So, we’re two episodes into the third season of Bates Motel and things have already been pretty intense right out of the gate. At the end of season two we were left with some pretty huge revelations, and if you haven’t seen the first two seasons yet, there will be some pretty major spoilers. You’ve been warned.
The big reveal was that Norman did, in fact, kill Blair Watson. Norma clearly remains highly suspicious of this and yet still resigned to do nothing about her son’s blackouts except try and ignore the problem. She’s keeping a watchful eye on Norman at the start of season three, but she’s not getting him—or herself—any kind of help. In “A Death in the Family” Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore continue to knock their respective roles out of the park. Norma’s completely casual, unemotional acknowledgement of her mother’s death does more to set up where the characters are at than anything else in the episode.
Dylan saved Norman from certain death and has finally become a legitimate member of the household in Norma’s eyes. He’s always been the voice of reason and the voice of sanity in the Bates home. It’s nice to see Dylan trying to salvage some form of a functional life and trying to make his business as legal as possible. This is also, of course, the worst time for his dad to enter the picture again. I have to give the show credit for taking what should by all accounts have been a Jerry Springer type of incest plot and turning it into something heartfelt and credible. Dylan’s revelation of his past adds weight to his character and will no doubt change him going forward.
Right from the opening, we see as functional a household as can be expected. Norma and Dylan are actually getting along, they’re relatively close now, but of course they’re not as close as Norma and Norman, who are sleeping in the same bed. As Dylan begins to bring these things up, it’s actually refreshing to see Norma start listening to concerns about her closeness with Norman. She’s starting to worry about him more and more, and rightfully so, given that she knows that he’s killed people.
The first episode also takes us much closer to familiar territory. There’s a new guest at the motel, Annika, who Norman takes a clear and immediate liking to. Now that the Blair Watson case has been solved—for the audience, anyway—what happened to Annika seems to be the new mystery at the core of the season. I doubt it will be solved right off the bat. Naturally, a character like this brings to mind Marion Crane, the infamous first victim of Psycho.
While there was never any doubt in my mind that Norman killed Blair Watson, I’m not totally convinced yet that he killed Annika. Yes, he’s becoming more and more of the Norman we know and love, in his own way. And yes, she entered a car with him and never came back. But it almost seems too obvious. The show’s been pretty good about keeping the audience on their toes and taking unexpected turns so far, so I wouldn’t expect anything different here. And even if Norman did kill her, I still wouldn’t expect the explanation to be totally clear-cut. Regardless, I’m sort of relieved that she has disappeared. When she was introduced it seemed like she would be Norman’s romantic interest for this season, and as great as the show has been, he’s having way more sex than Norman Bates should ever be having. The repression is a pretty large part of the character, and while it’s nice to show that people can be friends with someone like Norman and be interested with him, he’s getting a lot of action and I’m not sure I totally buy it. Sure, he could have had sex with Annika and then killed her in the amount of time they were gone, but I still doubt that’s the case.
The second episode focuses much more on the mystery of what happened to Annika. The real highlight to me, however, is the fact that Emma is becoming much more involved in the plot. Despite being one of the best characters on the show, she wasn’t given a ton to do in the second season, and I’m glad to see that being rectified. After the end of season one and berating Norman about his refusal to admit to his feelings for her, all the romantic tension between the two was sort of swept under the rug. The development at the core of this particular episode is Norman’s decision to date Emma. This would totally be great for their characters if it was for the right reasons, but it is pretty clearly not. Norman can see his mother getting more and more worried about him and wants to do something normal, something that he knows she would approve of. That’s really all this relationship comes down to.
Even worse is the fact that Emma is clearly in love with Norman, which makes what he’s doing pretty terrible. Does he have feelings for her? Probably, yes. But they’re not affecting this relationship on any level, right now. I do support this pairing, though, on the grounds that I love it every time Emma calls Norman out on his terrible behavior and his unfair treatment of her. I’ll never turn down an opportunity to watch her berate him, and that definitely seems to be where this is heading. It does make me a tad uncomfortable, though, that A&E has been marketing their relationship so hard, with ads that combine scenes of the two characters like a YouTube fan edit and use the hashtag #nemma.
Speaking of character pairings, “The Arcanum Club” also seems to be laying foundations for Norma and Sheriff Romero. At least, that’s what it looks like to me. I think it would actually be an interesting thing if these two got together. One of the major questions I’ve had since I’ve started watching the show has been “Who is Norma’s boyfriend?” In Psycho, Norman didn’t just kill his mother, he killed her along with her lover. While they’ve shown that they don’t necessarily need to adhere to the original story, the core of the characters has remained pretty much the same and there have been some red herrings so far as to who the man in Norma’s life may turn out to be. I think it would be really interesting if Romero wound up fulfilling that role in the long run. But I suppose time will tell.
What do you guys think? Do you agree with my analysis of the episodes and where the show might be headed? Or am I completely off the mark? Sound off in the comments below.