Review: Bates Motel S5, E02: The Convergence of the Twain

Previously on Bates Motel… A cell phone rang inside the pocket of the dead man in plastic wrap that Norman (Freddie Highmore) and “Norma’s Ghost” (Vera Farmiga) were trying to lift into the trunk of her car. It was Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell), asking for Jim.

It seems that Romero sent Jim to kill Norman. At the beginning of episode 502, “The Convergence of the Twin,” Norman visits Alex in prison. “I’m here because you were worried about me. It was kind of you to send your friend…” He continues to taunt him with the fact that he’s alive and well, roaming freely while Alex is imprisoned. However, Alex gets the last word, “I’m coming for you when you least expect it, so don’t get too cozy in that house all by yourself.”

Following this encounter, Alex finds himself on the losing side of a fistfight with another inmate. Don’t feel too sorry for him. It may have been his intention to end up in a hospital bed so he can remind the authorities he’s there on trumped up charges and he can request a visit from his lawyer. This, in turn, leads to the possibility that he’ll be given more freedom in a different facility where, “devastated by his wife’s death,” he can be free to his poor stepson.

Meanwhile, Norman interrupts his mother’s self-taught French lesson to tell her he went to see Romero. He says, “He thinks that I killed you. He’s crazy.” Norma replies “I can handle him when he gets out.” The son asks his mother if that means she would kill him. He asks if she still has feelings for him. It’s a frustrating conversation in which Norman seems to have the upper hand. Norma says, “Pretending to be dead isn’t as much fun as I thought it would be.”

Let’s pause for a moment to contemplate the complexity of this exchange. Obviously, Norman is having an internal conversation with two parts of himself. He’s laying groundwork for Alex’s death by removing himself from the plan and setting the stage for Norma to do his dirty work. Yes, the distinction is non-existent in reality, but critical for Norman psychologically. It’s during his blackouts that Norma acts and he can legitimately claim ignorance about what she does.

This makes what happens late in the episode even more fascinating. There’s a point when the dynamic changes from mother and son to Norma’s personality completely overtaking Norman’s. In this case, it’s when he becomes jealous, perhaps sexually frustrated, following a double-date with Madeleine (Isabelle McNally), her husband, and Joanne (Andrea Brooks), the girl with whom Madeleine arranged the evening with Norman.

Immediately prior to Norman’s “transformation,” Norma pops up in the back seat of the car and says/asks, “She looks like me, but 10 years younger. Are you going to be one of those guys?” Norman get out of the car, walks into a bar, and orders a bourbon, neat. The reflection in the mirror shows that this is now Norma. She tells the bartender, “I’m a caretaker for a mentally ill person. I don’t think he likes me anymore; makes me wonder why I’m doing it.”
In other parts of the episode, Dylan (Max Thieriot) and Emma (Olivia Cooke) appear in only one scene, the purpose of which is to remind us that she sent Caleb (Kenny Johnson) packing during the last episode. This is so there’s a reason for a bus to drop him off in front of the Bates Motel. Remember, he doesn’t yet know that Norma is dead. He’s puzzled when he walks through the empty, filthy house, but downright devastated when he finds out the truth.

When the clerk at the King’s Motel tells him that Norma committed suicide (“It made the local news”), he says it’s not true. “I was just with my son; he would have told me.” A trip to the cemetery convinces him. He finds a huge double monument with a long epitaph on one side, signed, “Love, Norman.” The other space is, of course, for Norman, so they can sleep through eternity side by side. Caleb falls to his knees and weeps.

By the end of the episode, Caleb is drinking in a bar when he encounters Chick (Ryan Hurst), who provokes him about his Norma’s death. Nearly to blows, Caleb tells him, “She wouldn’t kill herself. I warned her about her kid. I told her he was going to snap someday. He’s not getting away with it.” He storms off to the Bates house, the music swells, and he breaks in, “Norman! You’re not getting away. I know what you did.”

Let’s just say “Norman” is not home. What comes next is too good to spoil, as is a revelation earlier in the episode that binds some of the secondary characters together. It’s a terrific episode, complete with the signature Bates Motel humor that has been minimal lately. When Norman scolds his mother for smoking (“Seriously, Mother, it’s childish.”), she replies, “I’m dead. It’s not like it’s going to kill me.”

The Convergence of the Twain
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