'Bates Motel' Season 2 Premiere Review: The Kids Aren't All Right
'Bates Motel' Season 2 Premiere Review: The Kids Aren't All Right
Jennifer Lind-Westbrook
Jennifer Lind-Westbrook
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
If the season 2 premiere of Bates Motel is any indication of what's to come, the show's focus is going to stretch beyond the dysfunctional bond between mother and and son. True, season 1 introduced a variety of characters and situations to counterbalance  the trauma Norman incurred each time he was aroused by seeing his mother in her underwear. But the obstacles they faced still had them working in tandem.

Unlike last season, it looks like there will be a greater emphasis on how Norma and her son function independently of one another. Another possible recurring theme throughout the show's sophomore season could be whether several of the primary characters will prevail in their struggles to let go of the past and embrace the present. In particular, for Norma the opportunities for happiness are there, but it's questionable whether she will be able to get out of her own way. Trying to predict what Bates Motel has in store for its fans is as difficult as foreseeing the plot twist in an Alfred Hitchcock film.

The season 2 premiere initially starts off where the season 1 finale left off. After the shocking revelation of Miss Watson's murder, the show jumps forward four months. It's summer in White Pine Bay, and there are subtle signs that the Bates have finally settled in to their new home. Tourists are flocking to the town, which means business for the motel. While everything is sunshine and light, even Norma's hair is blonder and brighter. The one stark contrast is the dark, brooding presence of the house. In dire need of a paint job, it sits on the hill like a homely girl surveying a school dance from her vantage point in the corner.

Also in a dark place both literally and figuratively is Norman. Norma makes a comment that her son spends too much time in the basement, a clever nod to the film in which this part of the house is her final resting place. The writers have established a world that is tenuously tied to Psycho but not overshadowed by it. Bates Motel has successfully avoided just being a small-screen prequel. It is its own universe now. But it's obvious that the creative team behind Bates will never completely dismiss their muse.

Norma is still controlling and, of late, disturbed by her son's obsession with death, whether it be his continued interest in taxidermy or the untimely demise of his teacher. Norma longs for her son to exhibit more typical teenage behavior. She still tries to tuck away, in the deepest recesses of her mind, the indicators that something is wrong with Norman. She's not even privy to just how deep Norman's issues run since he continues to pull away from her. Norman is eager to assert his independence, but he also withdrawals from Norma because he fears his mother's disapproval.

The push-pull of their relationship is evident when Norma gives Norman a driving lesson. She's critical, smothering and controlling and then oblivious as to why her son is so timid.

Norma is forced to turn most of her attention to the business, which leaves Norman the freedom to pursue his macabre interests without her breathing down his neck. As much trouble as the mother and son equivalent of Bonnie and Clyde get into together, Norman's more disturbing and deviant predilections emerge when Norma is absent. During the premiere, it's evident that he's poised to further distance himself from his mother, not only to protect his own secrets but someone else's as well.

Bates Motel Season 2: Norma Faces Inner Demons with Brother's Arrival >>>

Norman isn't the only teen in town with death on his mind. Former golden girl Bradley returns to town after an involuntary sojourn. The homecoming queen persona has been replaced by a Lolita-esque version of Nancy Drew, hell bent on figuring out who killed her father.

Bradley's downward spiral and subsequent personality transformation seem to come out of nowhere, mainly because of her sedate response to her father's death in season 1. Even the revelation that he was having an affair didn't discourage her from attending a school dance.

Bradley's crush Dylan is still working in the marijuana trade and living at home despite his threats throughout season 1 to move out. Norma is no longer clueless about what Dylan does for a living, and it is a bone of contention between them. Otherwise, Dylan and Norma are co-existing peacefully, for now.

Dylan is making a heroic effort to fight his attraction to his brother's first love in spite of his comments to Norman last season to the contrary. But Bradley's downward spiral draws both brothers into her web. While she's physically attracted to Dylan, she has always felt a kinship, although some might argue pity, when it comes to Norman.

The season 2 premiere spends a lot of time setting up story arcs for the upcoming season rather than wrapping up unfinished business from the last one. Norma's poor track record of blending into the community continues. By far, the most engrossing moments involve Norman's inability to get past Miss Watson's death, and Bradley's newfound obsession with unearthing all of her father's dirty little secrets. One hint regarding the premiere: it definitely ends with a bang.

Bates Motel season 2 premieres tonight at 9pm on A&E.

(Image courtesy of A&E)