If her first few months as a resident of White Pine Bay are any indication, Norma Bates is no stranger to trouble. Whether it is a minor hiccup like Norman's troubles at school or something more diabolical, like attempting to cover up a murder, you would think she would possess a little more poise.
When Norma feels like she is in control of a situation, she is calm, cool and collected. In "A Boy and His Dog," laboring under the major misconception that she had some camaraderie with Sheriff Romero," Norma goes to ask him to nominate her for an empty seat on the city planning committee. She is vulnerable, friendly and respectful. Then Romero bursts her bubble when he divulges to her the true nature of their relationship,"We don't owe each other anything. We're not friends. You don't know me in any social sense other than as your sheriff. Don't assume differently just 'cause I was kind enough to save your ass once." Realizing things are not going her way, Norma reverts to behavior that has become familiar to viewers when she feels out of control.
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On Bates Motel
, Norma goes through multiple shifts in personality and mood, similar to someone trying to process grief. Only Norma is trying to deal with threats either directly to her and Norman or their lifestyle. They don't always occur in the same order, but she undergoes them, albeit sometimes quite briefly, depending on the situation. Here are six signs Norma's about to lose control.1. Lying
Although Norma lies often, she doesn't do so seamlessly. Plus, her attempts at deception almost always fail and she's forced to try another way to deal with her problems. She lied to Norman's doctors about his having a history of blackouts. She lied to Dylan's father when she had an affair with Norman's father. She lied to the police and her attorney about Keith Summers. Most of all she's lied to Norman, about how his father died and his apparent mental health issues. She's even lied to herself about her skills as a mother. To face the truth of how she's contributed to Norman's abnormalities is unbearable to her.
Norma's anger is uncontrollable, and she can snap when she feels threatened or disappointed. When the sheriff denied her his help, she immediately hinted at blackmail. When Norman's therapist suggested that Norma feels she has little or no control over her own life, she immediately returns to the motel and throws Mr. Abernathy out. Norman has inherited this personality trait from his mother. He's physically attacked Dylan and Shelby and verbally attacked Bradley.
The one thing that panics Norma most is the threat of either losing or being separated from Norman whether it be to another legal guardian or to the dark depths of his mental issues, a pretty, young girl or even the authorities. When she couldn't procure the rug that she had ripped up out of the motel the night Keith Summers died, Norma got hysterical. When Shelby showed up unexpectedly at the motel while the Chinese girl was there, Norma was paralyzed with fear and powerless to come up with a plan to keep the girl's presence a secret or to protect her. Lying didn't work and she couldn't muster up her earlier anger.
If Norma needs time to think or to formulate a plan, she'll try to avoid a difficult situation or person. She left Arizona and moved to Oregon and gave no thought to informing Dylan. After her initial rage subsides when she finds out Shelby had a sex slave hidden on his boat, she kept her distance. This was so Shelby wouldn't find out that Norma was housing the Chinese girl at the motel. She was fearful of what the repercussions would mean for her and Norman. She unsuccessfully tries to get Norman out of having to go to therapy at school by saying she would take him to see someone in the private sector. Unfortunately, she didn't count on his teacher or the administration's persistence that they are to be kept informed of his progress.
There is no stronger weapon in Norma's arsenal than guilt. She used it constantly on Shelby. Norma easily manipulated him not only with sex but with all her concerns about Norman and her devotion to her son. When she finds out that Norman is planning to live with his brother she says, "I don't care if Shelby comes back and kills me." Then she just whimpered "why, why?" She never fails to point out the sacrifices that she makes for him.
Unlike her anger, Norma's scorn is cold and calculated. When Dylan shows up unannounced, Norma makes it clear is not welcome. While she smothers Norman with warmth and affection, she treats her other son with contempt. After she is arrested for the murder of Keith Summers, she treats Norman with contempt because he was spending the night with Bradley while she was stuck in jail. Later, when he tells her that he believes Bradley likes him, she snorts in derision. That action seems to be more of a comment on Bradley's character than an insult directed towards her son. Had Shelby not shown up at the motel the night he was killed, he would have surely felt Norma's wrath.
As Bates Motel progresses, what other disturbed or deviant behaviors is Norma bound to reveal? More importantly, how will they further affect Norman? And will we see even more of her influence on him in future episodes?
Bates Motel airs on Mondays at 10pm on A&E.
(Image courtesy of A&E)