Several truths were uncovered on tonight's episode of Bates Motel. Now that Norma knows the truth about Deputy Zack Shelby, this episode didn’t waste any time at all in letting the consequences unfold. We were also shown all of what happened to Norman’s father, Sam. Both of these events led to an eerie extended look at how Norman’s mental breaks play out and it definitely called back to the source material.
Before I get into talking about the downfall of Deputy Shelby, I’d like to talk about the promotion of Dylan. After the murder of his partner, Ethan, and the subsequent vehicular manslaughter of the guy who pulled the trigger, Dylan finds himself moving up in the criminal underworld of White Pine Bay. Hearing Gil the boss tell him in so many words how proud he was of him was likely the only time in Dylan’s life anyone’s said anything remotely resembling that sentiment. For once, he wasn’t the fuck-up and his initiative in taking vengeance against Ethan's killer was just a hint of just how far he’ll go when pushed. The killer instinct apparent isn’t solely in his little half-brother Norman.
In fact, this was quite the heroic hour for Dylan as he not only managed to make his new boss proud, but he also seems to have found a way to truly become an accepted part of his twisted family—an initiation that involved bloodshed. It was a relief that the cat and mouse between Norma and Zack wasn’t drawn out over several episodes after she knew the truth about him. It did give Vera Farmiga more chances to shine with her material though as that story of winding up with another bad man was so heartbreaking for her character. When she bemoaned about ‘everyone always getting away with everything’, it was easy to feel a great deal of sympathy for Norma even before we saw what an asshole Norman’s father was to her. Shelby’s story was resolved quickly enough when he realized that the missing girl from his basement was stashed away in one of the motel’s rooms. It all leads to a standoff between Zack Shelby, Norma, Norman, and Dylan that serves a dual purpose.
Dylan gets to prove that he’s capable of protecting his brother and his mother despite there being no love lost between himself and Norma. Dylan stared down the barrel of a gun more than once and he still found himself victorious. The other purpose of Shelby’s showdown, and really the entire story arc of the sex slave ring, was to drag Norma and Norman into a mess the moment they got there in order for Norman’s secret to reveal itself for the viewers at home.
The series started with a question: what really happened to Norman’s father? It was left a bit of a mystery until tonight when Norma told Dylan exactly what happened that fateful day before they packed up and left town. Sam abused Norma and they fought seemingly constantly—one day something in Norman switched over and he snapped. In every sense of the word, when Norman goes to that dark place it’s as though his face is replaced with a mask featuring just the ghost of a smile on his lips even though his eyes hold no joy within them. Every move he makes is completely deliberate but he truly has no idea after he acts that he’s done something at all.
Norman has no idea it was really him that killed his father and so having it be a mystery to him still was a smart move on the writers’ behalf to inch Norman over to Dylan’s side a little more each week back when it seemed just as likely that Norma did it instead. But now that Dylan knows the truth, it’s going to be up to him to help Norma protect Norman from himself. He may not have handled Shelby like he did his own father but there’s no telling what he’ll do if he’s under enough duress, especially if someone’s threatening his beloved mother. Did you see the dark look he gave toward Dylan when he was bad-mouthing Norma as they snooped around Shelby’s boat? I could easily see Dylan being the next blood on Norman’s hands.
So it seems that the grand escape plan of the ocean view property with Dylan seems out of the cards, I’m curious if Norman will continue to have his mental issues while living with Norma even after all of this. Even though Zach Shelby met his end, I don’t think it’s the last we’ll hear of the crimes he was associated with since those types of organizations tend to be pretty large and well-connected. While a town as infinitely shady as White Pine Bay will often do whatever it deems necessary to keep its nastiest secrets well-hidden.