[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from the Season 3 finale of Bates Motel. Read at your own risk.]
The Season 3 finale of Bates Motel literally ended with blood on Norman's hands.
Although Norman (Freddie Highmore) initially resisted a request to run away with Bradley (Nicola Peltz) because he couldn't leave his mother Norma (Vera Farmiga) behind, once Norma admits that she's thinking of sending Norman to a mental hospital, he makes his escape. However, when "Mother" appears and wants to have a word with Bradley, things quickly so sour and Norman — as "Mother" — repeatedly bashes Bradley's head against a rock and, in true Psycho fashion, sinks Bradley's body inside her car.
Elsewhere, Romero (Nestor Carbonell) killed Bob Paris (Kevin Rahm) to keep him from making Norma's life more difficult, and Dylan (Max Thieriot) and Emma (Olivia Cooke) finally kissed after Dylan convinced Emma to go through with a risky lung transplant.
So, what does it mean that we've finally witnessed Norman commit murder? And what can we expect in Season 4? TVGuide took our burning questions to executive producer Kerry Ehrin.
We assume Norman killed Blair Watson and his father, but this time we actually see him kill Bradley. Did you purposefully want to make that distinction?
Kerry Ehrin: Yes. We definitely wanted to see him commit the crime. In the past, we wanted people to engage with Norman, to empathize with him. And now that we have gotten to this point in the landscape of the entire show, we need to start pulling away some of the layers that are darker. We don't want to just protect him and just have him kill bad people, because that's not the story of Psycho. It felt darkly poetic that it should be Bradley, because she is the first girl that Norman really had feelings for when he moved to this new town, when everything was hopeful. This was really the playing out of that relationship and it's also giving birth to the Norman Bates we know from Psycho.
I thought it was heartbreaking that, even after all Norman has been through this season, he wouldn't leave with Bradley until he realized Norma was considering committing him.
Ehrin: You can't underestimate the power of codependence, and he is hugely emotionally dependent on her for what he perceives as his very survival. So, it is impossible for him to walk away from her. So, the only thing that could get him to move away from her is fear, and he gets scared when she says that. He feels like, "Oh, my God, this person who has been my soulmate my whole life is suddenly telling me I am not going to be with her anymore and not only that, but she is going to lock me up," and it scares the hell out of him. He just wants to leave at that point. He is angry and hurt and he wants to leave, and that allows him to have the strength to walk out the door. But once he's out the door, all of the fear sets in again. All of the vulnerability sets in again when he is going down the road with Bradley.
Even when "Mother" appeared, it seemed Norman was bargaining with her because he wanted to get rid of her. Does he have some self-awareness of this other part of himself or is he totally lost in it?
Ehrin: The character beat in that was him sensing fear when he sees her in the back seat, and sensing that she's there to try to control him and wanting to not give into it. He is lost inside of the confusion at this point, and he doesn't always know what's real and what's not real. You can imagine how terrifying that would be, to think you had conversations with someone and then they tell you they never happened, and you don't know if that person is crazy. So, he's terrified and he's drowning and trying to keep his head above water.
Norma also had a big moment in this episode just by finally being able to admit that Norman has a problem and needs real help. How important is that for her?
Ehrin: It's huge. That's a huge, huge turning point for her — bigger than any turning point in the entire series. Part of it is that the journey of what's she's gone through since she moved to this place has caused her to have to pull up parts of herself and realize that she was stronger than she realized she was, and smarter than she realized she was. She can have the strength to look a little more clearly at her son in less of a super needy way, which she has always influenced her in the past. Being able to go into that place is a huge step forward for her.
After Norma opens up about Norman to Romero, he kills Bob Paris. Did he do that just for Norma?
Ehrin: Absolutely. That gesture at is also a huge turning point for Romero, because it is the first time he's committed a crime where his motivation was murky. He always, in the past, knew exactly why he was doing something and he was doing it to control a bad situation from getting out of hand. This is the first time he has done something purely personal, and he did it because he's in love with her. He knows he's all in at this point and there's no going back. How that will be expressed to her, when and where, that story is to come. But that moment is a huge admission for him to himself.
How terrified is Romero that what Bob said about Romero becoming like his father is true?
Ehrin: That's his worst fear: that he would become his father. I think he's grown up with such real contempt for the way his father lived his life, and I think the last thing he imagines himself as is being like that. The fact that he is starting to manipulate the law for personal reasons is probably a huge eye-opener to him, and I think in that moment, part of the reason he shoots Bob is because he just doesn't want to hear that. It's a cocktail of all of these different things that are boiling in him at that point.
Tell me about that Dylan and Emma kiss.
Ehrin: It was so beautiful. We just adore that scene and every time we look at it in editing, we just sigh. It's so pretty, and it is so real. And it's funny because when we were writing that last script, Carlton and I were going back and forth on the scene because I couldn't get it to a point where it felt like they should kiss naturally. It kept feeling forced. So finally, we were like, "OK, we're just not going to have it happen," and then on that pass, the scene kind of reworked itself so that it completely felt right. Their hearts are so good, those two characters, that it's such a happy moment.
Does this signal a change in Dylan? He's never been able to put his hope in someone because he's so used to being abandoned. But this time, he seems happy to put his emotions toward someone who very well could die and leave him.
Ehrin: That's a great question because the truth is she is probably in a more precarious state getting the surgery than if she just stayed the status quo for a few years until she really started to debilitate. But it's one of those risks you have to take because the potential payoff is so gigantic. The beauty and the magic of Dylan and Emma is that it is of the moment, and it is fragile. It's so meaningful to both of them for that very reason that you stated: Caleb left and all of Dylan's family, they can't be completely there for him because they're damaged. Emma just offers this beautiful open door to normalcy and love and support, and that dream that everybody has of having a family. That's why it's so incredibly meaningful.
Even though Emma let Norman down easy earlier in the season, do you think there is still a triangle that could emerge if Norman finds out these two are moving toward a relationship?
Ehrin: That's going to be discovered, but I think his perception of it will have everything to do with what he's going on at the time. I think part of him would be hurt and I think another part of him that we're seeing this season that actually really loves his brother and really loves Emma, might get it even if he doesn't like it. It really will be very fun and fascinating to unravel.
So, what are some of the keys in your mind for Season 4?
Ehrin: We feel like we've definitely earned the position at the top of the roller coaster and are very much looking forward to the few seasons of freefalling into more and more craziness and the mythology of Psycho. At the same time, we're staying true to the characters and delivering genuine human people that you can empathize with. Things have gotten completely unraveled. Every bit of normalcy for every character has come unraveled at this point. So, it really is about this descent into this dark place of not knowing and of scary things that work inside of people, and yet within the scariest of landscapes, there can be incredibly meaningful moments of connection and beauty. So, that's what we're hoping to deliver for next season.