We all might go a little mad sometimes, but Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) finally reached the breaking point on “Bates Motel.”
In the Season 3 finale, Norman lost his ongoing battle to control his other self, and Bradley (Nicola Peltz) paid with her life. She tried to take him away from his mother Norma (Vera Farmiga), but what she didn’t realize is Norman is always carrying “Bad Norma” inside of him.
The episode ends with Norman letting “Mother” take over during his and Bradley’s drive out of White Pine Bay. In a gorgeous bit of editing, viewers actually see Bad Norma killing Bradley, though it was Norman who went through with the deed.
It’s this confused mental state where fans eventually find Norman in “Psycho.” Though Bradley isn’t the first person the character has killed on “Bates Motel,” her death is a unique trigger to get him to “Pycho” level.
“Norman’s killed other people, but there’s been ulterior motive, whether it was protecting his mother from abuse or Cody’s dad — sort of justifiable. This situation is clearly crossing a new line,” co-creator Carlton Cuse tells Zap2it.
It’s tragic that Bradley, who left town early in Season 2 after her father died and she killed someone in revenge, had to come back to White Pine Bay just to actually die. The townspeople thought she committed suicide, so her real disappearance won’t be investigated (though there likely will be fallout from the mess she and Norman made at the end of Season 3).
It’s also tragic that Peltz came back to the show after a long absence only to be fully killed off. But Cuse defends why having Bradley be Norman’s victim is so significant. “It was very important that she have such an emotional pull on Norman,” Cuse explains. “She was the catalyst for him to jump to another level. If he wasn’t as emotionally attached and engaged with her — it was critical it be somebody like that for this to work.
“It causes him to emotionally spiral out of control and do something really terrible. Once that’s happened, it’s like dislocating your shoulder. Once it’s happened, it’s far easier for it to happen a second or a third or a fourth time, and then pretty soon the bone is just slipping in and out of the joint. I think we all feel that because we know the story of Norman Bates.”
Norman no longer seems to be able to tell the difference between his real mother and the vision in his head. Worse, he seems to like the fake version better. Season 4 will see him struggling with his allegiances as he continues to spiral out of control.
“For him, it’s going to be a very tough decision about who he’s going to side with. For Norma, she really realizes that her son needs help,” Cuse says. “The question is is there anything she can do to help him. Obviously, as Norman sinks deeper into his own psycho pathology, the consequences and the stakes of the story are just going to keep going up and up and up.”
He adds, “We now know that Norman is capable of doing bad things, and so the question is what kinds of things is he going to be doing and how severely will he become the full-blown version of the character we know from the movie? And what are the consequences for all the people around him as Norman becomes increasingly dangerous, most importantly the people who love him? That’s a really powerful question, and we’ll be exploring it.”
Cuse and fellow showrunner Kerry Ehrin plan for “Bates Motel” to conclude in Season 5, which means these last two seasons will be building more and more to the “Psycho” story. The goal of the first three seasons was to get audiences invested in Norman and Norma as characters so when this turning point happened, it would be hard to watch.
“It’s really hard and painful to watch what Norman ends up doing. You’re hoping against hope that the inevitable doesn’t happen,” Cuse says. “Next season will be very interesting because next season the duality of his persona will solidify in a way that will be really compelling to watch. We’re moving into familiar territory of Norman Bates, but we’re doing it now with the audience very deeply rooted in an understanding and a relationship between Norman and his mom.”