To help you prep for tonight’s Season 2 finale of “Bates Motel,” Episode 2.10 – “The Immutable Truth,” we have the highlights of a recent interview with series star Freddie Highmore and co-creator Carlton Cuse.
The topics covered range from one we’re always curious about – how much they’ll be deviating from the source material – to what we can expect tonight; what’s in store for Norma and Norman, Dylan and Norman, and Norma and George; plans for Season 3 and beyond; plus a few other tidbits.
Q: Given that we all know the source material so well, how wedded to that are you? By now we’ve become so invested in the characters as we know them from the series that we don’t want them to end up there. Is that possible, or do they need to end up there ultimately?
Carlton Cuse: You know… I’m very happy to hear you say that because I think that’s the key to a great tragedy, and tragedy is a great storytelling form. It worked extremely well for Shakespeare; it worked extremely well for Jim Cameron. Titanic was a tragedy, and in that movie you kind of hope that Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet don’t meet their inevitable fate. I think that tension between sort of your expectations as to what’s going to happen to these characters and what’s actually occurring now on their journey is that dramatic tension… the essence of what we are trying to accomplish as writers.
And I think that Freddie and Vera are… you know, no one could do a better job than the two of them executing that. We do foresee that there are some bad things that loom ahead for Norma and Norman, but I think it would actually rob the audience of the enjoyment of the journey to be too specific about how we’re going to play that out… certainly we think that a literal recitation of the events of the movie would not be fully satisfying.
Q: The finale’s coming up of course. What can you say about how it compares to the first season finale, which was pretty huge, as far as both in scope and thematically?
Carlton Cuse: Freddie, do you want to jump in?
Freddie Highmore: Yes! I think the whole arc of the second season has been fantastic for Norman. There’s always… time that you need in terms of establishing a character and seeing them as they are before they start off on this journey. And I think towards the end of this season we certainly see Norman [evolve]… Norman was a lovely guy, but I think in the tenth [finale] episode especially and perhaps [in] number eight that we’ve already see, we start to see this small manipulative side to Norman that starts to question our allegiance to him and sort of support and backing of it, which has been great fun as an actor to play because you play against the sense of what people think Norman should be like.
But then there comes a point where, you know, to what extent can you continue to support his actions? And with Norman’s kind of growing realization of who he is and who he might become and what he’s capable of comes this sense of power for him. And what I think is great about the tenth episode is… to what extent would Norman take [that power]… And by the end of the episode… are we still with him or not?
Carlton Cuse: I think what distinguishes our show is we’ve tried to make the show very… heartfelt, and it has a lot of humor and emotion. And I think it operates on kind of a level that you don’t expect from a show that’s ostensibly about a guy who’s a serial killer, and I think that’s one of the things that’s sort of surprising about it. So, you know, we just kind of focus on trying to make the best version of our show.
And just to go back to your original question, I personally think that this season finale is better because it moves the overall narrative a big step forward. I don’t want to spoil that too much, but I think that it’s pretty evident as we’ve moved downstream here that there are these really significant looming questions. One is: What is Norman’s ultimate culpability in the murder of Ms. Watson, and secondly, how aware is Norman of what it is that he’s done or is capable of doing?
To us those are really important questions because the character’s self-knowledge is a huge factor in how he moves forward. We’re going to jump right into the heart of those questions in the finale. It’s really satisfying as a writer to have a chance to take those kinds of questions on, and [co-exec producer] Kerry [Ehrin] and I loved writing that stuff. And, you know, it was just made all the better by how well Freddie executed it. I think the finale is my favorite episode of the season, and a lot of that has to do with just how great the performances are by Freddie, Vera [Farmiga], and also Max Thieriot.
Q: Norman and Norma are usually so close, but the secret that she’s been keeping about his blackouts is really driving a wedge between them. Will their relationship continue down that strained path, or is there reconciliation in the near future?
Carlton Cuse: Norma and Norman’s relationship is at the very heart of the show, and that I don’t think ever will change. That’s what makes the show wonderful, this incredible dynamic that exists between these two characters as portrayed by these two actors. That’s the very heart and center of the show. The nature of that relationship, however, will evolve over time, and I think what’s really interesting is that Norman is going from being sort of a boy to being a man; that’s part of his journey over the course of the show. And as he becomes more of a man, that has… consequences in terms of how he and his mother relate to each other. Kerry and I certainly don’t see that relationship as being static, but we definitely see it as always being very close and very intense.
Q: All right, what’s happening with George? Is he too good to be true? Are we going to see more of his back story?
Carlton Cuse: Yes… Part of the story arc this season has really been about seeing how kind of ‘close to the sun’ Norma can fly. She’s always had this vision of moving to this idyllic small town and being in with the right people and having the right relationships. And George sort of personifies acceptance and admission into the society of this town. And in the finale we will definitely see where that leads and where that leaves Norma at the end of the season, and so it will pay off.
