Deconstructing 'Bates Motel': EP Kerry Ehrin on Norman's Dark Secrets
How shady is Shelby? Is Norma concerned about her son's special "memento"? Will we see Dylan's dad? The EP breaks down the third episode of the A&E drama in THR's weekly postmortem.
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Monday's "What's Wrong With Norman?" episode of A&E's Bates Motel.]
The law in White Pine Bay really isn't all it's cracked up to be.
During Monday's Bates Motel, Deputy Shelby (Mike Vogel) goes out on a limb to help Norma (Vera Farmiga) after Sheriff Romero (Nestor Carbonell) searches the motel in his quest to find out what happened to Keith Summers.
Worried that Romero found Keith's belt -- which Norman (Freddie Highmore) has no excuse for keeping and hiding -- Norma takes one for the team to protect her family. Haunted by the violent image of killing his teacher and a conversation that never happened with his mother, Norman decides to recover the missing belt, which Shelby discovered and is keeping from Romero. However, just as he stumbles onto what appears to be the mysterious tortured girl in the books he and his classmate Emma are somewhat investigating, Shelby arrives home -- leaving Norman trapped inside with someone Shelby clearly doesn't want to be found.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with executive producer Kerry Ehrin to break down the episode in our weekly Deconstructing Bates Motel postmortem.
The Hollywood Reporter: Shelby returns home just as Norman finds the girl from the journal inside his basement. How soon will the next episode pick up?
Kerry Ehrin: The next episode actually picks up in a flashback! So we will retrace the last event of Norman breaking into Shelby's house but from another character's perspective -- someone we did not know was present.
THR: Might Shelby and Keith be connected in the ring of women and the pot field? That's an awful nice house for a small-town sheriff.
Ehrin: (Laughs.) That's funny because, in our minds, Shelby had inherited that house from his mom, that's why it feels like a middle-aged woman's house that a guy came in and tried to "guy it up" minimally. But aside from that, there are other reasons to think Shelby might be involved in criminal activity!
THR: Emma sees Norman's dark side when she suggests going to the police with the journals. How might she respond now that she's seen this?
Ehrin: Great question. Emma is thrown warning signs several times. Most people would step back from the "friendship," but Emma is so deep and so kind and so compassionate that she keeps staying with Norman. She feels there's something in him that is struggling. That is suffering, perhaps. She knows what suffering feels like. She knows what it means to be scared. And the heart in her keeps reaching out to him -- past all the stuff he throws in their path. It's as if she is saying, "I understand there is shit going on inside of you. I care about you anyway." And that bond will ultimately grow because no one has ever truly cared much about Norman, or fully accepted him, except his mom.
THR: Norman has a blackout in class after having visions of killing his teacher immediately after talking with Emma about the girls in the journal. Is he admiring the journals or longing to have done what's depicted?
Ehrin: I think the "visions" are more sexual and ambiguous. I wouldn't say he is specifically having a vision of killing her. And as for his emotional or cerebral reaction to the notebook -- I think it's amorphous. The images stir something in him. He can't explain it or understand it. On one hand, of course, it's sexual, which would be normal for any teenage boy. But on another level, it's like an emotional tidal wave -- because he is who he is, or who he is going to be. But it's not something he can understand or even process on any level. He is probably fascinated, horrified, saddened, titillated, thrilled, awakened, guilty and mostly unable to put it out of his head. And that would be terrifying and difficult because he does not know himself as a violent person and it would be hard for him to understand -- and terrifying.
THR: Norma questions why Norman would want to keep Keith's belt but doesn't get any response. Is she concerned -- or proud -- of the example she's setting?
Ehrin: Norma is deeply concerned about why her son would keep a memento from that violent incident. In Norma's mind, she was attacked and she fought back. She does not think, "Oh, this is setting a bad example." She killed a guy who raped her, so was the bad example not calling the police? Keith Summers told her he was friends with half the police force in that town. She was scared. She didn't know what to do. She made the best decision she could in the moment. She hasn't had a "normal" life, and she makes decisions from a place born of isolation and terror. All that aside, yes, Norma deeply cares about her son. She is both worried that he kept the belt because it's not a normal response to one's mother getting attacked, and on another level, she is partly hurt and betrayed because he would keep something from an experience that was so horrible to her. Norman is her whole world. He's the only person who has ever truly loved her. And for someone like that to do something so callous is hurtful. In a certain way, that moment is a true mother moment for her because her concern that there's is something wrong with her son trumps her own hurt feelings. All she really cares about is being there for him if, in fact, there's something not right with him.
THR: We learn Dylan's dad is still alive. Might we meet him at some point?
Ehrin: We very well might meet Dylan's dad at some point. There are secrets to unfold there.
THR: Dylan tells Norman he needs perspective and Norma is smothering him. How will we see him respond to that considering Bradley's flirting with him and Emma wants him to pursue the girl from the journal?
Ehrin: On one level, Norman knows he needs perspective. There's a part of Norman that just wants to be a regular kid and date girls and be a teenager. But the bond he has with his mother is like an addiction. No matter how hard he tries, it keeps coming to the surface -- and it gets in the way no matter how much he tries to push it aside because ultimately it's more important to him than anything. He can't help it. It's inside him. It's kind of like in Wuthering Heights when Catherine keeps trying to get away from Heathcliff emotionally and live a "normal" life. Marry this other "normal" guy. But in the end, she dies of a broken heart in the arms of Heathcliff. In the end Heathcliff is the one digging up her grave to get next to her dead body -- and it's not sexual. It's just this crazy emotional bond where he feels like he can't live without her. These crazy, co-dependent, dysfunctional bonds have an unearthly power, and in terms of emotion and drama, they totally kick the ass of "normalcy."
THR: Has Norman really forgotten about coming after Dylan with a meat tenderizer or is he lying?
Ehrin: He is not lying. He does not remember doing it. In fact, he thinks maybe Dylan is making it up to give him shit.
THR: Is Norman's selective memory a concern for Dylan?
Ehrin: It gives Dylan pause. In that moment, Dylan lets it go as, "Oh my brother's just f---ing with me." He doesn't really grasp in that moment the depth of the incident. It's just the tip of the iceberg for Dylan.
What did you think of the big reveals in Bates Motel? Hit the comments below with your thoughts. Bates Motel airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on A&E.
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