Bates Motel still remains a surprising success. Not only in terms of ratings, but its quality. A prequel to Psycho showing a young Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) sounded like a joke a few years ago, the kind of idea doomed to fail. But the first season turned out to be a highly enjoyable show. Vera Farmiga does consistently great work, Highmore is good fun, and, every once in a while, there’s some genuinely good drama, thanks to Norma Bates, who’s the heart and soul of the show.
Unfortunately, there was s a slight drop in quality with season two. Bates Motel is at its best when it’s just Norma and Norman getting through problems or the never-ending trope of the nerdy kid going after “the cool girl” when the right one is there all along: Emma (Olivia Cooke). Once Norman starts watching High School movies, hopefully he’ll smarten up. Where the show began to falter was the all-too-heavy focus on the town’s drug war.
At the end of season two, Norma’s drug dealing son, Dylan (Max Thieriot), was one of the few men left standing after both sides of a drug war went at it. Apparently season three is going to show the aftermath…
“There’s a very short time jump [at the start of season three],” executive-producer/writer Carlton Cuse said at Comic-Con. “At the end of season two, basically all the players in the two drug families in town either killed themselves, killed each other or were killed by our guys. They’re all basically dead, so there’s this big vacuum in town. The question is, ‘What happens?’ Obviously that kind of event with that magnitude of murder is not something that can be covered up. Now that all those people have sort of been gone away, the question is, ‘In a town where evil has been tolerated, can that vacuum exist without other evil coming in and filling it?’ That’s sort of the starting point for what happens in the town. There’s a lot of consequences. Dylan gets offered a job by [sheriff] Romero at the end of the season. The question is, ‘Is he going to take that? Is he going to step in and decide to be this sort of drug czar in town or not? And what will happen as a result of that?”
Will another evil comeback to town to fill that void? Most likely, but let’s hope its a greater evil that feels less like filler this time around. That evil would also be more welcomed if it actually involves the three main characters. It’s a fitting idea that Norma and Norman are in a town all about hidden evil, but it’d be great if it played a part in their lives beyond Norman being kidnapped.
Since there will be an aftermath of some kind for what happened, it wouldn’t be surprising if drugs play another part in season three. Let’s hope that’s not the case. It was handled so clumsily in season two, where almost every drug dealer was a walking cliche with a little too much posturing in leather jackets.
Also, who watches Bates Motel because of the pot dealers? In no way is it the show’s appeal. Whenever they cut to that subplot in season two, getting back to Norma, Norman, and Emma felt like an itch that couldn’t be scratched. Those three made season two watchable, despite a few clunky directions they took those characters in: one of Emma’s big conflicts was not being told other people’s business. The fact that she’d quit the motel over something like that felt too thin for a thoughtful character. At Comic-Con they said Emma will get treated better in season three, but there’s still plenty room for improvement beyond Emma.
Season three of Bates Motel premieres in early 2015.