Q: Season 2 has covered so much ground and been such a great season with arcs for the entire family. Do you have a sense yet of what the shape of Season 3 will be? What can we expect given how much has been covered already in Season 2?
Carlton Cuse: Well, I’m happy that you like Season 2, and thank you for your kind words about it. Look, our goal is to continue to write the show on a high level and make Season 3 hopefully even better than Season 2. Our expectations are that high, and we – Kerry Ehrin and I – have actually spent a fair amount of time talking about it and we do have a preliminary game plan that we’re very excited about. It’s tough to say too much about it because a lot of it is driven by events that are in the finale that I don’t want to spoil on this phone conference. But I feel very confident that we can make a really engaging Season 3. We do have a plan, and in fact we’re already… now that we’ve been picked up… we’re hard at work in terms of just kind of laying out the architecture of the new season. And I think it’s going to be great; I’m really excited about it.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit more about Norman and Dylan’s relationship… where they stand now? When Dylan first showed up, he was the third wheel. Then we saw them kind of come together, but then once Dylan found out who his father was, he pulled off again. As this season ends and another begins, will we get to see that brotherly relationship between Norman and Dylan again, or will it always be like he’s the odd man out?
Freddie Highmore: Think of the last episode again… even just talking about it right now on the phone, you realize how many different things that brought together and how many new directions are suggested from the last episode. And one of them certainly is to what extent Dylan is needed by Norman in Episode 10, and when his brother needs him most, will Dylan kind of flip to one side – whatever issues he has with Norma or with the family in general – and be there to save his brother? So certainly that’s again another kind of linking. In this finale… everything just converges – it’s wonderful. I remember when… I read it [or when] Carlton and Kerry were sort of pitching it to me… this final idea of how it was all going to end up… it’s just fantastic. I was really excited to do it.
Carlton Cuse: I know. I think it’s the best episode of the series so far, honestly.
Q: Carlton, going back to what you said about a blueprint for the third season, do you also have an overall plan for however many seasons “Bates Motel” goes? Do you know how you want to end it?
Carlton Cuse: Yes, Kerry and I have a plan. We’re having discussions with A&E and Universal Studios about just how many episodes we’re going to do to finish the show. It’s definitely a show that has a beginning, middle, and end; and I think we’re kind of getting to the point where we need to sort of define that with the studio and the network and kind of figure out exactly how many more total episodes we’re going to do, and I’m hoping that we’ll be able to work that out. Because we do know where we’re going to end… we’re planning to start sometime later this fall [on] Season 3…
Q: Freddie, you’ve done a wonderful job of portraying this very complicated character. What part of Norman would you like to see that maybe hasn’t been explored completely these past two seasons?
Freddie Highmore: Something that’s sort of hinted at in the finale is the continuation of blurring the boundaries, the kind of definitive boundaries between ‘this is Norman’ and ‘this is Norma.’ We’ve already seen earlier in the season this continuation of… merging between them at times… that is kind of further pushed out in an incredibly dramatic way in the last episode. I’m excited to continue on exploring that if Carlton and Kerry decide to.
Q: I have to ask one more time – Will Norman and Norma reconnect before the end of this season?
Carlton Cuse: Don’t spoil it!
Freddie Highmore: I’m [honestly] not sure… even I think one of the great things about the show is that it’s never overly conclusive. [They] never sort of shove the conclusion down your throat saying, ‘Oh, this is how you must think… this is your take on Norma and Norman’s relationship.’ And so I imagine and I hope that various people will see the end differently and come out of it with a different opinion from the person sitting next to them. And I think that’s what makes the show great…even amongst everyone on the show, there’s this sense of constant dialogue and constant discussion as to: Have certain boundaries been crossed? What stage is a certain relationship in? And it’s nothing definitive or easily distinguished; it’s just more a sense of reality than fiction I guess.
Our thanks to Freddie and Carlton for their time, moderator Perry Seaman, Jaime Yandolino, Universal Television- NBC, and A&E Networks.
Don’t forget that A&E is also airing “Bates Motel: After Hours” immediately following the season finale, during which stars Vera Farmiga (Norma Bates), Freddie Highmore (Norman Bates), Max Thieriot (Dylan Massett), Nestor Carbonell (Alex Romero), and Olivia Cooke (Emma Decody) and executive producer Carlton Cuse will answer fan questions, share behind-the-scenes analysis, and give insight into Season 2 and what may be to come in Season 3. “Bates Motel: After Hours” will be broadcast in front of a live studio audience in New York.
“Bates Motel” Episode 2.10 – “The Immutable Truth” (airs 5/5/14)
Norman (Freddie Highmore) is haunted by a tragic event in his past. Norma (Vera Farmiga) tries to save Norman from making a horrible mistake.
Romero (Nestor Carbonell) and Dylan (Max Thieriot) try to bring closure to the drug war. Emma (Olivia Cooke) makes a decision about her future at Bates Motel.
Kathleen Robertson, Michael Eklund, Rebecca Creskoff, and Michael O’Neill guest star.
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