We begin with Norman browsing his flipbook-o-torture porn that he found like it’s his own little animated snuff film. Downstairs, Dylan, the older brother, has arrived at the front door and Mother is none too pleased about it. He’s here because he’s without a job and a little miffed that Mother up and moved state without telling him, but Mother is more interested in sending him on his way as soon as possible. At the bus stop in front of the motel, the super model coeds wait for Norman. Been in school less than a week and he already has groupies. Super model #1 is crushing on him bad and wants to know if he’ll help her study. But for realz, not in a metaphor-y kind of way. Just then, the super model’s dad’s car speeds past them, crashing into the ditch. Norman reaches the car first to find the driver is a man badly burned.
Just a flesh wound.
Later, the Sheriff and his Deputy tell Mother that someone intentionally set fire to the man’s warehouse and he must have been caught in it. Unfortunately, in investigating the crash, the police find Keith Summers’ truck on the Bates’ property. Ruh roh! Someone forgot to ditch the truck with the body, apparently. Inconvenient murder aside, Norman attempts to bring a flower to Super Model #1, who I’m just going to start calling Becky because she has no other personality to speak of, at the hospital as she waits for news about her burned father. Norman is stopped, however, by Richard, the other student who served no purpose. Richard says he’ll give the flower to Becky and Norman can just run along home now, Richard will be doing all the comforting and misery sexing of the super models here, thank you. Sent to school, Norman finds himself partnered on a poetry assignment to Emma, the girl with cystic fibrosis.
Dylan, malcontent that he is, visits a strip club and finds a man crying there. Can’t be good for the dancers’ self-esteem. The man confesses that his boss is the burned man and that he’s probably not going to make it. Dylan’s all “yeah life sucks” until he notices the fat wad of cash the crying man pays with and asks how he came into that kind of coin. Coming home that night, Dylan and Mother get into it. Turns out that Mother left Dylan’s father to be with Norman’s father (given how Norman’s father ended up, might be a blessing in disguise) and Dylan’s never forgiven Mother and Norman’s closeness (see above, re: blessing.) He baits her, asking where she got the money for a new motel and new house, anyway? “Insurance,” Mother sniffs, unconvincingly.
Mother and Norman obsessively clean the kitchen in anticipation of greater police presence near the house when Emma arrives for the study date. Dylan handles this about as well as an older brother who hates his family would. Mother isn’t pleased until she learns that the sickly girl is just here to study. Whew, crisis averted! Yes, dear, you can totally study with my son in a way that won’t present you as a threat to his attentions for me. How is that life-threatening illness of yours, anyway, and about how much longer do you have left to live? (She literally asks that last part, by the way.) Emma and Norman go over their assignment and consider using William Blake’s The Tyger as a metaphor for serial killers and God allowing bad things to happen. In the process, Emma finds the sketch book. Rather than be creeped out, she’s intrigued. “I’ve read a lot of manga,” she explains and asks to borrow it. Tentacle porn FTW!
That night, Mother has a visitor – the Sheriff is back (I should really learn his name) and he’s brought Deputy Shelby with him. They’re sniffing for clues on Mother’s story about never seeing Summers when a neighbor heard them fight earlier in the day. The next day, Mother finds Shelby in town and begins to flirt with him about the grilling they gave her. Shelby tells her that Summers and the Sheriff grew up together, which is why he’s so eager. He then sorta kinda asks her to go to a town event that night and she “demurely” accepts, seeing an opportunity. Back home, Mother giddily dresses for her date, asking Norman how she looks. When Norman disapproves of her outfit, she takes it off in front of him in favor of another. “I’m your mother,” she says when he grown visibly uncomfortable. “It’s not like it’s weird or anything.”
Beg to differ, Madam.
Meanwhile, Dylan is getting comfy with the local criminal underworld via the sobbing man from the strip club. When he comes home, the two boys try to have something approaching a family dinner, but it very quickly devolves into a physical fight when Norman notices that Dylan has Mother listed in his phone as “The Whore”. Honestly, Dylan kinda sounds like the reasonable one in this fight, pointing out that Norman and Mother’s relationship is creepy and Dylan wouldn’t be there if he literally didn’t have any other option. Dylan may be a punk, but it’s hard to argue with his position here.
Mother’s date with Shelby is to a community log sawing event. Ah, the Pacific Northwest. Shelby confides to Mother after a drink or two that Summers was kind of a train wreck and was involved in something illegal which is totes why they probably can’t find him right now. Mother says she just wants a normal town for Norman. Shelby darkly points out that nothing in this town is what it seems; how else do you explain how so many people make their living selling artisanal cheeses and organic vegetables but somehow live in million dollar homes? He says the town deals with things in its own way and the burn victim at the start of the show “will be dealt with.” Yup. This town sounds about right for this family.
Arriving home, Mother freaks at seeing Norman’s bruises and decides to kick Dylan out. Norman gets a text from Emma asking him to meet her at her father’s shop. Norman lies to Emma about how he got his bruises but she sees right through it. Fun sidebar, her father is an amateur taxidermist and professional foreshadower. Anyway, Emma’s been translating the Chinese in the torture porn sketch book and has figured out that it tells about Chinese girls lured to America as maids only to be sold into prostitution. The book also illustrates a local mountain range where bodies of these girls are buried. Emma wants to investigate and after a sudden and sweet kiss, Norman agrees. Back home, Mother attempts to throw Dylan out, sparking another argument. Dylan confesses that he found them through Mother’s insurance people who were very kind about how tragic it was that Mother’s husband died, the poor dear. Dylan says it’s funny that no one seems to know how Mother and her husband got along, implying the relationship was not a happy one. He wonders what the police would make of that.
You can tell he's the ne'er-do-well by his jacket and unshaven face.
In the woods the next day, Norman and Emma hike to where she thinks the mountain range is. They are on the right track when they stumble onto a field of marijuana and are chased off by men with guns. Running not being easy with Emma’s cystic fibrosis, this is not the best thing for her. Fear not, they make it back to the car and speed off before the marijuana hillbillies can get them. Back in town, Mother is driving through the town square when she notices a commotion – someone has hung a man’s still-burning body from the town flagpole. Shelby is directing traffic and waives her on, suggesting, as he said earlier, that things have been “dealt with.”
I’m intrigued as to where this is going. The inclusion of the strange town around the Bates Motel plotline seems very Twin Peaks to me, which as a fan of that show I’m totally fine with. That may also help keep the plots moving forward since not everything is going to have to be about waiting for Norman to put on Mother’s dress.