The second season finale of Bates Motel (episode 10, “The Immutable Truth”) ends with both a whimper and a bang. The whimper comes from Norman’s storyline where the mystery surrounding the murder of Miss Watson is quietly laid to rest. The bang comes from Dylan’s storyline where the drug war between Nick Ford and Zane Morgan is loudly brought to fruition. Both are tidy conclusions, free of cliffhangers, and they represent how far our characters have come during the season.
Let’s start with Dylan. For the first few episodes of season two, he was barely present, appearing onscreen only to fulfill his role as the voice of reason in a world of unreasonable people. As the season progressed, though, he reluctantly became a more integral part of the Morgan’s marijuana business just as he angrily became a less integral part of the Bates family. More a victim of circumstance than an opportunist, Dylan was ultimately a pawn who may, if Sheriff Romero has his way, become the new drug kingpin of White Pine Bay.
More interesting to me is the fact that he seems to have reconciled with Norma following his participation in the release of Norman from the “box” where he had been held hostage. Norma asks, “You found him? I love you Dylan. I love you so much.” Later, when she feels the only option for her family is to flee to Montreal, she tells Dylan, “I got three tickets. I want you to come.” She apologizes to him and says, “I wouldn’t give you up for anything.” A big, mutual hug follows and all seems to be well between the two.
Another character barely present at the beginning of the season was Emma. As the season progressed, though, she experienced a passionate affair with Gunner. This was healthy for her because it got her mind off Norman, and we’d never seen her so happy. But when Gunner disappeared (and I still cannot remember a sendoff), Emma became obsessed with feeling left out of the Bates family and threatened to quit her job at the motel. I found her to be a little unbearable during this phase.
In the season finale, though, Norman finally confides in her and explains the big secret that she thinks he’s hiding. When he tells her that Norma’s brother raped her and Dylan was the result, Emma is shocked. Whether the revelation is enough to keep her around, though, remains to be seen. Norman has a selfish reason for suddenly sharing this secret: he’s planning to commit suicide to escape the impending polygraph test and wants Emma to be around for his mother. “My mother loves you, Emma. She loves having you here.”
We all know Norman is not going to commit suicide, and honestly, I’m not sure the fact that he even considers it is true to the character. But it does force a repair, perhaps temporary, to the rift between mother and son that has been growing wider throughout the season. After Norma tackles him in the woods, he cries, “There’s something wrong with me. I’m bad.” She replies, “I will die if you leave me. We have to be together… we’re supposed to be together.” She kisses him, perhaps inappropriately, and he surrenders, “All right, Mother, you win.”
During the final segment of the episode, Norman does indeed take the polygraph test. It’s an excellently-crafted sequence; quiet, yet suspenseful. It immediately reminded me of the end of Psycho where Norman sits completely still while in detention. I thought that young Norman would just be able to shut down his body to fool the polygraph. However, it plays out a little differently, in a simultaneously definitive yet ambiguous way. It’s a perfect ending to an imperfect season. There’s no cliffhanger, but I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Finally, what of Norma, the larger than life character whose antics often overshadow those of her son, the future serial killer? In last week’s conference call, series co-creator Carlton Cuse stated, “I think part of the story this season has really been about, you know, seeing how kind of close to the sun Norma can fly.” She flew pretty high. She was befriended by Christine and started dating her brother. Her motel became a successful business and she earned a seat on the city council.
But she was ready to give it all up for her son. After driving George away last week, Christine snubs Norma at the grocery store this week. “I thought you had gotten a bad rap, but you’re a train wreck.” This may have ramifications for her council seat, which, don’t forget, was obtained through her relationship with a now-dead drug lord. “I don’t know what people want from me,” she complains to Norman. “We’re together. That’s all that matters.” She’s fallen pretty far now, and is perhaps the one character who ends the season right back where she started it.
In closing, let’s pay tribute to the characters who briefly paraded through Bates Motel this season. These are the unsung heroes who irregularly guest-starred in order to advance the story, but not to linger as part of the story itself, no matter how interesting they were. We hardly knew you: Remo, Zane, Nick Ford, Cody Brennan, George Heldens, Gunner, Jodi, Caleb, and probably more that I’m forgetting. Your sacrifices are not forgotten. We wouldn’t be where we are today without you. And Bates Motel would not be the same.