Another Good Night’s Stay
So, I fell behind on this show last year and didn’t finish it on time. Not because I didn’t like it but just because I didn’t around to it. Now the premiere of season 4 is right around the corner I thought why not rewatch season 3 and review it before this new season? Netflix just added it and I got through the entire season in under two days. I found that season 3 to be the strongest season yet. While I think season 2 (watching some of the episodes again) doesn’t hold up to some repeat viewings, Season 3 represents the series strongest and well crafted writing to date.
Season 3 picks up pretty much where the previous one left off. Norman is still haunted by the death of his English teacher Miss Watson. Having trouble dealing with the pressures of returning to school Norma lets Norman home school. Norman and Emma enter in a relationship together but Norman finds himself under increasing scrutiny. The town also reels from the aftermath of the drug war and Dylan prepares to start his own farm but finds it difficult to start a relationship with his father. Norma starts to go back to school and starts to strike up a relationship with a teacher. Norman through all of this continues to lose his sense of reality and falls deeper into madness.
Let me start off with what doesn’t work with previous seasons. As much as I like the previous seasons there are some definite flaws. The most of which is the drug war storyline. Even when the storyline is connected to the ongoing arc with Norman (which is the obvious focus and crux of the series) it feels like it’s from a different series and spliced into this series to fill out the running time. However this season it feels like it has a much tighter focus. It’s more connected with Norman’s arc. It’s takes up a smaller amount of the runtime and leads into many different arcs that are going throughout the series. Those arcs extend to many of the supporting characters that are better explored. I have a feeling that the events in this season will carry over in a big way to the upcoming season.
I will say despite a lot of its tighter focus some episodes certainly shift away from Norman and onto Dylan. This didn’t bother me so much because these segments are better written then any of the previous seasons and actor Max Theriot’s acting is improved from previous seasons.
With each passing season Norman Bates becomes increasingly unhinged. Here he takes another step forward. With the start of each season I always think how are the writers not going to jump the shark and make Norman go “full psycho”? Each season the writing shows remarkable and calculated strength to restrain themselves from getting to those moments we have all been waiting for. Freddie Highmore’s performance is fantastic as always. Here the character has to hit on many different and more emotionally complex ranges. Highmore executes it all perfectly and never “hams” it up. Some moments he genuinely creepy and bordering on the realm of scary.
All the other actors make a return. Vera Farmiga continues her great performance as Norma Bates. She feels natural and way out of her league when she begins to challenge some of the “higher ups” in the town. Olivia Cooke is always wonderful in this show as Emma. Her relationship with Norman proves to be difficult and starts to grow closer with Dylan. Nestor Carbonell has a much bigger presence in this season and given more to do. His own story arc and past gets a bit of a revelation and Carbonell seems to be savoring every moment.
This season also marks the return of Nicola Peltz, fresh off of “Transformers: Age of Extinction” (although that doesn’t exactly help her here). Peltz’s return was a surprise but isn’t utilized in the best fashion. She feels like she is more of a catalyst for Norman’s arc rather than self sustaining her own. Peltz doesn’t arrive till the end of the season but does make just enough impact for her returned to be well worth it. I wish though she was given more time in the season.
I think the biggest testament to the show’s quality is how easily watchable it is. This hasn’t quite reached the level of greatness s that it could potentially make but it is always so damn watchable. I will always turn on the next episode when I am binge watching. I did that with the first season, the second and now I did it with the third. There is always something going on in the show. Even shows that I like more have duller moments where it could feel like a drag to get through (“Walking Dead” I am looking at you). “Bates Motel” never drags and it’s sharp 10 episodes feels tight and concise. Even the drama in the show I don’t really love or the times when it feels forced I am never finding myself checking the running time for the end of the episode. If a series does that, then it’s well worth your time watching it. Season 4 premieres Monday, here’s hoping for another good season.