Season 2, Episode 10: The Immutable Truth (Season Finale)
Bates Motel wrapped up its uneven second season Monday night with an above-average season finale that focused largely on the Norma/Norman Bates dynamic, delivering at least one brilliantly cringe-inducing moment. It was a significant improvement over the first season finale, which meandered and only really delivered significant thrills in its final moments.
The dynamic duo of Sheriff Romero and Dylan (both saddled with material better suited to a different show) freed Norman from the metal box half-buried in the woods near White Pine Bay. Norma quickly took over by professing her deep love for son/nephew Dylan and by continuing to shelter Norman with the intent of pushing off as long as she could the polygraph test Romero demanded.
But we all knew that’s what the season would lead up to, right? How would Norman manage to evade the test and avoid incrimination for the murder of Blair Watson? How far would Norma go to protect her son? Turns out, it was Montreal. In a scene I liked quite a bit, Norma revealed to Dylan her dilemma with the polygraph test and her plan to run away to Montreal, including Dylan in her escape plans. Dylan was powerfully moved to tears at what I assume to be Norma’s first overt demonstration of love toward him. It was Max Thieriot’s finest moment in the season, carrying the subtle and tender moment with his mother.
Dylan did manage to bring Norma back to reality with the supposition that Norman should take the test and potentially receive the help he needed. It’s a logical, common sense conclusion that Norma was incapable of reaching on her own. It would mean giving up Norman, clearly something she never would consider independently.
Norman, meanwhile, began making a final to-do list that contained the following items among others: apple pie, taxidermy, Emma, and Mother. The list provided his exit strategy after realizing he had murdered not only Miss Watson but also his father. He said goodbye to Emma and Norma by, in a way, giving them each what they most wanted out of life: Emma, the sense of belonging to a family (by confiding in the Norma/Dylan secret), and Norma, the light-hearted fun she so longed for with her son.
After leaving a suicide note and taxidermy gift (a bird, of course), Norman fled to the woods, gun in hand, to kill himself. Norma raced after him and attacked him, resulting in a climactic mother/son showdown and the Big Moment of the night: the kiss.
After telling Norman her version of the truth – confessing that Norman had indeed killed his father but only to protect his mother – Norma dissuades Norman from suicide by kissing him fully on the lips. It was a passionate, loving kiss. Between mother and son. After countless scenes of undressing in front of Norman, touching him just seconds too long, and lounging with him in his bed, she finally crossed that line. You can interpret the scene in several ways. Norma equates physical violence with sex (her history with her brother and the interrupted rape early in season one), and, threatened with Norman’s gun, she reacts to the situation in a near-sexual way. I doubt she harbors sexual lust for her son, but it’s not clear how Norman interprets the act.
He only responds with “You win, mother.”
Finally, the depth of Norman’s split personality fully reveals itself after suggestions and previews earlier this season. He is able to pass the polygraph by attributing the murder of Miss Watson to the persona of Mother who appears beside him and fully confesses to the crime. Interestingly, we never see Norman free of the polygraph. Instead, the season closes with a variation of the iconic Norman Bates knowing smile while still strapped to the chair. It set up a promising start for Season 3 where Norman will presumably hone his skills – taxidermy and otherwise.
With the supporting cast now largely reduced to Dylan and Sheriff Romero, I hope the writers find a way to better integrate them into the central Bates story. With Norma losing her society ties and presumably her seat on the town council, I suspect Season 3 will bring the infamous highway project back into the foreground, effectively cutting off the Bates Motel from the rest of the world and setting up what should be a graceful limited run to the series.