SPOILER ALERT: "Bates Motel" storyline and character spoilers ahead.
No sophomore slump here. If anything, "Bates Motel" Season 2 proved to be an even more compelling, shocking, over-the-top, and frequently funny journey with Norman and Norma Bates, brother Dylan, and the rest of the folks of White Pine Bay.
When we left the Bates clan in Monday's season finale, Norman had fully realized what he's capable of during his blackouts (like killing his teacher and father), Dylan was poised to become the town's new drug lord, and Norma, in denial as always, was embracing the idea that Norman passing a lie detector test regarding Miss Watson's murder meant he's not a psycho (or "Psycho") killer.
Where does that leave the family, their cohorts, and the quirky little burg of White Pine Bay for Season 3? "Bates Motel" executive producer Kerry Ehrin talked to Yahoo TV about the big Season 2 finale moments and where the storylines are headed in Season 3.
Now that Norman knows who he is and what he's done, what's he's capable of doing in his blackouts, is there any turning back?
There is no turning back, given his situation with his mother, because it's so important to her to keep the fantasy going. And because her happiness is pretty much his main directive in life. You know, even at the expense of himself. I think she's always going to have such a pull on him in that way, and he's always going to want to keep one foot in that fantasy to try to hold onto it.
Norman made it very clear — now that he knows about this other part of his personality — that he doesn't want to be this person, so much so that he actually went out and planned to kill himself. But he committed to sticking around for Norma. Will he insist that Norma try to get him some help, to try to find a way to deal with his problems instead of pretending they don't exist?
That's a great question. I think that's going to play into the storytelling next year, how they both interpret what has happened, and how they act on it. I think Norma is such a powerful force to him. You have to look at it like she's a tidal wave, and he's like a 2-year-old, a 2-year-old in the tide, and that's the power she has to him. And so I feel like she's always going to, to some extent, direct how they view [his illness], and I think part of what's going to evolve is his inner resentment that it isn't being dealt with. You know, that she wants to maintain the status quo, and because they have the out that he passed the test, she can always refer to that. Like, [she can say] he had a very good reason to attack his father, who was physically hurting her. Probably 90% of kids would do the same thing in an abusive home. And he didn't mean to kill him. He hit him on the head and the guy died, but... everything can kind of be explained retroactively. Norma's brilliance is her survival skill, and it's unfortunately also the thing that's going to doom her in the end. But it's fascinating to watch the process, and the give-and-take between those two people.
You mention Norma being doomed... is she? Is it a forgone conclusion that Norman's darker side will win out, and that these characters as we know them in "Bates Motel" have to become the characters we know in "Psycho"? Because we're invested in them, and I think we all hope they don't have to end up where we see them in the movie.
I feel like we are doing the story of Norman Bates. And I feel like that is heading in a certain direction. I think there's a lot of different ways to get to that direction, and there's different stories to tell about what it means. The life he has with his mom, even the fantasy life he has with his mom, or will one day have with his mom, it's an incredibly rich world. So, in "Psycho," you're seeing one part of it, you know, where you're seeing the veneer of Norman Bates, and [producer] Carlton [Cuse] and I have always felt that just being able to kind of look behind the door and see the whole world of it, it's a very rich world. I think it's honestly, it's like being in a dysfunctional family, where, everyday, you hope for the best. You hope that things will be different, you hope that people will work it out and get enlightened and be happy. And that's sort of the tragedy of dysfunction, is that it rarely does, but you hope that it will, and I feel like that's sort of what the show has succeeded in doing. [It's] kind of brought everybody into this dysfunctional family, so that we're all hoping they'll work it out. I literally go into denial when I write scripts... I don't think about where it's going, I just think about what's on the plate for them today, and how I want them to succeed and thrive and get out of it, because I love them.
Who is making the bigger sacrifice: Norman, in choosing to live in denial to remain with his mother, or is it Norma, choosing to live in denial to keep Norman out of jail or an institution?
At this point, it's Norman, because I feel like Norma is motivated by her tremendous need for her son to be with her. And that's coming out of a part of her that, you know, that's really damaged, that hasn't been dealt with, that's very fearful of being abandoned. So I feel like even though she's trying to protect him, there's her need involved in that. I think Norman at this point is completely altruistically trying to be present for his mom, because he loves her so much.
As much as the whole series is Norman's backstory and Norma's backstory, Dylan has become a really great character. The evolution of his relationship with Norma was a huge part of what made Season 2 so compelling. Considering the character isn't even a part of the movie, was it planned from the beginning that he would be such a part of "Bates Motel"?
No. I mean, it was a fantastic idea. It was Carlton's idea that there should be a brother in the story. We really have just sort of run with the character, and kind of seen where he's taken us. It's the combination of the character and Max [Thieriot], who's so fantastic in the role and so incredibly endearing and lovable and funny in the role, and also heartbreaking. That character has just blossomed. We all know there's no brother in "Psycho," but Dylan is such a huge part of that family to us. There's going to have to be some long discussions in the writers room about that, and about how we're going to handle that, because we love that character so much. The thing about Dylan is, he's kind of the guy that has a chance to be saved. And I think that's so valuable in this world. It's something I don't take lightly. It's a huge question, but it's a fascinating question, and how that story unravels will be really exciting.
