On the face of it, a show that came into being with the hook that it was a prequel to Psycho really could have phoned it in and focused solely on the evolution of a serial killer. In its third season (despite *cough* a lack of Ian Tracey *cough*, we did have his son, Keenan) Bates Motel solidified itself as must-see TV for me. Here, in no particular order,Â are myÂ 10 reasons why.
10. Vera Farmiga is killing it
When we chatted with her on a press call last March, she was recovering physically and emotionally from the season finale, which was ninth level of Hell intense and involved her getting smacked all over the place. She is game for anything as Norma.
9. Freddie Highmore is killing it (heh)
It’s no easy task to make a psychopath sympathetic, but Highmore does it every week. Despite all evidence to the contrary that you should fear Norman instead of feel for him, Highmore makes you do both equally. He and Farmiga are great individually and scary brilliant together.
As hard as it is to makeÂ Norman sympathetic,Â amplify that a few times over with Caleb. We’d heard of him as the sibling who raped Norma when they were teenagers, which begat Dylan. His arrival in White Pine Bay, and his attempts to bond with his sister and his son opened a door on just how complicated things were for Norma and him when they were kids on their own, and just how broken Caleb has been ever since. Norma pushed it all down somewhereÂ so she could function, but Caleb wears his guilt and shame like a raw nerve. Kenny Johnson did amazing work.
7. Dylan and Emma
I genuinely love it when a show surprises me out of left field and thisÂ was a relationship I never saw coming. And then when it happened, I was all over it. I love, love, love Dylan and Emma being the only sane people in this sea of seriously WTFery, who find a friendship and solace in each other that initially sparks from how much they both want to protect Norman and realize that they can’t. Max Thieriot and Olivia Cooke sell the hell out of the unlikeliest first love story. More of this is season four, please.
6. Norma and Romero
Surprise #2. There’s always been a wink-nudge about these two, but last season, in the aftermath of Norman’s polygraph, and Norma getting way out of her depth with the thumb drive, she had to lean on him more than she wanted, and he started to feel something that literally made him dangerous and homicidal–not toward her, but in defense of her family–and he hated himself for it. I still love that the almost scene in his house remained almost. I don’t want these two to come together in a grudge sex scene. I want them to come together out of something softer, and real, that might actually last. Farmiga and Nestor Carbonell are so good together, whether they’re raging at each other or trying the best that two extraordinarily damaged people can to retain a teeny, tiny bit of normalcy.
I loved the return to the dark and stormy tone this season. Vancouver has been used so much in recent years, but not everybody uses it to its best effect. Bates Motel does, and I’m glad that despite the BC tax credits going to sh-t, they will be back there for seasons 4 and 5.
4. Seasons 4 and 5
We had to wait a while for the renewal, but when it came, we were told that TPTB would get to do what they intended–tell a five-season tale. They’re going back into production Monday for five months, which makes me think they’re shooting the full 20 (one a week), but I haven’t seen confirmation either way.
3. Bradley returns
I was so glad to see Nicola Peltz come back because we’d always had this lingering doubt about which parts of her relationship with Norman back in the first season were real and which weren’t. I felt bad that Bradley came home to Norman and ended up dead, but I understand TPTB’s choice in having a character with a history with Norman beingÂ the one to set him off on his spiral.
2. The Mercedes
When Norma has her brain fart in “Norman Louise” and sells her car, we know it can’t last because the Mercedes is as iconic as her wardrobe (which she also briefly abandons) and the hotel. It had to come back. That it was Romero who went to get it for her was icing.
1. It’s always interestingÂ Â
Even if I’m not feeling X or Y plot development i.e. I cared nothing about Bob or Chick (no offense to Kevin RahmÂ and Ryan Hurst), the show itself, and the performancesÂ and the location are the hooks for me. I’m going to keep watching. It helps tremendously that they shoot a tight ten-episode season. Everything they’re putting onscreen counts.
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