Review: Bates Motel S3 EP 1: A Death in the Family

Worst idea ever: Norman Bates is going to be home-schooled! Yeah, his mother thinks that public school hasn’t been good for him and he doesn’t need to go any longer. Plus, he’s getting a promotion at work; he’s now motel manager. In the first episode of season three of Bates Motel, the future psycho is one peephole closer to fulfilling his destiny.


Rather than making a time jump following the previous season like the series did last year, season three begins pretty much where it left off at the end of season two. Therefore, Norma’s intentions for her son have an admittedly selfish purpose. Handing over the day-to-day responsibilities for the motel give her time to go to business school to learn how to combat the impending bypass project.

This plot is nearly overshadowed by another, though. Following the explosive events of season two, 27 marijuana fields have been burned and 43 arrests have been made. This puts Sheriff Romero (Nestor Carbonell) in a tough spot. People are out of work and they blame him. He was supposed to be protecting them, but instead he “screwed it up for them.”

For me, this is the first time Romero’s role in the town’s secret business is made clear; previously, it was more mysterious. So, he has basically lost control and he tries to regain some of it with Dylan (Max Theriot). In a conversation about “the future of things,” Dylan claims he’s had his fill of the drug business and wants his own farm to legally grow marijuana to help people who need it:

Romero, “I went out of my way.”

Dylan, “I appreciate it.”

Romero, “We’re not working together. I can’t protect you.”

Dylan, “But it’s legal. That shouldn’t be a problem.”

Romero, “It shouldn’t.”

Other plots and characters move forward to set the stage for the rest of season three. Perhaps most notable, miserable Emma perks up when Norman not only encourages her to home school with him, but also says, “Maybe we should date.”

Emma, “Are you saying that because I’m dying?”

Norman, “No, it’s just time. Don’t you think?”

Emma, “It’s been time for a while!”

No sooner does bliss seem at hand than a new character arrives to spike her jealousy. Annika Johnson (Tracy Spiradakos) checks into room #4, perfect for Norman to peek in the window when she’s, yes, taking a shower. Annika works at “big, expensive parties with a lot of wealthy men at them.” But she’s a hooker with a heart of gold. “It’s just people and bodies. Once you start touching… sometimes it feels good. Sex is just sex. We all need it.”


Someone else comes to White Pine Bay, but he’s a returning visitor: Norma’s brother, Caleb (Kenny Johnson). He wants to be part of Dylan’s life, admitting that he knows he’s his father. “That’s why Norma ran away from home. Our mother was crazy. Our dad was violent. There was no place safe for us except… with each other.”

Dylan, “How do you expect me to have a relationship under the circumstances?”

Caleb, “Norma never has to know I’m here.”

And what of Norma (Vera Farmiga) at the beginning of season three? She receives a phone call from Boise that her mother has died. “I haven’t spoken to her in 20 years. It doesn’t mean anything.” She tells Norman is case he needs the information for a legal document or something one day, and she tells Dylan because she thinks he ought to know. Speaking about her mother’s hair ribbon and blue dress, she says it’s the only memory she has of her when she was happy:

Dylan, “What happened when she wasn’t happy?”

Norma, “I don’t know, we never talked about it. She took a lot of pills. She was sedated a lot.”

By the end of the episode, Norma is crying in bed, not because Norman had a vision earlier in the day of a bloody Miss Watson visiting him, but because of her mother’s death. “I think I’m just grieving because I never had a mother.” And the hour concludes where it began, with Norman lying in bed with her.  He tells her, “I may be growing up, but I’m never going anywhere.”

After being scolded earlier by Dylan for sleeping with her son (“Don’t you think that’s weird? He’s 18; he shouldn’t be sleeping in his mother’s bed.”), Norma nevertheless wants him to lie down with her “just for tonight. I’m really sad.” To which Norman replies, “You silly woman.”



In the first episode of season three, Norman Bates is a darker character than he has been portrayed as in the past. In seasons one and two, he was almost an innocent, not really aware of what was happening to him. But now he’s physically darker, with a slightly unshaven visage as opposed to the smooth-skinned face of a doe-eyed boy. He’s growing up. I think things are going to get scary for him… and hopefully for us.  Season three is off to a great start!

Keep Exploring
IFC Midnight’s ‘Lowlife’ Is Full of Vibrant Interesting Characters Just Like Their New Poster