WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
The focus falls primarily on Miss Watson’s death, although the strings of questions and grief quickly spread into a complicated and provocative web. Opening with a shot following a butterfly fluttering across a garden filled with flowers in bloom, the contrast with the next take, the principal’s call to Norma informing her of Miss Watson’s death, offers the promise of exploration between life and death, beauty and decay, and the role of deceptive appearances. Business is booming, the hotel seemingly flourishing, but like a budding flower, its days are numbered. Norman’s taxidermy in the basement adds another strong comparison; he chooses to cling to death even when surrounded by life.
Norma’s initial reaction to the principal’s call indicates her immediate suspicions that Norman is responsible. Norman’s behavior at the funeral only reinforces that notion. Playing off the cliché of rainfall and black umbrellas, the scene makes it clear that Norman stands alone. His insistence to stand in the rain suggests self-punishment, which points suspicion in his direction. His loud and emotional cries also show a level of grief disproportionate with a student mourning the loss of a teacher. When Norma pulls him beneath the umbrella, it begs the question: is she pulling him, essentially drawing him under her wing, because she wants to protect him? Does she believe she can shield him from the repercussions of yet another blacked-out crime of passion?
The pearls have a number of implications, representing themes similar to the juxtaposition of flowers and death. On the surface, they create an aesthetic quality demonstrative of beauty and class. Images of the idealistic ’50s housewife come to mind. They epitomize purity, a lovely contrast to Miss Watson’s affairs and Norman’s need to claim them (as a trophy?). Beneath their shiny surface lies a grain of sand or dirt—an irritant that sets off a biological reaction to sequester it. That grain of dirt could be Gil, Miss Watson’s jealous lover, but it also could be Norman. It might represent both. Or are the pearls not pearls at all but rather cheap imitations that hold varying degrees of value to both Miss Watson and Norman? Could neither be at all what they seem?
Both the road Norman drives under Norma’s supervision and the bypass they come across when she takes over the wheel show the battle between growth and destruction. Norman’s inability to drive a straight line might represent his inability to stay on the straight and narrow despite his desire to do so. His apprehensions over passing the RV demonstrate his inability to move forward: he chooses to wallow over the past rather than attempt to move on. His driving to the cemetery supports this idea. On an interesting parallel, Norma’s stopping at the bypass worksite indicates the town’s progress at the potential cost of the Bates Motel. It also indicates the greed and destruction fostered by the underground industry keeping the town afloat.
Ironically, Norma sees her hotel as the town’s one uncorrupted fragment. She refuses Dylan’s rent money because she knows he earned it cultivating marijuana. She wants to believe Norman is the sweet, innocent boy she loves, although it’s evident that she’s being fueled by denial. She views herself as a good, loving mother. With this in mind, there is likely much more hiding beneath the seemingly clean surfaces that lay within the motel and throughout the town. It is also likely that the body count is going to grow significantly before their collective secrets are revealed.