Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore
It's gonna be a bright, sunshine-y day on Season 2 of Bates Motel — at least temporarily.
When the second season of the A&E drama kicks off (Monday, 9/8c, A&E), four months have passed. It's summer in White Pine Bay and Norma Bates (Vera Farmiga) can't hold back the smile that comes from having her motel completely booked. But there's one cloud that Norma just can't shed: Norman (Freddie Highmore) remains fixated on the death of his teacher Miss Watson, whose grave he visits far too often for Norma's liking.
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Of course, all signs in the Season 1 finale suggested it was Norman, distraught from a terrible night at a school dance and vulnerable after being shown affection by Miss Watson, is responsible for his dear teacher's death. Or is he?
"The story of what happened to Miss Watson is very much, at this point, a story of perception," executive producer Kerry Ehrin tells TVGuide.com. "We saw [everything] through Norman's point of view at the end of the last season, and this season, we unravel that. ... The real story of that is told."
Indeed, Season 2 very quickly offers new details about who Miss Watson really was, all of which are meant to keep viewers guessing. "White Pine Bay is a tangled place," Ehrin says. "Everyone in that town has secrets. Everyone is beholden to someone, and everyone is afraid of someone."
Norma will learn that the hard way when she becomes further enmeshed in White Pine Bay politics as she fights against construction of a bypass that could crush her now-thriving motel business. But of course, Norma can't help but worry about Norman's obsession. But is she genuinely concerned about protecting her son or jealous that he still clings to another (albeit dead) maternal figure?
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"The beauty of Norma Bates is that both of those are true, and you never know exactly where things are coming from with her," Ehrin says. "Any mom in the world would be concerned about their son who couldn't let go of thinking about this dead teacher who died in this tragic manner. ... For Norma, there's a part of her that knows what happened with Norman's dad, that understands that he has these blackouts. That whole concept is so terrifying to her. It is overwhelming to her, and so she does what she's so skilled at doing, which is just shoves it down. She's a master of denial."
But Norma will be forced to reckon with some of her repressed memories when her brother Caleb (Kenny Johnson) rolls into town. "Norma has this vault that is inside her, where she just shoves this stuff and locks it up," Ehrin says. "Her brother, who according to Norma had this relationship with her that was sexually abusive, [was] a memory locked in her in a safe place. When the guy shows up, and he's not in the vault ... it's terrifying to her. It's a collision between every coping mechanism that she has and reality."
It's not all bad news for Norma this season, however. As she rubs elbows with the upper crust of White Pine Bay, Norma becomes entangled with George Heldens (Michael Vartan), a charming divorcee who wants to help Norma. "He is a little bit of a dream for her," Ehrin says. "Norma is, in many ways, the bad-luck girl with men. She just does not pick good men, and this season, part of what we wanted to explore was the idea of Norma getting close to getting what she wanted — maybe getting close to achieving this dream of living a happy, normal life with her son, running a successful business, and having a real relationship. We really wanted to play with that idea and seeing how that would deconstruct, or if it would deconstruct."
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New romance is also in the air for Norman, who, after being rejected by Bradley (Nicola Peltz), becomes friends with Cody Brennan (Paloma Kwiatkowski), a young party girl with her own messed-up family. "He still has incredibly strong feelings for [Bradley]," Ehrin says. "When he meets Cody Brennan, he is in a little bit of a recovery pattern. He's had his heart broken. He's kind of gotten to a place where he's living with it. [Cody] is just an easy person to be around, and they really bond over the fact that they both have dysfunctional home lives. It's like the secret club of the broken. She pulls him into doing stuff that he would not normally be doing."
And Norma won't be very happy about it. In fact, Ehrin says that the more Norma and Norman venture out on their own, the more they are forced to rely on one another. "Everything that we bring into the storytelling is about the story between Norma and Norman, and it pushes them always forward," Ehrin says. "There's a lot more control games. By the end of this season, it's super intense. It's quite a ride . Their relationship becomes a little more sophisticated, in a psychological way. And in kind of a twisted way."
Bates Motel airs Mondays at 9/8c on A&E.