Obvious warning for episode (and film) spoilers
We’re finally at the point in the story where Psycho‘s plot comes along! Let’s dive in.
Marion Crane has the money, the getaway car, and she’s waiting in the motel for Sam to run away with her. But Bates has pulled the rug out from underneath us, and changed the canon storyline from the film. We’ll get into that later.
Marion comes up to the Bates Motel on this rainy night, waiting to get a room. Norman rushes down from the house and leads her inside, where they share rather awkward conversation. Hee sets her up in room one, of course, because Peeping Tom needs his jollies. The nods to the film are strong in this scene; Norman notes the stationary in her room (“in case you want to make your friends back home feel envious!”), then heroically offers to fix the poor girl something to eat up at the house, since there’s no open restaurants around.
Up at the house, Mother finally returns, and of course she chastises the guy for using wheat instead of sourdough bread for the sandwich (loved this part). She cleaned the kitchen since he left it so messy, and confronts Norman about the anger he’s feeling over her disappearance. He admits that he’s losing his mind, he’s very aware of how he dissociates and loses track of time, and that he can still function as a fairly regular person without Mother there guiding him. She goes on to play the victim card, that she’s lonely and has no one to talk to except Norman, so that’s why she took over and went to that bar; to connect to someone since her son was ignoring her in favor of Madeleine. Mother says, “maybe it’s time for something different. A new deal.”
Upon rewatching the episode, this quote really stuck out to me; before this, Mother would normally have a conversation with Norman, they’d agree or disagree on something, and that would send him into a blackout. But this is creating a definitive line between Norman and this alternate personality, which is evident later in the episode when the shower scene happens. The two of them communicated, and essentially worked in tandem to act this out, instead of Mother taking complete control of both Norman and the situation.
Norman tells her that he knows she’s not real, that he’s made her up. And of course, she comes back with the witty response of: “If I’m not here, then why am I here?” As if the answer is obvious, Norman says it’s because of Marion; Mother always shows up to intervene when there is a beautiful woman involved. He tells her “you’re not real, and you have no power over me. I can prove it.” Ah, the sweet, sweet irony. You can tell yourself that all you want honey, that doesn’t mean it’s true!
Meanwhile back in Seattle, Emma’s still looking over the newspaper article about Norma’s apparent suicide, when Dylan comes back (with bagels!) after their fight. These two kids are so cute together I can’t stand it!! He heads in and sees Emma crying, and she admits to looking up the motel just to satisfy her curiosity about the stories Dylan told her, and that’s when she stumbled upon the news. Dylan is in disbelief, is heartbroken and angry, and can’t believe no one has notified him in the two years since it happened.
Norman goes down to visit Miss Crane at the motel, in the back office with his lovely collection of taxidermied animals. They talk a bit about difficult relationships with families, mothers especially, unfortunately lacking the iconic quote, “a boy’s best friend is his mother.” Norman says that being lonely and loving people is a little “trap” that people live in. Caring about someone ties you to them and keeps you there, even if they betray you. Or if they don’t exist. His creepy eyes and stroking of a stuffed bird makes this scene so great, but it’s cut short by a phone call from Sam.
This jerk. Is in the bathroom at his house lying to Marion about having a client he’s meeting with, and lying to a screaming Madeleine on the other side of the door asking what he’s doing. “Taking a piss” is his excuse, and that just infuriates his wife (and me too, for that matter) even more.
Marion takes a shower, with Norman watching her through his little peephole in the wall. There’s a creepy voiceover of Mother, saying he needs her right now. Did I mention how creepy it was?
And this is it!! The iconic shower scene, dramatic music and everything!! The moment we’ve been waiting for the entire series!!
Before Marion can even wash her hair. She gets out. And goes over to the office.
Marion asks Norman for the guest book so she can find Sam’s address and see if he’s okay. Norman tells the poor girl that he knows Sam, and that he’s cheating on both her and his wife, and gives her the home address. Marion goes over and sees Sam trying to comfort Madeleine in the living room. She goes all Carrie Underwood and grabs a tire iron (not a Louisville Slugger, unfortunately) to smash in all the windows on Sam’s car. If you listen closely, you can hear me screaming “YAS QUEEN!!” the entire time. Sam goes to confront her, but she drives away. He turns to go back inside, but Madeleine’s there with a full glass of wine to throw in his face. Then she locks the door. He’s defeated. And I love it.
