The main characters all possess extreme flaws, and yet those flaws are not forced. Still, they are what drives the story, a necessary and important component to every twist the writers have thrown our way.
Norma Bates is well-meaning but unable to cope with day-to-day problems, let alone the horrors she’s encountered. She’s frail but so desperately wants to appear strong. These flaws are vital to the story because her need to fight not only aspects to her life she’s powerless to change, but also her very nature, is what contributes most to her continued trauma.
Norman Bates is much like his mother, clueless about how disturbed he is. He wants to find his place in the world, but he’s too far in the periphery to do so. He’s the perfect example of the seemingly good person capable of horrific acts. He wants to be good; he’s just too lost to see himself in any kind of realistic light.
Dylan Bates is the sanest person in the family, yet he works as an illegal pot grower’s guard and has murdered at least one person we know of. The scene in which he teaches Norma how to shoot a gun shows how level-headed he is, but the level of corruption his character has amassed parallels that of his mother and brother. The only difference is he is aware of his actions, the consequences of those actions, and where that places him in terms of society and those he feels the need to protect.
Emma is the perfect reflection of Norman. Although she has no homicidal tendencies, she represents death through her chronic, deadly condition. Her attraction to Norman symbolizes his own imperfection and, despite himself, the slow dance with Death that he cannot escape. When they go to the dance together, both admitting it to be their first, the music is telling. The opening lyrics are, “Everybody’s got a secret to hide. . . .” While Emma’s flaws are physical and Normans psychological, he rejects a part of himself by rejecting her.
Abernathy, the slave trade dealer, is a symbol of the town’s corruption, while Sheriff Romero symbolizes a desire to create order amidst a sea of chaos. Deputy Shelby, with whom Norma has a brief fling, represents the evil that lies just beneath the surface of all that appears good but ends in tragedy—the darkness each character strives to overcome, only to see it return, time and time again, in a different form.
Norman’s meltdown over the black socks and Norma’s confession of childhood incest offer deeper glimpses of who they are; Norma’s visible scar parallels her emotional ones. Each character introduced throughout the season, as minor as he or she may seem, holds a tiny piece of the puzzle that will eventually solve the big question: how does Norman Bates become the insane, ever-tormented killer of Psycho? The writers have laid the perfect foundation of trauma, neurosis, and betrayal. What promises to come in the following season will be nothing short of horrifying.
For more about Bates Motel, go to A&E.