It may seem shocking — considering that he's a product of his mother being raped by her brother — but Dylan has sort of become the thing that grounds Norma. Especially as Norman's mental health worsens, and Dylan is the only one she can completely confide in. Do you see that as part of his role, to ground her, and keep her, on some level, in touch with reality?
Yeah, I do feel like he definitely plays that function with her. I think she's always going to be more intrinsically tied to Norman; that's just a given, and I think Dylan knows that, and I think he even understands why, you know? I think, given how he was born, and given that whole situation, their story this year was so incredibly healing, for lack of a better word. It's like something really good could come out of that situation.
Regarding that situation, and Uncle Caleb, will he be back? He was so insistent to Dylan that there was more to the story than he was getting from Norma. Is that possible, is there more to the story?
We love that character, and we love Kenny [Johnson]. Carlton and I would love to bring him back. That's such a rich story, but it's so horribly untenable. How do you pull anything good out of that, you know? At the same time, they're all human beings, and we know there's some stories to tell in there, so I don't think we're in any way done with Caleb.
Touching on that, there have been other moments this season — the Norman and Norma awkward kiss in the season finale, the scene where they were hugging in his room earlier in the season and fell onto the bed — that are very tough things to pull off and have them be meaningful, and not just gratuitous, to the story.
Thank you. I mean, I feel like it's in the matrix of the show, to some extent. This is a show that's based on a kid with an Oedipus complex. The Oedipus complex exists, because everybody has it. There are these parts of us that we've shoved away, that we say are taboo, and obviously they need to be, for society to exist in a normal way, but the boundaries we've put up are very man-made. So I do feel that this is a show that is looking at those boundaries, and I feel like the thing about Norma as a character is that she's so innocent. Like, she's so... she just wants to hug her son, she just wants to hold on to her son. And being a mother, I do understand this. I have two 12-year-old sons, and I constantly want to hug them, and kiss them, and everything, and they're starting to kind of pull away, because they're getting older, and I understand that. But it doesn't decrease the desire to do it. And I feel like Norman is so confused, and because he's so tied into his mother, he can't see those boundaries, and because she is so dysfunctional and needy of him, she cannot see those boundaries. So, I feel like they're both coming from a fairly innocent place, and I think that that's why it's forgiven.
Sheriff Romero is another great character who we got to know better in Season 2, but there's still a lot of mystery there. We know he seems to genuinely care for all the Bates family, and he was very concerned he had possibly sent the wrong person to prison for Blair Watson's murder. On the other hand, he's not only completely aware of the town's shadier dealings, he's taken part in some of them. So, what are his motivations?
[Laughs.] Yeah, I mean he's such a fun character for us as writers, because, quite honestly, we don't know the answers to all of that. We've deliberately not exposed too much of his inner workings, partly because he's just fascinating as an enigma. So we don't want to wreck that. But we did try to get a little more inside him this year, and he's just one of those characters where the more layers you peel back, the more complicated he gets, and the more fascinating he gets. I think Season 3 is going to be a big one for him.
Is there also a hint maybe of a Romero/Norma romance? Because there's definitely some tension, some good chemistry between them, and just given what he knows and allows in town, and the stuff he's done himself, he might be someone Norma could actually confide in at some point.
Yeah, well, he's definitely a person who's seen it all. I think he'd be very hard to shock, which would be helpful in that situation. But, we're kind of... we've definitely put it out there a little bit, the chemistry concept. I think one of the sexiest scenes in the entire series is that scene where Romero tells Norma, "Oh, by the way, I could see through your curtains at night, so you might want to do something about that."
It's so incredibly understated and so brilliantly acted, I love that scene. And I feel like there's definitely a real chemistry between them that is so loaded and so good, it's one of those things you really want to take your time with. And I think it's fascinating because they're both solitary figures who could really use another person in their lives. And just the fact that they're both control freaks is really funny.
Looking ahead to Season 3, now that the leaders of the two warring drug families are dead, as Romero hinted, somebody's going to take over because this hugely profitable business isn't going to die off. Will that be a big direction of next season?
Absolutely, It has a huge impact on Norma, although she probably isn't even aware of it yet, because she lives in her little fantasy bubble running a motel. But she is running a motel in a town whose economy is fueled by the drug trade. If that trade suddenly disappears, if they build that bypass road all of a sudden, what's going to happen to her business? So, it's hugely integrated into her story, and that's all going to be played out in Season 3.
Norma also has just alienated her biggest, most powerful supporters in town, George and Christine. Will she try to repair those relationships?
I'm sure she'll try to. Norma is sort of, unfortunately, an inadvertently self-destructive person who kind of blows things up just by being herself, and because she doesn't know how to work people, you know? That scene where she yelled at George, it's like, even though you're watching a woman kind of go crazy on this guy, there was also the fact that it was so much her speaking the truth, the truth in her mind, and running with it. It just makes you love her, because she's not totally wrong. There are those people who are... there's that side of them that's a little bit elitist. She just kind of said that out loud, not in a very not nice way, and it bit her in the a--. And that's Norma Bates.
Watch the Season 2 finale: