A new face does show up, however, in Revolution‘s Tracy Spiridakos. She plays Annika Johnson, renting a room at the Motel for a few nights while she’s in town for a “party” with a few older gentlemen. Norman picks up on her particular career choice soon enough, and she is the nucleus for a scene that feels like the biggest homage to Psycho that the show’s done so far, but she’s also wasted. Spiridakos is too good of an actress to play such a minor role, and too uninteresting of a character to merit any fear or anxiety for her livelihood. There could be more of her in the rest of the season, but the show doesn’t give up any details in the premiere.
Elsewhere in the episode, Norman breaks down in school after seeing Miss Watson sitting next to him at lunch, bleeding from the throat. Norma promptly decides to home-school him, Emma joins in, and Norman is promoted to Motel Manager. Some strides are made towards big changes coming in season three, but they take two steps back for every step forward. Norman asks Emma to be his girlfriend, for example, and the show is at its emotionally wringing best when the dramatic irony of his inevitable turnout clashes with the sweetness we see on screen. But then he trips over himself in assisting Annika with changing a light bulb and navigating her new surroundings in town, causing a near identical Bradley/Emma/Norman (not to mention Cody/Emma/Norman) conflict which we saw for nearly two seasons.
Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore still play the living daylight out of Norma and Norman, despite a few cringe-worthy lines of dialogue that feel out of place on the show, but even they can’t elevate the premiere out of its stagnation. In an episode whose main dramatic conflict boils down to sleeping arrangements, the show feels unable, or unwilling, to yet deal with the immediate fallout from last season and appears to even be scratching its head in confusion on where to head next.
Towards the end of the hour, Norma attests that the two need to be more proactive about the bypass shutting down their business (yet another storyline that sees spinning wheels), and that they “can’t just sit by” and lose their business. Bates Motel is still an admirably made and slickly shot hour of television, and no doubt fans of the show will lap up what little new developments happen in the season three premiere, but hopefully the show takes Norma’s own advice over the next nine weeks.
Confusingly hazy in referencing the events of last season and scratching its head over the future, Bates Motel for the first time since its grand opening feels disappointingly stagnant.
Bates Motel Season 3 Review