“The Deal” is a singular title, but there’s actually three or four that take place in this episode of Bates Motel. At the halfway point of this season, the arc is starting to come together to include the Arcanum Club on the list of people Norma and Norman have pissed off, and Bob Paris is most likely the subject of the episode’s name. But there are also a couple of other treaties struck between characters that are just as important – maybe not to the season as a whole, but for things happening at this point in the series. Norman and Dylan’s deal, for example, is one of the most exciting because of its implications and the immediate consequences of it.
Before we get to that, though, it’s crucial we discuss how Norma finds herself in the clutches of Bob Paris and the Arcanum Club in the first place. “The Deal” starts with Norma being run off the road by a pretty sweet car, the guy stopping to ask if she’s okay while also acting as a menacing figure meant to scare her into returning the flash drive. She knows she can’t do that, especially because Annika gave it to her as a way to save the motel. If there’s some sort of riches on there, she’s not giving it back without something in return.
But she does confess to Sheriff Romero, prompting a feud between the two – Romero knows the danger of Bob Paris and wants her to give the flash drive back, but Norma wants to broker a deal. Eventually, Norma wins out because of a meltdown that leaves her cradled in Romero’s arms; it’s a perfect moment, one where the audience isn’t sure if Norma’s actually serious or if she’s simply playing Romero.
It leads to the deal of the episode, where Norma and Romero sit down with Bob Paris for a tete a tete. Norma throws out figures seemingly endlessly – “I want the freeway to have an exit to Main Street and my motel, I want a sign on both sides, I want a swimming pool” – before delivering the coup de grace: she won’t give up the flash drive, even after Paris delivers on her demands.
“The Deal” proves comical because of Norma’s terrible deal-making skills. Romero’s there for laughs, too, because his constant side-glances and blank stares provide even more comedy – this isn’t how he expected this to go down, and Norma’s digging herself a bigger hole. Surprisingly, though, Bob Paris agrees as long as Norma doesn’t ask for anything more, but it’s done with such a swelling of sinister music that it’s clear the Arcanum Club ain’t done with Norma yet.
Things are going well for Norma, too, because she’s asked out to lunch by the lovely psych professor James Finnigan. She asks him outright if he’s interested in her – he is – and then she agrees she might seek him out for some psychological help. She even has a budding love interest, but “The Deal” consistently comes back to Romero as the savior. The flirtation between Finnigan and Norma is there, but it feels stronger with Romero.
More deals occur, though. The other big one happens between Norman and Dylan, after Norman finds out that he never told Norma about Caleb staying with Dylan. Maybe he’s mad at Norma because of their quibbles in this episode, or maybe he really does think it’s a good idea to tell her; whatever the case, he convinces Dylan to sit down with Norma and explain the situation, providing a sidebar himself.
“The Deal” brings up a deeper personal turmoil within Norman, one that furthers his transformation into the Norman Bates of Psycho. Jealous of Dylan, questioning his mother’s distance, he steals his favorite dress of hers, smelling it and then hiding it in his room. It’s a temper tantrum moment, but there’s that hint of the cross-dressing that will occur later in the series as Norman’s psychosis gets worse. Bates Motel is really layering on that development this season, and these throwbacks (or forwards?) to Psycho are great to see.
That turmoil isn’t more apparent than the episode’s finale, after Dylan and Norman have had the sit-down with Norma. It doesn’t go well – more specifically, she takes it terribly – and she storms out of the house, packing her stuff in the process. Norman’s left to call out to his mother over and over again without success, watching her leave because of his own doing.
That weird hippy guy Chick, played by Ryan Hurst, shows up again to talk to Caleb, and that’s the other deal of this episode, sort of. He offers Caleb a transporting job – I think we’re talking drugs – and gives him a couple days to think about it, and that’s about all “The Deal” has time for between the two of them. Chick’s character is really interesting, but it’s hard to see how he plays into this season. The same goes for Dylan’s new marijuana crop.
“The Deal,” though, is a great slice of Bates Motel that keeps pushing Norman closer and closer to the psycho he will become. At the same time, it’s venturing into different territory – the Arcanum Club aspect continues to impress me, especially now that Norma has worked out an odd deal with them. It’s hard to say right now, but I think season 3 has so far done the best at involving all of the characters in Bates Motel, and that’s very apparent in “The Deal,” putting multiple characters into conflict and negotiation at the same time.