The season 2 finale of Bates Motel gave viewers a lot to think about: Is the Norman we knew gone for good? Will Dylan take over the drug trade? And what was up with that kiss?!
We caught up with Executive Producer Kerry Ehrin to dissect the finale — kiss included! — and what that ending means for Norman Bates’ journey. Check out our chat below:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start with Norma and Dylan. They had such a breakthrough in this episode. What were you all going for in that moment, and where does their relationship go from here?
KERRY EHRIN: The arc for Dylan this year, we didn’t really know exactly where we wanted to spin it out in the end. We knew we were going to estrange him from the family and then the storytelling became about these little ways that he would get reconnected and then pull back. I think there was just such a feeling that we wanted them to actually connect for the first time ever and just how meaningful that would be for Dylan, and for Norma. It’s huge growth for Norma to be able to do that, to say I’m sorry. It’s huge for Dylan to finally get to hear that from his mother. When you live with these characters everyday like we do when we write it, it’s so moving to us. It’s so meaningful that that happened between them because, in a show that doesn’t get to have a lot of victories, it was a huge victory.
Keeping with Dylan, he spent the episode with Romero, and they had that moment where Romero mentioned the fact that there’s a vacuum now in the drug world and Dylan might be the perfect fit, so is that what you all see as the next step in his journey?
Well it certainly feels like, if Dylan wanted to take advantage of that, that he could step into that. I think he would be torn about it. And I think if he decided to do it, he would want to do it on his own terms. Because he’s not a bad guy. So I think that it would change [the] tenner of the storytelling about that subject, about the drug world, because I think it would be about Dylan trying to do it his way and the right way, and whether or not that’s sustainable in a place like White Pine Bay and what are the other factors that play into that? Where does Romero stand in all this? That’s the really interesting question to me is why is this so important to Romero? We never really know Romero’s whole story, and I love that about him, so it feels like there’s layers to peel away to find out a lot of very interesting things next season.
When you decided to kill Jodi and Zane, did that come about after you killed Nick Ford and knew you wanted to reset the drug landscape? How did you come to that decision?
I’m trying to remember how that came down in the room. I think there was a feeling that once we converged all these different storylines, it felt like it needed a big explosive payoff. Things had spun out of control, and that it basically was an across-the-board massacre. It basically shut down the business of the drug trade in this town and what that would look like for the next season, because this is a town that the economy has depended on that. So that was a really interesting question and then also, just dealing with the transition of going from this year was a great version of the motel for Norma, where it was busy and it was working and it was lucrative. Now we have to introduce that bypass — Is that going to affect them? — and slowly isolate them more. So it kind of played into that whole big landscape of setting that up.
I will admit that before the drug comment, I really wanted Dylan to become a cop and be Romero’s partner.
It’s so funny, I have had that instinct too. I wouldn’t say it’s totally out of the realm of possibility, because I do think Dylan is a good guy. I understand that there would be a part of him that would embrace that, you know? I don’t think he’s quite there yet, but we’ll see. We’ll see what develops with him and Romero in the next season. It will be good.
I have to say: Norman’s suicide check list was fabulous.
Thank you. It made me happy too. [Laughs]
Let’s talk a little about the decision to have him jump to suicide. I love how this show portrays him as being so good and it’s so upsetting that he has this other side. What made you all want to have that be his immediate reaction?
Honestly I feel like the character told us that’s what he would do. It just seemed that this is a guy who really has always tried to do the right thing, has tried to take care of his mother and who knows that he’s like the sun in his mother’s sky. And to suddenly have to say, “OK I now have to tell my mom that I am not only on a pedestal, I’m a murderer,” it was such a horrible thing for him to do to her. That part of it was huge to him, that he just wanted to take himself out of the picture for her sake. And also I think he just couldn’t live with it. He didn’t know any other way to live with it and when you think about it, it really is the honorable thing to do if you found out that you were somehow horribly and unfairly violent to innocent people. So it came from that. It really did come out of the character and knowing the character and knowing how he would react.
We have talk about the kiss! It was such a big moment…
It is a really big moment, and I have to tell you, that was Freddie’s [Highmore] idea.
Yes. Freddie loves pushing the envelope on that particular storyline. [Laughs] I have to be honest that it kind of scared me at first. Carlton [Cuse] and I talked about it and we were like, “We’ll make sure that we have one where they don’t kiss,” and I think the way that they did it and the way that Vera [Farmiga] kissed him was so brilliant and so perfect and so understandable in that moment that they got away with it. I think it was pretty amazing direction too from Tucker Gates. Because that is a tricky thing to pull off.
We’ve talked about how there’s always been that side to their relationship, but what do you hope viewers took away from that?
The thing I love about this show is people take away from it what they want to take away from it. It’s funny because when Vera and I talk about her relationship with Norman, Vera and I always come from this place as mothers where we’re like, “It’s not weird to want to hold your son – OK, it’s inappropriate maybe, but no matter how old your kids get, you just want to jump all over them. It’s part of being a mother, and I think that there’s that aspect of it, that it’s just her being a mother, and then I think there’s also this whole underbelly of their relationship which is, she’s so terrified of abandonment that she unconsciously plays into this sort of intimacy with him in order to keep him pulled into her. And he’s sort of helpless in it because he doesn’t understand himself or his own motivations well enough. So it’s this dance that they’re doing. It’s not said out loud. It’s very deeply psychological, but they’re both enabling the other one to do it. And it’s an amazing relationship to be able to write.
Getting to the polygraph test, we had the return of Norman’s visions. So these are part of his disorder, correct?
They’re alternate personalities that live in him. It stems from the disassociate identity disorder where you literally create other characters that live in you who can come out and handle things when you feel overwhelmed. And Norma’s basically a version of that, so obviously it is Norman. It isn’t Norma, but it’s this strange version of her that’s told through Norman’s impression of his mother.
I loved that last shot of Norman.
Wasn’t that great?
I loved that too. Tucker [Gates] really just hit that out of the park.
What is the significance of that last shot?
Again it’s one of the things where you can interpret it as you like. The intention of it was to show that there’s a part of him that is emerging that is not that totally sweet kid and a dark part of himself that he himself does not understand or have control over. Freddie was just awesome in that. I think they probably did like 15 takes and they were all great. All different too, so it was hard to pick. But yeah, I loved that one.
We know where this show is eventually going with Norman Bates going crazy, but is that where this last shot is heading?
The story of Norman Bates is the story of him becoming the guy that we know in Psycho and so you do eventually have to get there. I think it’s how you get there that is really interesting and those are the choices that are in front of us, and the decisions that are in front of us, but it’s such rich territory. There are so many ways to do it that are so interesting that it’s kind of a champagne problem. [Laughs]
The only other character I wanted to touch on was Emma, because she was finally let in the loop a little bit. What are you thinking for her journey next season?
Again, this is sort of dictated by the characters, [but] it feels like Emma is going to be really seen by that family in order for her to not leave, she needs to become really a part of it in a real way, be more on the inside. How that will play out exactly – if that means a romance with her and Norman, her becoming closer to Norma – that isn’t nailed down yet, but definitely the idea of her becoming more of an intimate player with the family is on the table and it’s the right time for it. She’s great.
I love Emma.
We need to give her a really good storyline, because there wasn’t enough of her this season, and we want more. We want more Emma.
Any final thoughts?
Just what a really amazing journey it is to be able to go on this ride with these characters and to love them so much and to try to get them through this incredibly tough landscape we’ve put them on. We’re in it for the long haul, and it’s going to be good.
Bates Motel will return for a third season.