The show that would make even Oedipus cringe is back for its third season, and in the first of ten new episodes, Bates Motel looks like it's off to a great start.
The most important detail that stands out to me is that the show is (hopefully) moving away from the drug angle to focus on what really makes the series sing: family. With the DEA burning all the pot fields in town, Dylan has decided to step away from the crime side of dealing weed, and instead focus on growing and selling legal medicinal marijuana. Surely, all those dealers and gangsters he made enemies out of last season will not get the memo - or care - about Dylan's change in lifestyle, but if (let’s be serious: when) they come after him, they will likely come after his family, too.
It is the first day of senior year, and Norman is not happy about returning to school. He makes it through half a day before he has an episode and runs home. Norma decides to home school him, and names him manager of the motel. He officially announces to Emma that he wants to be her boyfriend - which thrills her - even as he lusts after a new motel guest. Emma’s health is deteriorating, and Norman invites her to home school with him.
Norma has her own issues to deal with this season: her mentally ill mother dies, and she doesn’t know how to handle it. Unbeknownst to Norma, her mother’s death brings Caleb back to town, in the hopes of forming a relationship with his nephew/son, Dylan.
The stars of Bates Motel are, of course, Norma and Norman, as well as their twisted relationship, which is on full display in the third season opener. Dylan confronts Norma about the fact that the two of them sleep in the same bed together an awful lot, and Norma trying to normalize it is far more disturbing than actually seeing it - until the episode’s end, when she invites her younger son back into her bed. Norman’s relationship with Norma is starting to dictate his life decisions. Despite being fascinated by the motel guest, Annicka, he awkwardly proposes the boyfriend/girlfriend thing to Emma in a desperate attempt to conform to societal norms.
The most fascinating storyline this year is shaping up to be the relationship between Caleb and Dylan. Last year, the revelation that Dylan was the product of incest was creepy. This year, the focus on how one forges a relationship based on this knowledge is rather fascinating.
There are a lot of interesting storylines going on in this premiere episode. If the season can continue in this trajectory, season three will be the best season of Bates Motel to date.
Bates Motel returns to A&E Monday, March 9th, at 9pm EST.