The following story contains spoilers about Bates Motel‘s Season 4 premiere. Proceed at your own peril!
After three seasons of Psycho-seed planting, Bates Motel entered Season 4 with its foot firmly planted on the cuckoo accelerator.
The final moments of Monday’s premiere found Norman — freshly sprung from the local psych ward and fully embodying Norma — brutally killing Emma’s estranged mother Audrey in his own living room. Combine that with his recent murder of Bradley and it’s clear that The Unhinged One is well on his way to fulfilling his serial killer destiny.
Below, exec producer Kerry Ehrin offers an update on the show’s Psycho timeline, while also weighing in on some of the premiere’s standout moments, including a certain whackadoodle marriage proposal.
TVLINE | Norman has already gone completely Psycho, yet the show still has two more seasons to go. [Note: Bates has already been renewed through next season]. How are you going to sustain this level of crazy for 20 more episodes?
The truth is, he is that guy at this point. And there’s a lot of story to unfold with him in that place. Also, [these final two seasons] are like a piece of music. There will be parts that are super dramatic and accelerated and then there are going to be parts that slow down a little bit to create suspense. It’s really about balancing the whole journey so it makes a good ride. I think when shows get crazy-crazy-crazy you disengage from them. We’ve always been careful to keep it grounded so that you care about the characters.
TVLINE | How much fun are you having with Norman’s wardrobe this season?
It’s one of my favorite parts of the job. [Laughs] At the end of last season, Norman fully absorbed Mother. He became Mother when he killed Bradley. So this season has really been liberating to be able to deal with him as this new incarnation without restrictions.
TVLINE | Freddie Highmore continues to nail Vera’s mannerisms and movements.
Freddie is super-close to Vera [Farmiga]. And he studies her for those [scenes]. There was a moment [in the premiere] when he answers the door and Audrey is on the porch and he leans into the door frame that’s so reminiscent of Norma in Season 1 when she answers the door and Romero is out there. The thing that’s amazing about Freddie this season is that it isn’t like his performance is just about mimicking. He’s finding [a whole new] character. The work he’s doing this year is just superb.
TVLINE | It seems like he’s really enjoying this turn in the story.
Freddie is the happiest actor I have ever known. [Laughs] He’s the first person on set and the last person to leave and he’s always in a good mood and passionate about the work. He’s especially excited about this part of the storytelling.
TVLINE | The admissions lady at the asylum really forced Norma — and the audience — to face the fact that she’s been a terrible mother. Was that your intention?
In part, yes. It’s nice every once in a while to get a perspective on Norma because we are so on her side all of the time. [Her actions] are not necessarily healthy but they are relatable. She’s always trying to do the best that she can given the tools life has handed her. But when you just take a cold hard look at the choices she’s made, yeah, she’s definitely made some bad choices. And the result is her son is in a county mental ward. That’s what makes that scene so heartbreaking — it’s a mother hearing the truth.
TVLINE | Romero is keeping Norma at arm’s length. Is that a direct result of him murdering Bob Paris?
Yes. Bob was a bad guy and he killed people, but he was set to go to prison. And that would’ve been a perfectly fine [punishment] for the crimes he committed. But Romero took things into his own hands because he wanted to make sure Norma was protected, and now it’s rocked him a little bit. He’s probably wondering, “Oh my God. I just committed murder for this woman. What do I actually mean to her? I need to step back and get control of the situation.”
TVLINE | Speaking of Romero and Norma, that was probably one of the least romantic marriage proposals I’ve ever seen on TV.
[Laughs] That’s Norma’s defense mechanism. That’s also the brilliance of Vera. She makes some really unexpected choices sometimes, and that was certainly one of them. It’s hard for Norma to put herself out there in a truly vulnerable way and say, “Hey, I like you. Would you please do this for me?” It’s all the stuff that’s going on underneath the scene that’s incredibly amusing, because they do both like each other. And they’re afraid of it.
TVLINE | Is she going to take another run at it?
As you know, Norma is a warrior. [Laughs] When she needs something to happen she’ll go after it.
TVLINE | Fair to say Audrey’s death, and Norman’s role in it, will put some strain on Emma and Dylan’s romance?
Audrey’s storyline is very much one of perception. As the season unfolds, the presence of Audrey — or lack [thereof] — becomes a telltale heart in the season. And where and when that information will pop up and who it will affect is a big part of the storytelling. Dylan has found this love with Emma, and the worst possible thing that could happen is that Norman has possibly killed her mother. That’s going to have a lot of implications.
TVLINE | I always imagined the show would end when Norman kills Norma. But the speed with which the story is now moving makes me wonder if a big chunk of that final season will focus on Norman’s life after Norma’s death.
Well, obviously that’s a huge question. And a good one. [Laughs] What I can tell you is that we’re not doing Psycho.