'Bates Motel' Season 3: More Emma, more Caleb and more madness, says EP Kerry Ehrin

bates-motel-season-3-norma-norman-ae.jpg "Bates Motel" hit a major turning point in its Season 2 finale, but what comes next? With the kingpins (and queenpin) of White Pine Bay wiped out and Norman as psycho as the audience has ever seen him, dark times certainly lie ahead for the Bates family.

Zap2it spoke with co-creator Kerry Ehrin about the Season 2 finale and what is coming in Season 3. Though she and fellow writer Carlton Cuse haven't solidified all the details for the upcoming season, they do know what's ahead for Norman, Dylan, Emma and -- surprise! -- Caleb.

Zap2it: At what point did you decide that you wanted Season 2 to end with Norman putting the murder of Miss Watson onto his Norma fantasy? That's pretty "Psycho."
Kerry Ehrin: It's funny how these things come up when you're writing. You don't always think of them linearly. We, almost from the beginning of the season, wanted it to be about Norman's own discovery of himself, and not to tell the Miss Watson story through outside forces investigating and suspecting him. Given that you're telling the story, we knew it had to reach an end. We had to set up a situation where it could be explained away to people like Romero or Norma, but the audience would know more what Norman knew. 

That led to the lie detector test. The idea of "Norma" appearing there. I don't know where that came from; it was just an idea that I had in the room, and it just seemed kind of perfect. The idea that she as a fantasy could literally change the chemistry of his body, that it was that tied into him at this point. That she could change the chemistry of his body that it could then pass a lie detector test was just such a cool idea. So that's how that happened.

Was that kiss between Norma and Norman supposed to be considered somewhat incestuous?
No, not in my head. In my head, what that kiss was about they have such a complicated relationship and they are extremely codependent and they don't really trust anyone else outside of their own circle of the two of them. Norma has such fear of abandonment and she has so many issues that she keeps pulling him into her. I think she unwittingly does it a little bit through sexuality; not that she's sleeping with him, but that he's grown up now and even though he's her son, it's almost like they're an emotional couple even though they're not a physical one.

I feel like that kiss was her literally trying to pull him as close into her as she possibly could. One of the things I love that Vera [Farmiga] did in that scene is as soon as she gets the gun away from him, she gets up and grabs his head and puts it right next to her head. It's almost like she's trying to absorb him into her body. I feel like the kiss was more part of that physical union that she was trying to create, where it's literally like they merge into one person, as opposed to being sexual. Because he's a teenage boy, because he's confused sexually, I think that that projects a sexuality onto it. I don't think it comes from Norma.

Maybe we've all been watching too much "Game of Thrones" and "Flowers in the Attic."
[ laughs] The show does have an aspect to it where you project onto it where you want it to mean, too, which is very interesting. 

I was happy there was a resolution between Dylan and Norma. Is that something we can expect to last? 
Their relationship is definitely complicated, and there's a lot of history of hurt for them both. I think it was a huge step forward for them, and it was such a huge enlightenment for Norma to be able to say she was sorry and to be able to confront that with him and be able to basically tell him that she loved him and she valued him. I think that's very real, and that will be part of their relationship. But it isn't as if you fix a relationship like that in one three-minute interchange. That's a complicated, complicated relationship with heavy chains on it of their history together. They're going to try, but I think the push and pull between them will continue forever. 

Is the Caleb storyline over? Can we expect Kenny Johnson to return? 
At the time, we didn't. We felt like the story we wanted to tell this season we told, and then we exited him. But we loved him so much as a character, and we think Kenny's so amazing. His chemistry with all the actors was fantastic, and it's just such a rich world -- that whole relationship and the history and what really happened and how it affected Norma -- that Carlton [Cuse] and I both really want to figure out a way to bring him back in a way that feels organic and real. The thing I love about him is it's the only connection we have to Norma's childhood, and I'm fascinated by what that was about. 

Can we expect any conflict between Norma and Dylan about what to do with Norman now that he is no longer suspected of murder? 
I think that's going to be ongoing. Norma is a person who's so fragile emotionally that she really needs to live in this fantasy existence that she's created. And Dylan, because he loves her, is going to have an instinct to try to get her outside of that comfort zone and deal with the reality of it. And also, Dylan does have a conscience and he will be worried that Norman might do something, he might hurt somebody, he might hurt himself. Dylan is more the eyes of the audience in that situation because Norma and Norman have blinders on because they're trying to just live for each other. 

This season definitely tied up more neatly than Season 1. What are some threads you'd like to pick up again in Season 3?
Well definitely the Caleb character. I think there's a lot more to be told in that story. I think the ongoing story with Norman having an awareness of who he is and trying to manage it -- trying to be both the person his mother believes him to be and then also manage this other darkness inside of him that he doesn't completely understand -- is going to be an ongoing thing for him. Also he is descending into more of a disturbed state, and that door obviously is open because he's got a ways to go on that. That will be an ongoing part of the storytelling.

Also, we've basically wiped out the economy of White Pine Bay. [ laughs] That's a little bit of an issue that we have to address and see how that's going to work. What's going to happen with Norma's dream of running this motel, living there happily with her kid, when she's on the outs now with the very people who got her inside the city council? All that stuff has to be played out, so there are actually quite a lot of open doors that we want to continue.

We've lost Bradley, we've lost Cody; it feels like Emma might be next. Do you have a solid plan for her going forward?
Oh, definitely. We love Emma. We're not letting her go anywhere. We don't have a concrete plan, but we want to pull her more into the interior of the Bates family next season. We're not exactly sure what that looks like yet, if it is maybe getting closer to Norman and kind of going down the road with that a bit in terms of a romance. We just want to pull her way deep inside the family. Especially now that she knows the truth about Dylan, that's going to open up, in a way, a door between her and Dylan because she's going to see him differently now. Because she's such a compassionate person, it will probably make her reach out to him more.

When you were writing Season 2, was there anything you found yourself wishing you could explore more in Season 3?
So many things surprise you when you're writing them. I feel like telling the story of Dylan's estrangement from his family this year was interesting just because it kept tugging at us that he wanted to go back into his family, which was so interesting because you think of that character and he has every reason in the world to never talk to them again. Sometimes when you're inside a character and you know them really well, they tell you what they need to do next. Just following Dylan and his growth as an adult, his becoming a man and his seeing his family for what they really are and still being able to forgive them and to be able to be brave enough to put himself out there and participate in their life. I think he's such an interesting character. 

We all know there was no brother in "Psycho" the movie. [ laughs] I think that conundrum is a really fascinating one that we're going to want to really think about how we do the story of Dylan, and what story are we telling with him and where do we want it to lead to, because he's become such a huge character for the show. And he's so beloved, too. People just are crazy about him.

It's funny that you mention that about there being no brother in "Psycho," because I always wonder, "Is Dylan inevitably going to die?" Can't he just get away and live a good life and have a happy ending that they just never talk about again? 
[ laughs] Well those are the questions. Those are the questions that are on the table. TBD. But we all love him, so it's going to be interesting to figure that out.

Do you have a series plan at this point, or are you just letting it take you wherever it goes?
We're kind of in discussions about that right now, because Carlton and I both strongly feel we're driving to a specific point and it will only enhance the storytelling to know where that point is and when it's happening as opposed to just creating stuff every season and not knowing where it's ending or when it's ending. I think we're kind of trying to work that out right now because we would both like to have a definitive end set so that we can write toward it.

Well give us at least a few more seasons before you cut the cord.
Oh yeah, definitely. [ laughs]
Photo/Video credit: A&E