'Bates Motel' postmortem: EP on Norman's memory, Dylan's [spoiler!], and 'burning flame' between Norma and Romero

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Image Credit: Joseph Lederer/A&E

Spoiler alert: If you haven’t watched the penultimate episode of Bates Motel season 2, stop reading now!

Just when you thought Bates Motel couldn’t get any creepier, they went and put Norman in a box full of bugs. However, that box ended up being a lot more than just a holding place. It was the place where Norman finally remembered his night with Blaire Watson.

So what comes next for the nice kid with a dark side? Or what about his brother, who just killed the leader of the town’s biggest drug family? We caught up with Bates Executive Producer Kerry Ehrin to talk about what exactly happened in that box, Dylan’s journey, Norma’s chemistry with Sheriff Romero, and more:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Getting the darkest part of the episode out of the way, I want to talk about the decision to put Norman in this sort of grave in the woods. Did you discuss any other kidnapping scenarios? What made you want to go this dark?
KERRY EHRIN:
Honestly that idea came independently. The idea of putting Norman in a box came before the story of how we were going to do that, and it was just such an interesting idea, on any terms, if you put anyone in a box. But then the thing that was so interesting to us was the idea that this kid spends so much time hiding from who he is and not understanding who he is, so when he was in that confined space, it would start coming out of his brain in a way that he could not push it down. It seemed really, really interesting to us, and that’s what we liked about the idea. That’s the road we pursued it on.

That was one of my other questions – Was it something specific that finally triggered Norman’s memory of his night with Blair? Or was it just this idea that he was so alone that everything would come to the surface?
Well the interesting thing about the disorder that Norman has, the dissociative identity disorder, is that it’s very much activated by stress. It comes out of children who are repeatedly traumatized, either sexually traumatized or live in a very violent environment. They’re basically repeatedly scared over and over and over again as children to the extent that they literally retreat into themselves and they pull out a different personality that they can put forward to go deal with whatever is scaring them to death. And given that he was so broken down during this experience that he was terrified, he was alone, he was confined, of course that disorder is going to get stimulated and activated in that environment. So it kind of works perfectly that his brain was just starting to live its own life. I love the scene where he envisions his mom on his bed and she’s trying to tell him not to be afraid. That was coming from the same place, coming from that same disorder, and the idea [that] he’s just in such a raw place emotionally that these memories can kind of leak through and he can’t stop them was such a cool idea.

Moving forward, how is this experience going to change Norman?
It’s going to give him an awareness of himself. He doesn’t know for fact that this all happened, but he believes that it happened, and he’s never had that before. I mean Norman is basically a nice person. He’s basically a good kid who has this side of himself that he doesn’t know about. He senses it on some level that he’s not totally typical, but he’s never had anything like an actual memory of the violence that he was involved in, so it’s a huge thing for him.

I also wanted to touch on this decision to kill Nick Ford and, more specifically, to have Dylan kill Nick Ford. Was that always your plan going into this season?
No. The idea of Dylan trying to have to do something so dark to take care of his family in a way was really interesting to us because of his estrangement from his family, and it’s so moving because this is a time in Dylan’s life when he has every right in the world to basically tell his family to f— off. He has every right to just be like, “They’ve treated me like crap, and I’m out of here.” And because Dylan is who he is and because he actually has this deep need for family and because he actually loves them, he kind of can’t walk away from them in their hour of need, and I think that was such a great story for him because it was a surprise to him, you know? In that moment, he was going to come through for them and try to handle the situation.

I think what’s really interesting to me is how this will affect Dylan personally in addition to the town as a whole. What can you tell me about those ramifications, both for the town and him personally?
Well it has huge ramifications in the town because sort of the norm that the town has been living on is turned on its ear at this point, and certainly that plays out in the next episode. And I feel like Dylan, the whole season for him this year was about him finding out who he was and what he was made of and what he was capable of, because I think up until this point, he was a bit of a pinball. He kind of went where life took him, and I think this year, he’s found out really what he’s made of and what’s important to him. I don’t think killing people is ever something he likes to do or feels good about or that he takes lightly, but I think given that he was trying to take care of his family and that the guy was basically going to kill him, that buys him a lot.

Shifting gears, I love, love, love Sheriff Romero.
So do I!

I find myself rooting for him and Norma to get together. I’ve wanted it from day one, but recently, they’ve established this interesting connection. Is there something deeper there?
Yeah, we feel like there’s definitely something there. It’s buried pretty deep at this point, but I mean, obviously Norma has gotten his attention. I think he started from a place of thinking she was a gigantic pain in the ass to actually having incredible respect for her and kind of understanding her. And I think the thing that’s so much fun about them just chemistry-wise is that they’re both control freaks. They’re two control freaks that are incredibly attracted to each other, so that’s just a fun, fun story. We have to see how it plays out, but it definitely feels like there’s a strong flame burning there between them.

That’s all I needed to hear. And I’ve loved watching Romero come to the forefront lately. I feel like he’s emotionally unraveling a little bit in his need for answers, so what can you tell me about his journey in the finale?
Last season, he was very much a character that was a total enigma, that you never saw at all the inside of. And it was a conscious choice this year to peel that back a little bit and to see him a little bit more as a real person and then put him in this environment where he’s used to being able to control everything around him and make it work the way he wants. And for the first time, that structure’s kind of falling apart around him. And then seeing how he dealt with it and what came out of it. I think we did get to see a different side of him this season, and that you’ve seen him be vulnerable, you’ve seen him not know how to handle something, but he’s still the same kind of strong, cool guy. And [there's] the whole thing with Norman, now that he knows that Norman had sex with Ms. Watson the night she died, and how he’s going to handle that when in fact he has an affection for the Bates family, which is not usual for them. He doesn’t usually mix those two things, so it puts him in a very, very interesting position just as a character, because we want to know how’s that going to play out and what’s going to be a stronger force in him when he’s faced with that?

The last thing I want to touch on was in an older episode. I loved Norma and Norman’s fairly recent chat about how their relationship had changed and how it could never go back to what it was, which of course, came before he had this experience in the box, so is there any going back in terms of their relationship? What can you say about where they’re headed as a pair?
The thing that’s fascinating about them as a unit is that nothing is acknowledged between them. They clearly have a traditional mother-son relationship on one hand, and then on the other hand, they’re like a married couple. They kind of are comfortable with that arrangement for a number of different reasons, partly because Norma has such a deep need to not be abandoned that she holds on to him in ways that are not healthy and that she’s not even aware of. I think he’s like a teenage boy who hasn’t separated from his mother yet, and obviously that’s not a good idea. So I think so much of that is not acknowledged between them because they both need it to stay unacknowledged. It’s something they would not want to look at or have to say that they were doing. But I feel like that scene was about him. It was the first time he kind of said any part of it out loud, and that’s why I love that episode so much, because it’s the first time that they really start playing off of each other as a couple. Like when she’s trying to make him jealous because she’s going out that night and he’s saying, “I don’t care. Stay out.” It was just so rich and weird and interesting because they’re not usually that overt about it. It was kind of him calling her on her bullshit, and it put him a little more in a position of power which we haven’t seen before and is really interesting to see Norman coming from a stronger place with her.

 Bates Motel‘s season 2 finale airs next Monday, May 5 at 10 p.m. on A&E.

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