Will Norma Bates win the Mother of the Year Award? Definitely not. But that's precisely why Bates Motel is worth watching. In between the first season's sex slave and weed industry subplots, the peg that consistently pulls you in is Vera Farmiga acting completely bonkers. It's impossible to maintain some semblance of normalcy in White Pine Bay, Oregon, a town that predominately consists of murderers and people that are up to no good. But Norma and Norman's descent into Hitchcockian, gender-bending terror seems to be based predominately in their own nature rather than the byproduct of a fake idyllic life. They are their own worst enemies.
Bates Motel picks up right where the first season ended: The town is reeling from the death of Norman's high school teacher, Miss Watson. However, most of White Pine Bay has moved on after four months. Everyone except for Norman. For the first time, the Bates Motel is thriving. There are plenty of customers, Norma wears sun dresses and drives her vintage Mercedes with a smile on her face, and things generally seem to be going well. But that's because she's still the queen of denial.
It does upsets her that Norman sits in their decrepit basement working on advanced taxidermy, avoiding watering holes like all of the other kids. But Norma also avoids the fact that Miss Watson offered Norman a ride home and then ended up dead after he blacked out. Norma's mantra will always be everything is just fine. She expresses that she doesn't like Norman's macabre interests, even though the first episode of the show had her forcing Norman to hide her rapist's dead body. Did he kill Miss Watson? Maybe. Maybe not. But even if he did, it's not like anyone's stopping him from doing it again.
Norman's not the only teenager with a heavy set of issues. After a failed suicide attempt, Bradley, his one-time fling and forever crush is released from a mental institution. She's hell bent on finding out who killed her father with more sexpot authority than she ever displayed while trying to solve her dad's mysteries in season one. Her story is secondary and hopefully it will stay that way. Bradley and Norman's awkwardness is entertaining to watch - and in many ways is propelling him toward the Freudian nightmare that we know. But her character - and most of the supporting characters - aren't the reason to watch.
Bad subplots are simply meant to show how ridiculously, carelessly, and hilariously Vera Farmiga's Norma and Freddie Highmore's Norman react to unbelievable situations. Miraculously, they're able to pull you back in no matter how silly (and quite frankly, stupid) the show gets. That's actually quite a feat. It's terrible to think of accepting the same fate of ' version of Norman Bates. I don't really want to see eventually rotting in a chair in the basement. The show rightly treats itself as a high bastion of camp. It's easier to accept the inevitable outcome. So much of horror within the past fifteen years has been dominated by unflinching, brutal realness. It's refreshing to see a self-aware retelling of a story with the sincerity of a soap opera.