While most moms try to juggle PTA meetings with soccer practice, Norma Bates’ balls consist of much seedier stock: sex slaves, dead prostitutes, blackmailing schemes, drug dealers and crazy boyfriends keep Norma hanging on by a very thin thread. But nothing takes precedence over Norma’s relationship with her son, Norman.
Norman is a “sensitive” boy, prone to homicidal flights of fancy, but Norma — who put the mother in smother — does her best to keep Norman out of jail and still have a home-cooked meal on the table by six. As devoted a mother as Norma is, she’s had her share of missteps. Looking back at some of Norma’s exploits, it’s obvious that nurture plays as much a part in Norman’s psychosis as nature. Here’s a look at a few of Norma’s more questionable parenting decisions.
11. Norma Cleans Up Norman’s Mess
After Norman (Freddie Highmore) kills his father by clocking him in the head with a blender, Norma’s (Vera Farmiga) maternal instincts kick in. Instead of calling the police and telling them her son was trying to protect her from her abusive husband, she chooses to cover Norman’s tracks.
Norma tucks her catatonic son in for a nap and gets to work. There’s no time to mourn her dead spouse, Sam (David Cubitt). Norma drags Sam’s body into the garage and looks around for anything that might explain his gaping head wound. Spying a large metal shelf, she pulls it down on Sam’s lifeless body. When Norman wakes up, he has no memory of what happened. Disoriented, Norman searches the house and discovers his dad’s body. A frantic Norman finds Norma in the shower, and she keeps up the pretense that daddy dearest met his untimely demise strictly by accident. She collects the insurance money, buys a motel in a picturesque seaside town, and moves as far away from the scene of the crime as possible.
10. Norma Makes Her Son an Accomplice
Norman sneaks out to attend a party with his dream girl and returns home to find his mother being raped by the motel’s former owner, Keith Summers (W. Earl Brown). Norman knocks him out, and Norma is able to subdue Summers with handcuffs — Summers came prepared. The man comes to and taunts Norma, telling her she loved it. That’s enough to push her over the edge, and Norma stabs him, again and again and again and again. Norman wants to call the police, but his mother refuses, believing the incident will be bad for business. He begins to panic, questioning how they’re supposed to sop up the mess, but cooler heads prevail, and Norma comes up with a plan.
With Summers’ body wrapped up and stored in a bathtub for safe keeping, Norma and Norman are forced to do some unexpected renovating in the middle of the night. Big guys bleed A LOT, and some of Keith’s insides found their way on to the carpet in one of the rooms. After a close call with Sheriff Romero (Nestor Carbonell), they are able to dump Summers’ body in the bay. Just an added perk of living by the ocean.
Even Norma, who has the ability to rationalize the most absurd decisions, tells Norman she’s a horrible mother, but her worth isn’t diminished in his eyes as he tells her, “You’re my family. My whole family, my whole life, my whole self.”
9. Norma Fails to Leave a Forwarding Address
Norma moves to White Pine Bay to escape her past, but she’s surprised when it shows up on her front porch one morning. Norman may be Norma’s favorite son, but he isn’t her only son. Her eldest, Dylan (Max Thieriot), manages to track down his mother in spite of the fact that she didn’t bother to inform him she was moving.
It isn’t a heartfelt reunion, and Dylan isn’t in the house ten minutes before Norma questions when he’ll be leaving. Dylan is the odd son out, and he and his mother have a tumultuous past. He considers Norma nothing more than an adulteress skank with an unnatural attachment to her baby boy, an attachment Norma insists is normal as opposed to the vitriol-fueled interactions between Dylan and herself.
8. Norma Dates a Demented Lawman
Sheriff Romero spots Keith Summers’ truck near the motel. It seems Summers has gone missing, and Romero considers Norma a person of interest in the case. She decides to cozy up to Romero’s second-in-command, Deputy Zach Shelby (Mike Vogel), in an effort to gain an ally. The two begin a clandestine affair, and Norma finds herself reciprocating Shelby’s genuine feelings for her. It’s hard to resist a man who destroys evidence on your behalf. Norma even believes Shelby could prove to be a positive influence on her son, and encourages him to fill the recently vacated position of father figure in Norman’s life. Little does she know that Shelby was augmenting his civil servant salary by dealing in the trafficking of women as sex slaves, and he just so happens to have a girl chained up in his basement. Norman tries to warn his mother, but she refuses to believe him until Norman and his best gal pal Emma (Olivia Cooke) rescue the girl and bring her to the motel.
Once Shelby learns Norma is hiding his business investment, he explodes in a fit of rage and holds her, Norman and Dylan at gunpoint in their kitchen. Shelby begins to hit Norma, triggering one of Norman’s blackouts, and he attacks. The romance of the century is ended when Dylan shoots Shelby and he collapses dead on the outside steps.
7. Norma Asks Dylan for an Odd Favor
You can take the sex slave ring out of the motel, but you can’t take the motel out of the sex trade. A mysterious man, Jake Abernathy (Jere Burns), turns up at the motel with an unclear agenda, until it’s revealed that he was in business with the former owner, Summers, and Zach Shelby. The fact that his former associates are dead concerns Abernathy less than the $150,000 they owe him.
Abernathy, convinced Norma has the money, threatens to kill her if she doesn’t hand it over. Unsure if she can trust Sheriff Romero to handle the situation, Norma decides to take a different tact and ask Dylan to procure her a gun. How or why she knows her eldest son has the resources to grant this request isn’t even part of the conversation. Her curiosity is piqued when Dylan delivers, and even though Norma is considering killing someone in cold blood, she expresses her displeasure about the boy’s job in the marijuana trade.
