Deconstructing 'Bates Motel': Kerry Ehrin on Norma vs. Jake and the Season Finale
The executive producer breaks down the penultimate episode of the season: "The season finale is a fantastic coming together of story lines that illuminate mysteries about the who these people are and what the town is truly about at its core."
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Monday's "Underwater" episode of A&E's Bates Motel.]
The clock is ticking on Norma -- and the freshman run of A&E's Bates Motel as Monday's penultimate episode set the stage for a showdown between the Bates family matriarch and Jake Abernathy.
During the "Underwater" hour, Norma's (Vera Farmiga) life continues down its tragic path as Jake (Jere Burns) returns looking for the money Shelby left behind. Convinced Norma has it, he holds her at gunpoint and warns if it's not returned the following day, both of her sons won't be around much longer.
Meanwhile, Norman (Freddie Highmore) is embracing his dark side with the assistance of his young English teacher, Miss Watson, as Dylan and Bradley continue on their seemingly inevitable path together.
How will Norma -- who doesn't have the funds to move out of White Pine Bay as she so very desperately wants -- come up with the coin to appease Jake? How will Romero -- who has been unwilling to really support Norma -- factor into things? And what about that fantastically creepy shared bed scene between Norma and Norman? The Hollywood Reporter turned to EP Kerry Ehrin to break down the episode in our weekly postmortem series Deconstructing Bates Motel.
The Hollywood Reporter: Norma agrees to meet Jake with $150,000. What's her plan for getting out of this? Could we expect her to team with Romero?
Kerry Ehrin: Norma has no idea what her plan is! She said what she said because the guy had a gun in her head. She did what she had to do and now she has to scramble to figure out how to handle it. You can expect Romero to come into play in a fascinating way in this hot mess.
THR: Romero hasn't been very interested in helping Norma with her Jake problem. What kind of connection does Romero have to Jake? Was he aware of what Shelby was doing? Might he have the money?
Ehrin: I would disagree that he hasn't been interested, I think he's a guy that deals with a lot of hyperbolic criminal activity -- he keeps a low-key front -- it's a control tool. I would go so far as to say there is a tiny part of him that actually feels for her of late -- not enough to stop finding her to be a pain in the ass -- but still, he very much is taking her plight seriously. What his own motivations in this crime scenario are, however, will unfold to major consequences. He is a complex character and capable of feeling conflicting things! Romero is always a mystery!
THR: Norman genuinely seems to be fine with sharing a tiny twin bed with his mother -- and cuddling with her.
Ehrin: First of all, I wouldn't say he's totally "fine" with it. He's used to her still treating him (physically) like he's a kid. I think he feels like he can't make too much of an issue out of it or it will crush her, i.e. it will remind her that he's growing up and will eventually not be her possession anymore. And on an instinctive level he understands that he is her own beating heart. He loves her so much and it makes her so happy to be "kid-like" with him. In her conscious mind -- that is what she's doing: treating him as she did when he was a little boy. Reconnecting with him in that way. However, in her subconscious, all the "handling" could be a control technique.
THR: Might he thinking about his English teacher, Miss Watson (Keegan Connor Tracy)?
Ehrin: I don't think so! I think Norma kind of fills his brain space in that scene! I love this moment actually because it is both incredibly sweet and incredibly disturbing.
THR: Speaking of Watson, Norman is embracing his darkness through writing. Why is he keeping this from his mother? How might we see that come back to hurt him?
Ehrin: He is keeping it from his mother because the story he wrote is very dark and clearly about an unhappy, haunted person. Someone who is "on fire on the inside" and can't put it out. Because of Norma's own psychology and fragility, it is very important for her that things be seen on the surface as beautiful and happy. It would devastate her to think her son was living in a dark, unhappy universe. He is protecting his mother by not making the story public. His decision, either way will have a dramatic consequence. If he publishes the story he is lying to his mother and breaking her trust, not to mention her fragile worldview of his life with her. If he does not publish the story he is denying himself and stuffing away who he really is, which as we all know, never works out in the long run.
THR: Dylan also realizes (again!) that all is not right with Norman and his dreams of drowning Bradley. Will Dylan break the news to Norman at some point that there's more going on with him than he's aware?
Ehrin: Dylan has a lot on his plate with this family. Trying to understand and forge a relationship with his inconsistent mother and now having the knowledge of Norman's murderous history -- but without the veil of emotional need that keeps Norma from seeing it clearly. So Dylan has to navigate through this and try to figure out what is the right thing to do and how to handle it, while still, at the end of the day, longing for a family more than anything in the world.
THR: As Dylan and Bradley grow closer, how might we see their attraction further bring out Norman's dark side?
Ehrin: That's a loaded situation -- two brothers liking the same girl. That's volatile in a "normal" family. It goes to some place very primal. Throw Norman Bates into that already crazy mix and you will see some fireworks!
THR: The season finale airs next week! How would you describe the episode? How does it set up the central mystery (or mysteries) for season two?
Ehrin: I can't tell you how it sets up the central mystery for season two without telling you too much! The season finale is a fantastic coming together of story lines that illuminate mysteries about the who these people are and what the town is truly about at its core. It's a beautiful, suspenseful and volatile episode!
THR: Looking back at the first season, what lessons did you learn?
Ehrin: How to produce. No, seriously, most of my learning experiences on this show were about producing and showrunning, which I have not done a ton of; Carlton Cuse has taught me so much. The creative part of it was just a fantastic collaboration of two people (Carlton and myself) who shared a vision about what this world could be and believed in it and were lucky enough to get incredibly supportive, gifted, talented people to get on the ride with us. So I guess what I learned this year is that a certain amount of "luck" is important. That, and that you can't control the world. But at the end of the day that's probably a good thing. Look what happens to Norma!
The season finale of Bates Motel airs Monday at 10 p.m. on A&E. How do you think Norma will get out of this?