Near the end of season two, A&E’s Bates Motel gave a tantalizing glimpse of teen Norman Bates experiencing the personality split integral to his later-life behavior. Since the character has already racked up a body count, the next question might be when he’ll begin wearing his mother’s clothes. In a discussion after the Bates Motel Comic-Con panel in San Diego Friday afternoon, star Freddie Highmore addressed the inevitable.
“It’s going to come at some point, isn’t it? I can see Norman sitting down in her room in front of the mirror and thinking ‘Oh, I’m going to put on her clothes and see what they look like,’” Highmore said. “Whether that’s this year or next year or the year after, who knows? I don’t know with any certainty at all. But, yeah, there’s certainly going to be the merging of the two parts of Norman’s life and of his personality… The furthest [he’s gone] was probably in the motel with Caleb when he starts speaking as her. And that’s when she’s kind of taken over his personality. I mean, maybe if there had been a dress around—who knows?”
Hosted by Entertainment Weekly senior writer Dan Snierson, the afternoon panel included executive producers Carlton Cuse (Lost, The Strain) and Kerry Ehrin (Friday Night Lights), and cast Vera Farmiga (Norma Bates), Olivia Cooke (Emma), and Nestor Carbonell (Sheriff Alex Romero). Snierson asked about season two’s emotional, intimate kiss scene, in which Norma comforts her suicidal son.
“Apparently, there was no kiss, until Freddie Highmore read it,” Farmiga said.
“I just thought Norman would like a kiss,” Highmore responded. “It would tempt him off the edge of suicide, that last thing—and it needed to be at least three seconds.”
Both actors agreed that filming the scene didn’t seem particularly notable in the moment. “For Norma, she’s this broken-down lioness, and she’s taking care of this lame cub, and it’s a life-or-death scenario—she’s going to give him a few licks,” Farmiga said.
Some of the biggest season three news of the panel included the return of Kenny Johnson as Dylan’s father-uncle, Caleb, and Nicola Peltz as troubled teen murderess Bradley Martin, as reported previously by Snierson. After the announcement, Johnson joined the panel as a surprise guest.
The panel also featured gag reels, including a title sequence positioning the show as if it were a lighthearted primetime sitcom, Highmore showing off his recently completed language degree (in both Arabic and Spanish) from the University of Cambridge by overdubbing Bates Motel scenes in Spanish, and an “audition reel” of the stars.
To give an idea of where the series will go in season three, Ehrin first explained that season two was about Norma getting what she wants—”a good life, running the motel, things going well”—which, Cuse noted, doesn’t happen.
“Season two, we kind of wanted to see this story of Icaraus flying close to the sun, and then we wanted to sort of see Norma’s wings melt a little bit,” Cuse said. “Season three is going to pick up not long after season two ends. We’re going to sort of see the consequences of what happened: basically that we kind of killed everybody, except for our series regulars on the show. So that leaves kind of a big void in White Pine Bay, and it’ll be very interesting to see what happens. And there’s this kind of question of in a town where there’s sort of some dubious morality, if you kill all the bad people, does it mean other bad people are going to show up, or can this town exist without bad people?”