6. Norma’s Ill-Timed Decision to Reveal Her Past
Norma and Norman live together, (or they did until he was recently committed), work together and sometimes even sleep together, so it’s surprising it took so long for Norma to reveal one especially disturbing aspect to her closest confidant. There were hints Norma’s upbringing wasn’t of the white-picket variety — a large, mysterious scar on her thigh, for instance — but when it came to her past, mum was the word.
Just as Norman is preparing to go to his first dance, Norma breaks the news that her brother sexually abused her for the better part of her life. Norman, clad in a suit and bow tie, gets bombarded with the intimate details of Norma’s incestuous relationship with her sibling. She breaks down, and a dumbfounded Norman does his best to comfort Norma in the last minutes before his date arrives. Parenting at its finest.
5. Norma Spills a Family Secret
When Norma’s estranged older brother, Caleb (Kenny Johnson), arrives in White Pine Bay, Dylan welcomes him into the family with open arms, though when Norma arrives home to find Caleb, she throws him out of the house. She also instructs Dylan to never let his uncle back in the house, ever. This doesn’t put an end to Dylan’s relationship with Caleb, who fails to reveal the entirety of his sordid past with his sister. They bond over being black sheep, both cast aside by Norma.
Dylan pleads Caleb’s case to Norma, insisting that her brother is a nice guy. Dylan’s heart is in the right place, but he doesn’t know all the facts, of course. Norma tells Dylan about the repeated sexual assaults, but he doesn’t buy it. In the short time Dylan has known Caleb, he’s been kinder to Dylan and opened up to him more than Norma ever has. Norman walks in on the two arguing and he leaps to defend his mother, mercilessly punching his brother in the face until Norma puts an end to the fight by announcing Caleb is Dylan’s father.
4. Norma Keeps Norman in the Dark
Norman’s episodes begin to occur more often after the mysterious death of his favorite teacher, Ms. Watson (Keegan Connor Tracy), and while he isn’t entirely clueless about his blackouts, he has yet to realize the violent repercussions. When Cody Brennan befriends Norman, she witnesses him check out on a few occasions. After Norman accidentally pushes Cody’s drunken father (Michael Rogers) down a flight of stairs, resulting in his untimely demise, Sheriff Romero conducts an investigation. Norma worries if her son’s blackouts come to light, it could sway the outcome of the the investigation, so she pleads with Cody not to tell the police.
Cody eventually tells Norman about his mother’s concern over the blackouts, stating that whatever Norman does during these lost periods of time scares the hell out of Norma. Young Norman confronts his mother, determined to uncover the truth, but she demands that he never ask her about it again. This proclamation leaves him frustrated, angry, distrustful and more confused than ever. It also sparks something of a cold war between the two.
3. Norma Ignores a Confession
In the months following Miss Watson’s death, Norman obsesses about the identity of the killer. Then the arrival of Norma’s brother, and Norman’s summer fling with Cody Brennan took precedence. It was an eventful summer in White Pine Bay, especially for the Bates clan, who find themselves in the center of a drug war.
Norman gets kidnapped and held captive in a box in the woods, and begins to remember the night of the dance; the night Miss Watson was brutally murdered. Memories of having sex with her and subsequently slitting her throat come roaring back. After being rescued, Norman confesses to his mother that it was he that killed Miss Watson. This explains why the police found Norman’s semen in the promiscuous teacher, the pearls he took from Miss Watson’s home to keep as a token, and his lack of an exact timeline for his whereabouts that night. Norma refuses to believe her son. As adamant as Norman is that he sliced and diced his teacher, she is equally convinced that her son is suffering hallucinations brought on by trauma. She refuses to believe him, telling him instead to eat his pot roast before it gets cold.
2. Norma Struggles with Boundaries
Norma, until he starts totally going off the rails, always showed her affection for Norman with fierce intensity — lingering kisses on the lips, passionate embraces, etc. The pair (until recently) live together in a rambling house, yet their bedrooms are connected with an adjoining door. Following his suicide attempt, Norman begins spending the night in the same bed as his mother. Not only that, but Norman spoons her like a lover after a night of sexcapades.
Dylan stumbles across the twosome one morning, and no matter how she justifies the sleeping arrangement to herself, she knows Dylan will object. Dylan (understandably) finds it “weird” than an 18-year-old guy would snuggle with his mother. Norma insists her eldest is overreacting, though she ejects Norman from her bed anyway — only to let him return for a one-time engagement a few nights later. Not long after this does Norman begin to question if the feelings he has for his mother are sexual in nature. This is about as cringe-inducing as television gets, folks.
1. Norma Encourages Dylan to Commit Murder
Thanks to her association with Nick Ford (Michael O’Neill), the head of one of the two rival drug families in White Pine Bay, Norma finds herself in a bit of a bind. After stalling construction on the bypass that could sink the Bates Motel, Ford asks Norma for a favor. She realizes Nick is an unsavory character and severs their ties, or so she thinks. Ford kidnaps Norman as leverage, so Norma will try and persuade Dylan to kill his boss, Zane Carpenter (Michael Eklund). It’s not like Dylan hadn’t killed before — unless a revenge-fueled hit and run doesn’t count — but he struggles with the idea of offing someone who isn’t a total stranger.
Norma isn’t interested in debating with Dylan the ethics or legality of such an act. She wants Nick Ford out of their lives, by any means necessary. It’s Zane or Norman, and Dylan must choose. It seems safe to say that Norma isn’t winning any parenting awards anytime soon.
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