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TV Waffle - BATES MOTEL (Season 3)

Third season of the contemporary set Psycho prequel series.


Review by Nick Sauer



"The third season of Bates Motel really is all about Norman and his transformation into the character we know from Psycho. I'm interested to see the fourth season, based largely on seeing Freddie Highmore's continued performance as the young adult Norman Bates."


Bates Motel is an A&E channel original series. The third season, which ran for 10 hour length episodes, premiered on March 9th, 2015. The series stars Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates and Freddie Highmore as her son Norman. As with all my later season reviews, spoilers are unavoidable, so continue reading at your own risk.
The third season begins following the aftermath of the collapse of the competing marijuana operations from the conclusion of the second season. Sherriff Romero has fallen out of favor with White Pine Bay's power brokers for not only involving the DEA in the situation but, far more importantly, damaging the town's principle source of revenue. Bob Paris, one of the more powerful people in the community, is threatening to replace Romero in the upcoming election, which sort of hints at how much power Bob actually wields. Bob is played by actor Kevin Rahm who will no doubt be more recognizable to most people as Ted, the competitor to Don Draper, in AMC's Mad Men. I bring this up because it took my wife pointing out to me that he was the actor who played Ted a few episodes into the season. I would like to believe I ultimately would have caught this myself, but Mr. Rahm's portrayal of such a different character really kept me from noticing right away, which is a complement to his acting ability. How the Bates family gets dragged into this is through a guest named Annika, who is a high end call girl. She is working a party at the Arcanum club, an exclusive club for all of the wealthy members of the community which seems to be one of Bob's favorite hangouts. Annika disappears and Norma, against Romero's advice as usual, decides to investigate the disappearance on her own as Norman had driven Annika to the rendezvous point and she is all too painfully aware of Norman's history with women. Anika does finally return after a prolonged absence and dies in Norma's arms after handing her an encrypted flash drive that has incriminating financial information on Bob and, ultimately, Romero as well. From this point forward the conflict between Bob and Norma begins with Norma completely outgunned in this case thanks to Romero's divided loyalties.
The other major story arc involves Dylan trying to start a legitimate pot farm with the help of his father Caleb, who it turns out never actually left the area. Dylan initially tries to keep Caleb's presence a secret from Norma, given their unpleasant history, but once Norman finds out this becomes impossible. The revelation drives Norma out of town briefly, which triggers our first full on glimpse of Norman taking on the persona of his mother - in front of Dylan, no less. Hearing about this upon her return, it ends up driving Norma to finally take action in order to address Norman's mental issues. This, in addition to having to deal with Bob's threats, of course taxes Norma to her limit, which starts impacting her relationship with her son. As if she didn't already have enough on her plate, she had also begun taking classes at the local community college, where she runs into a psychology professor who ends up being her first attempt at addressing Norman's situation. Unfortunately this leads to him getting caught in the crossfire between Norma and Bob, which ends with him deciding that leaving White Pine Bay is probably in his best interest. Bob uses the information he gets from the professor about Norman to drive a wedge even further into Romero's relationship with Norma as a means to isolate her even further.
Even with all of this, the third season of Bates Motel really is all about Norman and his transformation into the character we know from Psycho. Much of this is driven by Norma's actions, a sincere attempt on her part to address his mental illness, but which is severely hindered by the other stresses in her life. In addition, not being the most psychologically balanced individual herself, these ham-handed attempts end up causing more harm than good. As Norma's relationship with Sherriff Romero is put to the test, we do get to see a good deal more character development for him, which I really appreciated. Unfortunately, this was somewhat undermined by the season ending resolution with Bob, which was largely predictable to anyone who has watched the previous two seasons.
We still get plenty of great Hitchcock style camera work throughout the season, which is actually capped off nicely by the surprise return of a character from the previous season. This leads to Norman making an attempt to get away from his mother, which, while having another not terribly surprising resolution, was stunningly well shot. The final piece of this scene features another reshoot from the movie Psycho that I felt worked remarkably well. While the season doesn't end with much of a cliffhanger, I can safely say I'm interested to see the fourth season, based largely on seeing Freddie Highmore's continued performance as the young adult Norman Bates.


For more from Nick Sauer, visit his site Fantastic Television