The biggest mystery of A&E’s Bates Motel, until its very solid finale on Monday night, was, “How much of this show’s ’intrigue’ is intentional, and how much of it is a consequence of thematic vagueness? Also: Does Vera Farmiga have a constant migraine? I would like to know.” Indeed, Farmiga — as Norman Bates’ disturbed, JC Penney-sponsored mother Norma — dominated the show with a sustained malaise punctuated by moments of theatrical shrillness. I would describe the character she’s created as “Miranda Hobbes as stuck in an Excredin commercial.” That’s enough to get me signed up for season two, frankly, but maybe it’s not enough for you.
Before I offer up five reasons to stay tuned for the next leg of Bates Motel, I’ll return to my old friend Anthony Perkins, the star of Psycho, for his grade of the entire first season. Mr. Perkins gives Bates Motel a…
BEMUSED GRIN AND A BOWL OF WARM MILK!
Seriously, that picture. I am canceled for the rest of the month.
Here are five other reasons I’ll be sticking around for season two of Bates Motel.
1. Norman Bates is ready to unleash his true homicidal fury.
The problem with forging a Psycho prequel series is we’re all too aware of where our protagonist’s arc is going. Little Norman, in his Build-A-Bear sweaters and Dockers, will be a serial killer, and his motive will have a lot to do with a bizarre mother figure. Wisely, Bates Motel shifted some of the focus off of Norman’s inevitability and onto strange stuff like local arsonists and sex crimes, and even if those storylines didn’t pan out, they provided a buffer. Well, judging by Monday night’s episode, we’re about done with distractions. Norman killed his quaint-ass teacher Miss Watson, who may or may not have changed clothes in front of him to feel like Gypsy Rose Lee, and now he’s a murderer with a pretty unflattering record.
I’m about ready for Norman’s freakiness to escalate. Freddie Highmore has a panache for convulsing and crying with convincing creepiness, and frankly, it’s the most sexually alluring thing about him. More seismic bodily shaking, please!
2. Emma Decody is now a great character.
I kept wondering where Bates Motel was going with this dame. Are we going to keep feeling sorry for her? Is that good enough for a character arc? Is she going to pout about Bradley for another eight episodes? Fact is, Emma’s feelings for Norman (as well as her conflicting senses of maturity and logic) have come to make her a dynamic and sometimes unpredictable character. The fact that she willingly teams up with Norma on motel bookkeeping is a bit of a mindf*ck. I almost want her to be the show’s second serial killer. Could still happen. Go for it, Emma. Make jilted rage fun again.
3. Nestor Carbonell is just going to get hotter.
Uh, has there been a hotter sheriff/policeman/beige-clad person ever? Nestor Carbonell, who became a fierce gunslinger in the finale, has crescendoed in sexiness for several episodes now. Here are some other important notes. 1) He kind of looks like Anthony Perkins with a harder, more ceramic exterior and mascara. How do a man’s eyes get that dark? You can’t tell me a Max Factor representative isn’t involved. 2) So, are he and Norma going to get it on? Because that would be a step up for Norma. And a step into nudity for Nestor. Sooooo, yeah. 3) So, are he and Dylan going to get it on? Because I already wrote that fanfic and will sue.
4. They killed off the Ed Begley Jr/Chucky hybrid.
I’m sorry, but this dude was too unnervingly bizarre to be tolerated. I’m so, so glad mah man Nestor capped him. With his Ed Begley Jr.-meets John McLaughlin-meets Dr. Doom nefariousness, he reeked of weirdness that never quite culminated with the right moment of insanity. Oh, so he just wanted money? Shut up. Leave Norma alone. Go back to scowling at Monica Crowley for a living.
5. I can’t figure Norma Bates out. Can you?
As Richard Lawson said over at The Atlantic, Vera Farmiga is “so fully immersed [in the role of Norma] that watching her you begin to suspect that she knows something about the show that we don’t, that she gets it on some deeper level.” Even after Monday night’s explosive revelation scene — in which Norma confesses to Norman that her brother used to rape her as a teenager — I’m still figuring out what Norma’s endgame is. Could she be concealing more secrets? Is she lying about anything? Why is she so sure of herself at every turn? Why is she so… whatever she is? Even if we know most of Norma’s secrets, we’ll never know what’s really up with Norma, and Farmiga is to thank for her eerie enigma.
What say you? Will you tune in next season? I’ll be there.