One episodes of the third season of “Bates Motel” was provided for review purposes prior to broadcast.
Bates Motel has had a solid endgame planned since its beginning, a fact co-creator Carlton Cuse has reiterated year after year. The Psycho-prequel angle establishes a pretty firm ending for the series, but the show, aside from a dull subplot or two, has always felt surprising in the way it reveals the steps that Norma and Norman must take to get to that horrific end goal. Cuse and co-creater Kerry Ehrin have packed much plot into the show’s slim twenty episodes already, but with the season three premiere, things finally stall.
They stall for time (here’s your favorite drug subplot rearing its head!) and for character growth (Norman blacks out, Norma is overprotective) and nothing ever feels like a direct result or consequence from the somewhat scandalous events of last season. It’s still got two noteworthy central performances and enough atmosphere to sustain a dying planet, but for the first time in its twenty-one episodes, Bates Motel has begun to feel redundant.
A summer has passed since season 2, and no one appears willing to discuss anything that happened back then. Perhaps Norman’s new habit of sleeping in Norma’s bed is an indication on how that forest kiss is affecting their relationship, but not much has changed here. They hug and profess their love and scream and slam doors, still admittedly captivating in their creepy self-awareness of the central mother-son relationship but continuing to grow closer anyway.
The most discussed event from last season may actually be Dylan’s drug subplot, with Sheriff Romero dealing with the fallout of the DEA assisting the local cops in burning down the entire illegal narcotics industry in White Pine Bay one field at a time. As it happens, Dylan’s father-uncle pops up again and they mostly, well, brood. There’s a hint in the middle of the episode that not everyone’s happy with the DEA’s crackdown on the fields, and it’s understandable that a show with such a narrow kernel of a central idea would need some B plot padding, but the retread into drug-related drama in the premiere doesn’t help alleviate the air of sameness skulking over the show.