Culture of Pop

Bates Motel Review: 3.1: A Death in the Family

The season 3 premiere of Bates Motel was an entertaining episode that reminded me how great this show is when it’s firing on all cylinders. I thought that season 2 wasn’t quite the edge-of-your-seat perfect show that season 1 was, but this premiere has me optimistic about season 3.

The premiere focused on letting us know how close Norma and Norman have been over the summer. They’ve been spending all their time together and he’s been sleeping in her bed most nights. When it’s time for him to go to school, he says that he liked staying home with her all the time. Their relationship is, of course, the core of the show, but the scenes in the premiere that intrigued me the most were the scenes that showed Norma and Norman drifting away from each other and towards other people a bit. There was the scene where Norman, rather abruptly, asked Emma to date him. I think this was a reaction to Norma asking him not to sleep in her bed because it’s “not normal”, so in the end it still comes back to his feelings for Norma. The scene I found even more interesting was the one where Norma breaks down and starts crying over the death of her mother in front of Dylan. She was able to stay cool and detached while she told Norman that her mother had passed, but Dylan got her to break down those walls and open up.

These moments may have indicated that Norma and Norman would be interacting with some other people this season, but the episode definitely came back to their relationship. The ending when Norma tells him she does want him to sleep in her bed because she’s “just sad” was beautifully done.

As the show goes on and they reveal more and more of Norma’s backstory, first with both her husbands, then Caleb and now with her mother, it feels more and more like Norma never had a chance. The more hopeless her life seems, the more you want Norman to break the cycle, which of course we already know won’t happen. I think it’s sort of beautiful that the show is still intriguing even knowing that they’ll both meet a tragic end. You’re not watching for the end. You’re just watching these little moments of them doing the best they can. And, of course, there’s also Dylan to provide a small amount of hope. I think whether or not the show has a “good” ending will largely be dependent on what happens to Dylan. I also wonder if Emma might end up being the surprising ultimate survivor.

This episode didn’t have the big shocks you often expect from Bates Motel, but it did a great job with all of the characters and relationships, giving us lots of emotional moments. I’m very excited to see how the rest of the season unfolds.

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