Norman gets a call from an understandably angry Dylan, asking why he wasn’t informed of Norma’s death. Norman said that Dylan didn’t want to be contacted by anyone, and that the whole even was too painful for him to relive. Dylan doesn’t believe him, obviously, and it turns into a shouting match between the two of them before Norman hangs up.
I sincerely hope that after this Dylan goes back home to check in on Norman.
It’s then that Mother appears again, in her usual cute vintage dress and a happy demeanor. She’s made Norman this lavish dinner, which he refuses in order to make his own dinner since he’s a grown man and all. Mother slowly gets more hostile toward him the more he says that he’s finding clarity in his insanity. He refuses to look at her, and she provides the biggest laugh I have ever experienced watching this show by trying to pry his eyes open.
She gets all pouty (trying to imitate Madeleine) and tries to tell Norman that everything he’s experiencing is real, including her. But he’s not having it, and keeps repeating that she’s not real, until she starts tearing the kitchen apart and he admits that she’s real. Seeing Norman stand among the wreckage of the room, alone and shaking, is so wonderful and also haunting.
Norman goes down to the motel to find Marion packing all of her stuff. She saw Sam, and saw that Norman was telling the truth about his infidelities. They share a sweet moment, where it almost seems like they’re going to…do the do…but Norman fights off those feelings quickly and helps her pack. Tells her to run, to get a new car and a new identity, and never look back. So she’s gone. Safe and totally not murdered.
But, if the violin-heavy music is any indication, someone isn’t safe for very long. And it looks like it’s Sam, who shows up to the motel after Marion had already left. Her clothes are scattered about the floor, so naturally, he assumes that she’s still there, or will be back soon. Taking a shower after having wine thrown in your face by your furious wife seems like the logical next step.
Norman is talking with Mother when a car pulls back into the lot. They think it’s Marion, but upon investigation they find out it’s just Sam. Norman hates him, and Mother says he reminds her of Norman’s father because of his lying ways. She tells Norman about how she came to be; Norman created her as a coping mechanism for his father’s abuse. This separate personality came out when he wanted to defend Norma, and that Mother’s purpose was to make things less scary for the poor kid. She hypes Norman up, says how awful Sam is and how he deserves to be punished for what he did to these women, just like his father deserved what he got for abusing Norma. Mother is no longer in control of him, but rather they’re partners, equals. It’s his turn to step up and do what’s right, with her supporting his decisions instead of making them for him.
So Norman grabs a knife from the drawer. Heads over to room one, where Sam is showering. He pulls back the curtain and mercilessly stabs Sam twelve times.
At least we get the famous curtain being pulled down and the close up shot on the dead person’s eye just like the film!
The episode ends with a bloody and heavily breathing Norman saying, “Oh Mother, what have I done?”
In all honesty, both the original movie death and the TV show death make sense within the twisted little world of Norman Bates. In the film, it made sense for Norman to kill Marion because of his issues with Mother, with his loneliness, and with a past of rejection. She was a stranger to him and it was easy to take her out; that’s why Mother took over Norman and killed the poor woman.
In the show, making Sam the victim made sense, in the fact that he was (vaguely) reminiscent of Norman’s father, and that there was a clear development in the relationship between Norman and the alternate persona of Mother. Norman’s father was a liar, a manipulator, and hurt the women he loved, just like Sam. This time Mother encourages Norman to kill Sam, but she doesn’t take over him in one of his infamous blackouts. She puts the idea and the power into Norman’s head, but can’t take direct responsibility for it.
If Bates Motel wasn’t always touted as the prequel to Psycho, Sam being murdered would’ve made more sense as a storyline. Poor Norman is losing his mind and being controlled by a figment of his imagination, so he murders the man who hurt his friend and another woman. But completely changing the canon plot to Psycho? Come on. They even set it up perfectly with Marion in the shower, and just let it go.
I don’t know how anyone else is feeling, but I’m kinda super bummed about this! I’m interested to see what the last four episodes of the series bring, though. That’s one positive.