Every so often while watching Bates Motel, my mind comes back to Norman Bates’ classic Psycho line: “We all go a little mad sometimes. Haven’t you?” Norma has. Norman has. There’s no denying that season 3 of A&E’s thriller drama is steadily building the foundation that will make this downfall (when it comes) terrifying and perhaps even a little poetic. But the great thing about Bates is the fact that we’re allowed glimpses into this madness before it fully emerges: Like tonight’s hour, which, after two previous episodes of unhinging Norma and Norman in different ways, showed us the subsequent breakdown of both characters. And that’s not even close to what we’ll probably see by the time we hit the final stretch of episodes.
Last week ended with a shot of a body floating face down in the lake, following an episode centered on Norma’s search for her missing motel tenant. Was it Annika? Nope—a quick trip to the morgue confirms as much, but between this and all the stress of the previous two episodes (not to mention the fact that she’s supposed to start back at school for the first time in years), Norma has reached the end of her sanity rope. She snaps at Norman, who is waiting to hear about Annika with the same amount of trepidation, bemoaning, “I just want to feel normal right now.” Well, Norma… hate to break it to you, but the crystal ball says you might not feel normal for a long time.
At any rate, this conversation segues rather perfectly into Norma-Who-Just-Wants-To-Feel-Normal’s first day of school, otherwise known as Vera Farmiga looks totally awkward-adorable in her chic business suit. Her arrival has all the makings of a classic “new student” scenario—she takes a seat that’s meant for her professor (Togetherness’ Joshua Leonard) while giving him attitude, and then realizes she’s in the wrong class entirely. Psych 101 is not Business 101, which causes her to make a quiet exit amidst Professor Finnigan’s slightly playful suggestion: “Are you sure you don’t think psychology might be a good idea?” (I know he was talking about psychology in terms of learning, but I think any therapist who sits down with Norma should get an advance, because that’s going to be one intense session.)
Back to slightly happier things: with a soundtrack of Tame Impala’s “Elephants,” a young girl is making herself up as if she’s planning for a night out. Is it Annika, back from the dead and faking her own death? Is it a flashback to sometime in the first episode before she left for the club? Nope. It’s Emma, who apparently just gets bored of wearing her usual clothes from time to time and wants to dress up (a.k.a., let’s see if my new boyfriend notices a change and if it turns him on. Spoiler alert: He does, and it does.) Meanwhile, Romero pays a return visit to The Arcanum Club, where he meets with a man named Bob Paris (Desperate Housewives’ Kevin Rahm). He wants to grill him about the dead girl who is not Annika but could be someone from the club, and Bob wants to rip into him about the DEA situation, a confrontation that ends with an essential threat that Romero’s sheriff position is in trouble. Romero really gets the crap end of the stick in this episode—he’s later approached by a charming newcomer named Marcus (Adetomiwa Edun) who seems to want to talk pleasantries, but is really (as Romero rightly guesses) trying to run for sheriff, with every intention of pushing Romero to the curb.
As for Gunner, Caleb, and Dylan? The three men are continuing their work on their weed barn. Problem: They need something tough to frame the roof, because the cheap stuff won’t work. Solution: Caleb wants to use the money from his mom’s death and buy new wood for Dylan as a gift. Conflict: Dylan refuses, because he still doesn’t want his biological father’s help in any way. Enter: Emma, who arrives at the weed farm with a ton of plants taking up space in her car, because the girl who made the delivery won’t bring them anywhere but the motel. She sees Gunner for the first time since the unfortunate swimming incident of last season, and the awkwardness of the situation only escalates when Caleb introduces himself. Remember how I said Emma is basically going to the secret keeper of season 3? Let’s add this to her vault of intel: She knows Norma’s brother is here, and is not supposed to tell anyone. I feel like I can see the possible relationship deterioration already. (Now, where did I put that crystal ball…)
Tensions continue to rise on the Farm ‘O Feelings when Dylan comes home and finds that Caleb has spent money on the lumber, despite his son’s insistence not to. At this point, Caleb is just trying really, really hard to forge that father-son bond and we’re almost starting to feel bad for him. If Dylan keeps being so stubborn, however, it’s pretty safe to say that soon beers and lumber won’t do much.
NEXT: The Secret Club Of The Damaged