When we chatted with Carlton Cruse Friday about season three, he mentioned they were intentionally returning to the darker “monochromatic” atmosphereÂ of the showâ€™s first season, and I have to say, Iâ€™m completely down with that. I like my moody shows dark and broody, and out of the gate, we’re back to the overcast skies and rain. Last season, despite the sunny appearances, the show went some increasingly dark places, and if the season premiere Is any indication, weâ€™re going there again.
Norma and Norman
We begins the season with mother and son sharing a bed, and taking it one step further by spooning, Itâ€™s sort of a fascinating dynamic thatâ€™s really uncomfortable to watch, and at the same time you canâ€™t not watch. We find out theyâ€™ve spent the summer together, under the same roof with Dylan, who sees them in bed together and raises the issue with Norma that maybe itâ€™s time to shut that down. Norma takes his advice to heart and tells Norman that, and he of course snits out about it.
When they get to the first day of school, heâ€™s reticent to go and she yanks him out of the carâ€”which is so not the best thing for an already maligned and whispered-about student. Then he sees MissÂ Watson at lunch and she chatters away at him until she bleeds out and he panics and races home to Norma. He tells her the truth and she talks him down.
She decides to pull him out of school and promotes him to manager. Then a pretty young guest arrives and just like that, a dangerous switch flips in Norman. He befriends her, and then peeps her until Norma busts him.
Norma gets news from home that her mother has died and she icily tells the lawyer sheâ€™s not interested. When Norman catches her crying and assumes itâ€™s about the peeping, he apologizes and she tells him sheâ€™s grieving her mom. She reneges on her earlier decision to make him sleep in his own room and once again he cuddles up to her.
Norman and Emma
Norman is caught up in his newfound freedom from high school and his shiny new job when Emma brings him down to earth with the news that her health is deteriorating. Out of left field, he tells her he thinks she should home school with him and that they should date and sheâ€™s thrilled. She doesnâ€™t know Gunner is back in town, which will surely bring some complications later.
Norman and Annika
The new guest, Annika (Tracy Spiridakos) is a lovely young woman who openly tells Norman that sheâ€™s a sex worker hired out for parties. Sheâ€™s aware enough to realize that she probably shouldnâ€™t have blurted that out to Norman, but unaware enough to realize that telling him that works as a trigger.
They have a sweet chat when he comes to help change her light bulb and she tells him that heâ€™s lucky he and his mom are close. When Norman offers to ride along into town to help her findÂ the restaurant where she’s working, she talks to him about being able to disengage from the physicality of working the parties and that sex is a natural need. We donâ€™t see her again, but Norman brings her car back to the motel.
Dylan and Caleb
Dylan is happily back at home and seems to be enjoying a genuinely warm relationship with Norma, for the first time ever. Theyâ€™re transparent about his business and what heâ€™s doing. The DEA has moved into White Pine Bay so heâ€™s changed his mind about continuing in the illegal weed business and instead wants to run a small legal farm for medicinal use. Romero tells Dylan heâ€™s on his own then, and Dylan says thereâ€™s no problem because heâ€™s legit but Romero intimates heâ€™s still in danger without him.
Caleb turns up again, and all kudos to Kenny Johnson for making him so raw and wounded as he quietly and sadly tells Dylan he just wants to know him because heâ€™s now his only family with the death of his mother, and he tells Dylan he knows heâ€™s his father. Dylan runs across him a few times and keeps telling him to stay away, and Caleb says Norma doesnâ€™t have to know. He also chillingly makes the case that their mother was ill and their father was extraordinarily violent, so all he and Norma had were each other.
Dylan later hears from Norma that her mother died, and she talks about a ribbon her mother gave herÂ during one of her lucid periods.Â Sheâ€™s emotional with him in a way she doesnâ€™t initially let on with Norman.
Gunner shows up to offer his weed services because Remo has fled town, and my Spidey sense there is that heâ€™s undercover. I know nothingâ€”just a vibe. If he is now, hopefully he wasnâ€™t when he slept with Emma.
And those are all the pieces in place as we begin.
I love watching all of these characters feel their way, as we are always on the razorâ€™s edge of realizing how horribly wrong itâ€™s eventually going to go. I was doing that nervous laughter thing watching Norma and Norman in bed, mostly with an eye toward â€œoh boy, this is bad,â€ and also just as a fan of the performances asÂ Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore walk this tightrope of extreme affectionâ€”lying in bed and talking at homeâ€”and extreme agitationâ€”Norma screaming at him and physically pulling him out of the car at the school.
The soft-spoken scenes between Dylan and Caleb were my favorite because Dylan just got his mother back, and is really working on that relationship, and then hereâ€™s Caleb,Â lost and broken and wanting his own relationship with his son while still grasping with how that son came to be. I look forward to seeing what Max Thieriot does with playing that struggle.
As for the inevitable fate of Annika, Iâ€™m guessing that mystery will be our throughline, and it puts Emma in a pickle about whether to vouch for Norman since she saw him leave with her. And I fully expect that Norma’s loss will finally register for her and dovetail back to Caleb being in town. Weâ€™ll also have to see whatâ€™s up for Romero as heâ€™s left to find an alternate income stream and way to hold onto his power without the weed business funding the town.
Iâ€™m so glad weâ€™re back!
Bates Motel airs Mondays at 9/8c on A&E. You can catch a repeat of the premiere tonight atÂ 1:05 am/12:05 cÂ and throughout the week.
If you missed it, our interview with Vera Farmiga, Carlton Cruse, and Kerry Ehrin is here.
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