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Heather’s TV Goodness All-Stars 2014: Bates Motel’s Max Thieriot 

Photo Credit: Joseph Lederer/A&E
Photo Credit: Joseph Lederer/A&E

Bates Motel was one of those shows that could easily have been one-and-done and given us a legitimate, but short, backstory of Norma and Norman Bates. What we got in season two was an expansion of the family that included a larger, separate story for Norma’s firstborn, Dylan, when he discovered he was conceived during an incestuous rape between Norma and her brother. That was a huge arc, and in order for it to really work, the show needed somebody who could stand up to, and fight with, the amazing Vera Farmiga. Max Thieriot delivered. We had teases of their chemistry in the first season when Dylan defended Norma against Shelby, but season two went so far beyond that, for them together and Thieriot across the board. I hit on a couple of the best moments last spring here and here.

Creating this backstory for Dylan sent the show into a few different directions as the core characters had separate arcs away from each other. Dylan’s path (of course) rounded right back to Norma and Norman because the show is smart like that, but it was interesting to watch Dylan really try to be his own person apart from them, and still need his family at the end of it.

Photo Credit: Joseph Lederer/A & E
Photo Credit: Joseph Lederer/A & E

Thieriot was so good all season–from Dylan quietly helping Bradley get out of town (because Norman asked for his help) in the premiere, to the scenes where he learned his soul-crushing origin story from Norma, to trying to stay alive in the drug trade only to have it all blow up. Y’all know how I feel about Ian Tracey, and I loved that he and Thieriot got to bounce off each other, because Dylan needed at least one business ally who wasn’t going to kill him, and Remo was that guy.

I wish we’d seen more of Dylan’s relationship with Jodi, which I think that was truncated out of necessity because Kathleen Robertson was committed to TNT’s Murder in the First, but I don’t know that for sure.

I loved that the end of the season set up Dylan to be the big drug boss in season three–not out of a deliberate move, but accidentally and indirectly because he was trying to protect his family from Nick Ford. I look forward to seeing what Thieriot will do with that.

Dylan had a lot going on this year, and Thieriot sold every minute of it. He inhabits Dylan with the wounded but childlike demeanor of someone who’s a little lost and takes whatever life throws at him, almost hour by hour hoping he won’t get hurt, and then doing the best he can when he does. He doesn’t play Dylan as someone with an agenda, or someone who’s been turned angry and cruel by his past. He plays Dylan as someone who’s genuinely just trying to stay out of the way–and live some sort of life–and that makes him sympathetic and real. Plus, he always comes around to the right thing, eventually.

This season, Thieriot is going to have a lot to do again. Dylan will have to balance his reconnection to his family–after realizing he saved his brother, Norma finally told him everything he needed to hear and that she loved him–with his ascent in the drug trade, covering up a murder, and finding a way to work with Romero.

I’m so ready! Bates Motel returns in March. You can watch season two online, and on DVD/Blu-ray.

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