Deconstructing 'Bates Motel': EP Carlton Cuse on the 'Battle for Norman's Soul'

His mother's crisis will put the teenager in a difficult position as Norman is "caught between his emotions and his responsibilities," the EP says in THR's weekly postmortem.
"Bates Motel"

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the "Trust Me" episode of A&E's Bates Motel.]

The Bates brothers are beginning to bond.

During Monday's episode of A&E's Bates Motel, Norman (Freddie Highmore) realizes his problems are more than he can handle alone and spills everything about Norma to Dylan, including that she stabbed Keith Summers to death after he raped her. Dylan (Max Thieriot) also learns the real reason why Norman broke into the sheriff's home and believes his brother that the lawman is not the upstanding citizen he portends to be.

Following the stunning reveals -- which Dylan seemingly takes in stride -- the younger Bates gets some handy dating advice, leading to a steamy night with Bradley (Nicola Peltz), who turned to Norman for relief from the grief over her father's passing.

Elsewhere, Romero (Nestor Carbonell) IDs Keith's dismembered hand and arrests Norma (Vera Farmiga) on murder charges for her role in his death -- as Shelby (Mike Vogel), who had vowed to protect her and Norman -- looks on.

The Hollywood Reporter caught up with executive producer Carlton Cuse, just hours after A&E renewed the freshman drama, to break down the episode in our weekly Deconstructing Bates Motel postmortem. "[EP] Kerry Ehrin and I have some really good ideas [for season two] but they're not fully fleshed out yet. You're hoping you're going to get renewed but can't put the cart too far in front of the horse and now we're really going to get started in earnest."

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The Hollywood Reporter: How will Norman feel after learning that the second time he sneaks out of the house, something horrible again happens to Norma?
Carlton Cuse: The lesson is Norman really shouldn't leave the house without permission! There's clearly a reason why he shouldn't be doing that! (Laughs.) There's a lot more to this town than meets the eye and our goal on a storytelling level was to really intrigue the audience about what actually is going on in White Pine Bay. We love this idea that this town looks beautiful on the surface but underneath that there's a lot of mystery and secrets to be revealed.

THR: Norma has been arrested. How will Norman take the news considering he's likely just coming home from the best night of his life?
Cuse: It could be the best night of his life! Good news doesn't last long in White Pine Bay as Norman is about to find out as he's about to find out that his mother has been arrested. That is going to throw him into complete upheaval. He completely abandons everything in his life and now his main goal is to see what he can do to help his mother. At the same time, he's being pulled by his brother who has made it clear that his mom isn't the best influence on him.

THR: How will losing his virginity change Norman?
Cuse: It's a big event in Norman's life. It wasn't anything he was expecting given his circumstances and his incredibly close relationship with his mom. Dylan pushed him into this encounter and it went further than he could have possibly imagined. Norman was thrown into the deep end of the pool here and is full of all sorts of feelings for Bradley and at the same time he's completely overwhelmed and intoxicated by the events of his romantic life, those events are derailed because he has to deal with his mom and her immediate and serious predicament after being arrested and charged with murder. Norman is caught between his emotions and his responsibilities.

THR: Will Norman be angry that his mother is ruining this emotional high?
Cuse: The reverse is true: Norma is really angry for what he did. There's a normal situation where parents of kids of divorced parents struggle and feel off when their parents start to date. It's a creepier version of the story where the guy's mom starts to be jealous and concerned over her son's evolving romantic life and that's what makes it interesting for us.

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THR: Is Norma going to be more upset that Norman has a girlfriend or that she was arrested?
Cuse: She's concerned about both things. For Norma, personal emotions and attachment to Norman always take precedent over everything else in her life. But she's not disregarding of the fact that she's been arrested for murder; that's a big problem for her.

THR: Dylan now knows everything about Norma. How might we see him use that information?
Cuse: Dylan is struggling with if Norma is really fit to take care of Norman. What's starting to evolve here is a battle for Norman's soul. Dylan isn't someone who is going to rely on public agencies to help them in this matter. He's going to go directly to Norman and try to convince him to see his mother in a different light. That's a path that has its own perils.

THR: How might we see the Bates brothers attempt to help Norma? Will they agree to help her or might Dylan have other ideas?
Cuse: Dylan is full of a certain level of ambivalence toward his mom so I'm not entirely sure there isn't part of him that's happy that she's sitting in a jail cell. For Norman, this is an absolutely impossible situation so he's got to do anything he can to help his mother out. The other thing that's in play in this next episode is: What are the consequences of what Norman saw in the basement? How is that going to play out? How is Norman going to convince anybody -- most of all, his mom -- that what he saw there was actually real.

THR: How will Shelby attempt to help Norma after her arrest? With Norma behind bars, might Norman go back to Shelby after their awkward fishing trip for help?
Cuse: Shelby will play a bigger role overall. Shelby increasingly is becoming more the focus to the center of the storytelling. It's a complicated situation because Norman believes Shelby had a girl in his basement and he thinks Shelby is a bad guy. Norman feels he has really strong grounds to dislike this guy and he doesn't want his mom involved with Shelby but his mom isn't listening. Norma has very complicated motives and reasons to be involved with Shelby right now.

THR: Norman confided in Dylan about Keith's death and what Shelby has going on behind closed doors. How will we see their relationship evolve now? Could we see Dylan's father?
Cuse: That relationship is a really interesting one that gets much more intense. Dylan's father not right now. He's not a character that shows up in the first season. We won't see Dylan's father right now; he's not a character that shows up in the first season -- he's a character that will show up downstream in the series.

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THR: News travels fast in this small town. Could some of Keith's other enemies show up to pose a problem for Norman and Norma?
Cuse: That's a very insightful question. There are further reverberations of Keith and Shelby's association that carry on for remainder of the first season.

THR: Once Norma is released, how might we see Norman juggle Bradley and Norma -- as well as Emma, who we learned tonight has strong feelings for him as well?
Cuse: All the sudden Norman was having challenges with just one woman -- his mother -- and now he's got three. It's a lot for him to sort out, but hopefully it will make for good drama.

How do you think things will play out for the Bates family? Were you surprised to see Norman get some love? Hit the comments below with your thoughts. Bates Motel airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on A&E.

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