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Bates Motel: Season 2 Premiere

By Emily Holland · March 7, 2014

Bates Motel began its second season with a recap. And then a whole lot of drama.

In the show’s defense, it has been a year since we’ve seen young Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) and his mom Norma (Vera Farmiga). A recap was more than necessary—the first season involved sex trafficking, drug operations, and more than one murder. There was double crossing, confusion, misdirection and the ultimate cliffhanger: a shot of Norman’s teacher, Ms. Watson, lying dead on the floor.

The season two opener, having to live up to the level of dramatic turns of the first season, doesn’t hold back. Norman awakes the night after the murder and the winter dance. As viewers, we know that he killed Ms. Watson. He was at the house, he saw her undressing, his “mother” convinced him to act accordingly. But he himself has no memory of the event and is shocked to find out about her death when he comes down the stairs.

In addition to Norman, we see his friend/love interest Bradley (Nicola Peltz), whose father was killed in the first season. She is spiraling out of control, drinking and driving in her silver convertible until she stops and dramatically descends off the side of a bridge.

Then there’s a four-month time jump from Norman sobbing at Ms. Watson’s rainy funeral to a bustling motel. It is sunny, it is summer and Haim’s “The Wire” is the soundtrack that ushers in this shift. Bates Motel excels at creating this creepy, unnerving effect. It jumps from dreary dark scenes to beautiful scenes with the blink of an eye, an effect reminiscent of Hitchcock’s Psycho, which provides the story on which Bates Motel is based. Where Psycho leapt from friendly Norman to creepy Norman, the television prequel story makes even grander leaps. Nothing is ever what it seems.

There are consequences to this, however. While the shock value is a huge draw for audiences, it allows the other less shocking plot points to fall under the radar. We no longer want to see Norma fight against the building of the bypass that will take away all of her hard earned business; we want murder, drugs, and some kind of intense action.

The show itself is well produced and well put together. This introductory episode back into the world of a marijuana-funded town showed precision and focus. Every major character, or, the ones still alive, received some screen time. It was always clear that time had progressed, but nothing seemed too out of the blue.

For the rest of the season, there needs to be some major character development. The script so far has only given Norman a few opportunities to break out of his fragile state and reveal other aspects of his character. He hasn’t evolved or began to evolve in the charismatic Norman seen in Psycho. Although he doesn’t need to make this shift all that quickly, he is only a teenager after all, it would be nice to see more development. We’ve seen Norma and her turmoil and we’ve only really seen her influence on Norman. It’s frustrating to view him through his mother’s lens all the time. His lack in development makes it hard to believe that he would ever be friends with Bradley, the most popular girl in school. That’s why Emma (Olivia Cooke), with her cystic fibrosis and outcast stereotype is a much more believable companion for Norman, who has become increasingly interested in taxidermy and death.

Good character development will result from a well-written script. But it is only the first episode of the season. With already another murder thrown into the plot, this season is sure to be dramatic. Hopefully the drama will bring some much needed character development and evolution.