'Bates Motel's' Carlton Cuse on the Bloody Finale, Season 2 Plans
"The ending is certainly a provocative moment that sets up a lot of story for next year," the EP tells THR in our weekly series.
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the season one finale of Bates Motel, titled "Midnight."]
Norma Bates may have just traded one set of problems for another during the freshman season finale of A&E's Bates Motel.
As the clock wound down to Jake's deadline for Norma (Vera Farmiga) to fork over the money she actually didn't have, Romero (Nestor Carbonell) comes up big and takes Jake out. However, the good sheriff reveals isn't completely innocent after paying a visit to Keith's home to retrieve the money and have a word with his sister, Maggie (Jillian Fargey).
Elsewhere, Norman's (Freddie Highmore) dark side strikes again after Emma ditches him at the dance for making eyes at Bradley -- who clearly has taken an interest in Dylan. The night ends horribly wrong when Miss Watson, Norman's kind English teacher, picks him up on the side of the road and takes her prized pupil back to her apartment to clean him up after Bradley's boyfriend gives him a real shiner. When the angsty teen sees a vision of his mother -- who just prior to the dance revealed that she was molested by her brother for years -- Norman presumably is the one to slash Watson's throat after his vision of Norman says she's attempting to seduce him.
Does this set the stage for season two of the Psycho prequel to explore a new slaying? How much will Norman remember of the night? The Hollywood Reporter turned to executive producer Carlton Cuse to respond to the burning questions from the episode as part of our weekly Deconstructing Bates Motel series.
The Hollywood Reporter: Norman killed Miss Watson!
Carlton Cuse: The ending is certainly a provocative moment that sets up a lot of story for next year.
THR: Where will season two pick up? Will there be a time jump?
Cuse: I don't want to say exactly how we're going to do that. Certainly the events at end of this season are very much in play when season two opens. One of the big questions looming is: What is Norman's awareness of his own self, how much does Norma know? How much does she know about what Norman is really all about? For us, the thing that's really engaging is this wonderful relationship between two people, which is so complicated and complex and has so many components and dimensions to it. We love writing for Norma, Norman and Dylan and we're exited about the ways in which we're going to spin them on down stream next season.
THR: You're also adding to the writers' room for season two.
Cuse: In the first season, Kerry and I did a huge amount of the writing ourselves and we have a full writers room this year, which wasn't something we had in year one. We have a real all-star team in Liz Tigelaar (Nashville, Life Unexpected) and Alexandra Cunningham (Prime Suspect, Desperate Housewives) and Nikki Toscano (Revenge, Detroit 1-8-7). Adding those three writers is going to be a huge benefit for season two. Our goal in season two is to increase the audience's understanding of the world in which our characters live. Most importantly, a deeper understanding of who the characters themselves are. And we plan on having plenty of thrills and chills along the way.
THR: There's all sorts of evidence pointing to Norman and his borderline inappropriate relationship with Miss Watson. Will next season be a search for her killer?
Cuse: Coming to terms with Miss Watson's death is a component of next season. It's not the main narrative focus of next season but it is one of the stories we're telling. It's important for the audience to get some resolution about that story and we've got a good way to do that. But there's a lot of other stuff going on in White Pine Bay that we're going to need to pay attention to as well.
THR: When Norman presumably returns to school to learn of Miss Watson's fate, might we see him worry about his involvement considering what he remembers?
Cuse: The most fundamental question of season two comes down to Norman understanding Norman more than he does. He obviously is capable of actions that he's not aware of when he finds himself in an altered mental state. The barriers separate the different parts of him over time are going to become a little bit less rigid. The show is not instantly devolving into the murder of the week, Norman as a crazed serial killer; that's not what compels us as writers. We're much more interested in the nuances of his relationship with his mother, brother and those around him. That's a longer journey until Norman becomes more adversely affected by his psychological issues. How that plays out and the timeframe is not something we're just jumping into right away; there's more interesting to stuff to explore in the next season of the show.
THR: In the final scene with Norma and Norman, does she realize that her son has just done something very wrong?
Cuse: I don't think in the final moment of season one she is aware of anything other than she's happy to see Norman come home and feel like her own trouble with Jake has been resolved. The cool thing of end of episode 10 is we see Sheriff Romero do this very ballsy, heroic thing and take out the bad guy and throws away tainted money. We really now have a sense of him and what his role as the sheriff of this town is, although it's not necessarily a complete sense of what his role is. It's fair to say that he has his own moral code that dictates his actions.
THR: Romero winds up being the hero, yet he seemed to know all about the business that Abernathy, Shelby and Keith were running. Is he involved in the pot ring as well?
Cuse: He came across the money at a certain point. I'm sure he did some off-screen investigation into Shelby's past. I'm not sure he was fully aware of everything that was going on but he arrived at his own conclusions how it needed to be handled. Part of this investigation was to find out how many other people in this town were involved, who else was in on this and then once he was satisfied that all the other players were really minor, he felt comfortable in taking Abernathy out.
THR: Have we seen the last of the importing girls story line or might Jake's body and the cash surface? Will Keith's sister, Maggie, return?
Cuse: I don't think we've seen the last of Keith's sister. I don't think we're going to have Abernathy wash up or anything like that. He took three or four bullets, so that's pretty resolved.
THR: Speaking of Norma's brother, is he still alive? Will Norma's past be a focus of season two as well?
Cuse: We definitely are going to delve further into Norma's past in season two. We meant that scene [where Norma reveals she was molested by her brother] to be not only an answer but also something we hoped would make the audience want to know more about her life and what made her into the woman she is. We will definitely be exploring more of her story and we'll learn more about her brother in season two. We're arcing out details of season two then we'll start casting.
THR: Norman is clearly not over Bradley and upset that Dylan has now taken an interest in her. Is that something you'll continue to explore next season?
Cuse: Bradley looms large for Norman. This is the first girl he slept with and he idealizes her. His interest in her is has not waned.
THR: Does that put Dylan in danger?
Cuse: Possibly, we'll see!
What did you think of the Bates Motel season finale? Hit the comments below with your thoughts.