“Bates Motel” is only four episodes away from its Season 3 finale, and the stakes are getting ever higher for Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) — and that’s still just setting the stage for the “rollercoaster ride” of the series’ final two seasons.
The character’s mental instability hit a breaking point in the April 13 episode when Norman unconsciously wore his mother’s clothes and took on her persona, and the rest of this season will deal with whether or not he can control his psychological urges.
“This season started with Norman basically understanding that he has this other persona inside of him, and then the end of this season is really about his ability to control that,” co-creator Carlton Cuse tells Zap2it. “The challenge is can Norman control this other self that’s inside him? The end of this season answers that question.”
Yes, that does mean Norman-as-Norma will return again before the end of Season 3. Both Cuse and Vera Farmiga greatly appreciated Highmore’s take on Norma in the recent episode, with Farmiga joking, “I just can’t get over the fact that my robe fits him so precisely.”
“When Freddie goes into his alternate persona, it is a literal transformation,” Cuse says. “I mean, it is amazing. He is, I think, just so underrated in terms of what he does with this part. He’s just amazing. It’s just incredible.”
As “Bates Motel” moves into the second half of Season 3, it’s also crossing the midpoint of its series run. Cuse and fellow co-creator Kerry Ehrin have decided the A&E show will end after five seasons, and dark times are ahead for Norman and Norma.
“Kerry and I wanted the first three seasons of this show to get you as connected as you could to these characters, so that as we slide into the more complicated pathology of the last two seasons, you’re with these characters,” Cuse says. “I defy anyone to watch this show and not really be completely connected to Norma and Norman. And now that bond you have with these characters is going to completely inform the rollercoaster ride of the last two seasons.”
Both Farmiga and Cuse consider the fact that “Bates Motel” fans are cheering for Norman and Norma to be happy to be one of the greatest achievements of the series. But any fan of “Psycho” knows that this story is heading toward a tragic conclusion.
“I don’t know if they can survive the pressures of the external world. It’s really taken a toll on them both,” Farmiga says. “But there’s still so much love and joy and affection there, deep-rooted. They’re anchored to each other. They’re hanging on still. It’s not completely severed.”
Cuse notes: “The story is ultimately ‘how much can love conquer?’ You have these two characters who their relationship is fatally flawed, and that’s the essence of any tragedy. And yet we’re hoping against hope that they can somehow stay together and keep what they have. That’s the dramatic tension that’s at the core of their relationship.”
So can they stay together? Is there any chance of happiness for Norman and Norma in Season 5? “I think that would be a terrible thing to spoil,” Cuse teases.
“Bates Motel” airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on A&E.