gooood Evening.  (Did you read that in Alfred Hitchcock's voice?  Good!)

And Welcome.

The Bates Motel season finale aired on Monday and I must say, I have very much enjoyed this series!  I was very sad that we are already done with this season.  I do not watch much television, so the shows that I do watch I tend to LOVE and Bates Motel was no exception.  I wanted to love this and I definitely did!

If you haven't been watching, you have been missing out and need to pick the season up immediately when it is released on DVD or when it becomes available on NetFlix.  For any fans of Hitchcock's masterpiece Psycho, Bates Motel is a real treat!  I was hoping that this prequel to the movie would give us a better understanding of Norman and his relationship with his mother, and I was not disappointed.  It has been building and building and the season finale gave us the best glimpses yet of the beginnings of the Norman/Norma transformation that is at the crux of the Psycho story.

photo credit

After learning that Norman blacked out and killed his father, we are seeing the frequency of these blackout episodes increase.  First with his father, then with Dylan, Officer Shelby, and in last week's season finale, his teacher, Miss Watson.  And we've learned that they are triggered by his overprotective nature where it concerns his mother.  On the flip side of the coin, Norma is incredibly protective of Norman.  This is partly due to the fact that they have a close relationship (she tells him that she is closer to him than anyone else in the world) and partly because she is aware of his blackouts and violent nature and is simply trying to protect her child...though she has no concern about what her child might do to other people, cause that's irrelevant, right?  Due to the film, I think it's safe to say that we all came into this series with preconceived ideas about Norma.  It's not until the big reveal in episode 6, that the inclination to think that Norma is the crazy one and that Norman needs to be pitied is challenged.  Slowly, those ideas start shifting as his mental illness and violent nature begin to emerge and we realize that we cannot simply blame Norma for everything - though she is most definitely to blame for not getting Norman the psychiatric help that he needs.

And in episode 7 we really see a shift in Norman.  After he goes to Bradley's house and she tells him that she does not have the same feelings for him that he does for her and that sleeping with him was a mistake (for the record, in a surprisingly nice way), Norman storms off.  This is the first time we see him channeling Norma - his eyes darken and he starts muttering to himself, repeating exactly what Norma said to him about Bradley not being a nice girl.  While he has not completely lost it, this particular night is terrible timing for him to see his dog get run over.  He scoops the dead dog up off the road and tells his mother "I'm taking her to Emma's dad.  He can fix dead things!".  When Norma says taking the dog to a taxidermist is a crazy idea, Norman starts yelling "He's not crazy!"  Norma runs to get the car and it is clear that she is legitimately scared of him and what he is capable of in a heightened emotional state.  I almost got the feeling that Norman had slipped into his Norma persona for a second, and that the 'He's not crazy' was Norma trying to deny the fact that her son is mentally ill.

photo credit
In the next episode, episode 8, Emma's father, the taxidermist, teaches Norman the art of taxidermy and asks why he wants to stuff this dog.  Norman replies with a very chilling line - the greatest foreshadowing up until that point:  "It seems sad to let her go - dishonorable to just put her in the ground."  Hmmmm....I wonder who else he won't want to put in the ground?

Throughout the season, the sexual tension between Norman and his teacher, Miss Watson has grown and in the season finale, he overhears her on the phone having a fight with what sounds like either an ex-husband or ex-boyfriend.  Norman is awkward and Miss Watson is awkward and they seem to be looking for something in each other, so she takes this opportunity to forge some type of connection.  She begs him not to say anything about what he heard and says "I guess we have a secret now."  The hug that followed made it very clear that their relationship had just progressed past that of teacher and student.

photo credit
Over the course of the last episodes of the season, Norman has becoming more and more unhinged and it is fascinating to see this transformation.  He is simply unable to manage his emotions.  He has snapped at Norma and called her crazy, has dreamt about drowning Bradley, and the final straw is the night of the Winter Formal dance at school.  Norman asks Emma to the dance and as Norma waits with her son for Emma to arrive, she tells him of the astounding dysfunction that she grew up with and how her brother repeatedly raped her as a child.  Norman is understandably worked up over this news and then goes to the dance where he stares at Bradley all night and then gets punched in the face by Bradley's boyfriend after Emma gets upset and leaves him at the dance.  As Norman is walking home in the rain, Miss Watson offers to take him to her house to clean up his face before she drives him home.  He goes back to her house, the air is rife with sexual tension, and after she is done cleaning up his face she excuses herself so that she an change before taking him home.  While Norman is alone in her living room (with a spectacular view of her changing in her bedroom) Norma appears to him and tells him how the inappropriate the whole situation is and how Miss Watson is trying to seduce him.  She tells Norman, "You know what you need to do."  Not only is the dialogue and Norman's interaction with the hallucinated Norma creepy, he begins shaking and appears to be losing control of himself.  Oh, did I mention that her hair and clothing resemble the corpse of Mother and also how Norman looks when he kills Marion Crane in the movie?

photo credit
BRAVO A&E!  That was a fabulous touch!

Norman is visibly agitated and the next thing we see is him running home, arriving there just as Norma is coming home from the resolution of her own shady dealings.  Norma is happy and relieved that everything and everyone is alright and says to Norman, "Everything is good Norman, everything is good.  Finally."  And with the instrumentation from the beginning of Psycho, we truly believe that with Norma's problems being resolved, with her relationship with Dylan being on the mend, and seeing Norman running home instead of something far more sinister, that things might just be alright - at least for a little while.  And it is.  For about 18 seconds.  The last shot of the episode is of Miss Watson in her a pool of blood.  With her throat slashed.

This does not look good for Norman, but it looks fantastic for our second season!

I'm on the fence about the teacher...they could be trying to makes us think it was Norman when the person from the phone call could be at fault - I'm torn on that.  Lastly, did you notice Miss Watkins' necklace?  The monogrammed B?  If this were Days of Our Lives, I'd say that the person on the phone was Bradley's dad who wasn't really dead.  While that most likely isn't the case, the fact that she had written those letters does hold some significance - and we will have to wait until next season to figure out what that is.  I'm delighted that the show was picked up for a second season right after season one started airing, so we know that, while we have to wait, that we will get answers!

Have you been watching Lovelies?  What have you thought about the treatment of such iconic characters and such an iconic story?  



  1. I totally missed Norma's hair/outfit detail. Thanks for pointing that out. I'm thinking Norman didn't kill the teacher. Knowing the series so far it's probably a fake out. But I could be wrong...

    Norma is such a loose canon. She scared the crap out of me waving that gun around. While getting raped by your brother isn't her fault, not accepting help for her issues, especially when the doctor knew something was up with her "warm fuzzy childhood" story, is her fault. While Norman may be a monster in the making we have to remember that Norma married a man who abused her. It's sad that the cycle of violence continues but there you have it.

    1. Is Norman killing his teacher so obvious that we're supposed to believe it's not the case? I feel like we might be pushed in that direction so that we think it's someone else when it's really him. But I could be wrong as well...

      I'm fascinated with how this show isn't trying to canonize Norma, but at the same time is challenging my thoughts about her coming into the series. They've humanized her and I can no longer place all the blame on her shoulders.

      REALLY looking forward to the second season!