Series / Bates Motel

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Bates Motel is an American drama television series on A&E starring Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga. The series is a spiritual prequel to and, in its final season, Broad Strokes adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock's iconic Psycho, and depicts Norman Bates's Sanity Slippage whilst set in modern times.

The series kicks off with the sudden death of Norman's father, prompting Norman and his beloved mother Norma to set up a new life in the coastal town of White Pine Bay as owners of the eponymous motel. However, their relationship is far from stable and the town is hiding secrets of its own...

Not to be confused with the 1987 Made-for-TV Movie of the same name.

This show contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Adaptation Expansion: Norman's split personality Mother actually has more time to evolve into a well-rounded character on the show than her film counterpart did.
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • Norma is not the abusive, sadistic monster she was portrayed as in the original film, but instead a well-meaning person struggling with selfish neediness and sheltered naiveté. She is trying to raise her son as best she can but her flaws lead to disappointment for herself and others.
    • Romero, Norman's stepfather, is also not an abusive bastard like his original counterpart, but The Sheriff trying to protect his town.
    • Downplayed with Mother. In the film, Mother didn't give any care at all towards Norman and showed no interest in his well-being. The show's version of her on the other hand actually shows much more affection for Norman and is going out of her way to protect him from getting caught, as opposed to leaving the corpses for her son to clean up on his own.
  • Adaptational Intelligence: Norman is able to catch on to his own insanity and see that Mother is a bad influence on him, while his film counterpart never caught on until he was arrested.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Sam Loomis is not the clean-cut, noble hero who truly wanted to have a happy life with his fiancé Marion Crane, but instead a lying, scumbag who's cheating on his wife with Marion for a cheap thrill.
    • Marion Crane too, as she leaves the motel with the money with no intention of ever returning it unlike in the movie, where she ends up deciding to return it before she ends up getting killed.
  • Adapted Out: When the series finally adapts the original film into the show, they removed Lila Crane Loomis, Det. Arbogast, Emma Spool, and every other character from the Psycho sequels.
  • Adorkable: Norman and Emma. They don't have many friends, but they're both endearing people.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Gender Inverted as Norman and Dylan are more attracted to morally ambiguous girls.
  • Altar Diplomacy: Norma, lacking the funds or the insurance required to send Norman to the Pineview mental institution, Norma offers to marry Romero in exchange for his insurance. While Romero refuses at first, he reconsiders, decides to marry Norma, and uses Bob Paris's money to pay for the treatment.
  • Alone with the Psycho: Anyone who stays alone with Norman doesn't fare well.
  • Archnemesis Dad: Romero becomes Norman's arch nemesis stepdad after marrying Norma and losing her thanks to Norman's insanity.
  • Arc Villain: The show gets a new Big Bad every season.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Keith Sommers, the former owner of Bates Motel, rapes Norma before she stabs him to death.
    • Deputy Zack Shelby keeps a sex slave in his basement, kills her, then is killed by Dylan while he's trying to kill the Bates family.
    • Jake Abernathy a.k.a. Joe Fioretti, who runs a sex slave ring in four ports along the Oregon coast gets shot four times by Sheriff Romero.
    • Gil, who was killed by Bradley in the second season's premiere. She was hunting for her father's killer.
    • The guy who Dylan ran over for killing his friend, Ethan Chang.
    • Cody's father, who was pushed down the stairs by Norman after abusing Cody in front of Norman.
    • Sam Loomis, who in this version took several levels in jerkass and had no redeeming character traits whatsoever.
  • Becoming the Mask: Sheriff Romero and Norma fake a marriage together in order to get insurance for Norman's mental hospital payments, but eventually find themselves falling in love with each other for real.
  • Bedlam House: The fourth season begins with Norman being sent to the county psych ward. As the hospital has suffered from budget cuts, it is in such poor condition that it becomes a modern version of this trope.
    • In contrast, Norma goes to great lengths to get Norman into a much more ethical, realistic, and expensive facility with genuinely helpful professionals.
  • Berserk Button: Insult Norma in front of Norman, just try it.
  • Betty and Veronica: Emma, openly smitten but ignored, is Betty to Norman's Archie, while popular, unattainable Bradley is his Veronica.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Keeping with the movie, Norman is nice and quiet. He doesn't look like he'd put up much of a fight but he becomes quite scary when he sees his mother in trouble.
  • Big Bad: Each season has one.
  • Big Bad Wannabe:
    • Season 1: Officer Shelby holds the title of villain for only half a season before getting killed and having his real boss Abernathy show up to demonstrate how much better of a villain he is in comparison.
    • Season 2: Nick Ford acts like he's the big cheese in the drug trade just because he has a ton of wealth and valuable possessions while the Morgan Drug Trade is mostly made up of street punks, but he's not as powerful as them since he gets taken out easily by Dylan in his own house.
    • Season 3: Young thinks that he's going to replace Romero as the new Sheriff of town and rubs it in his face constantly. But when he mocks Romero about how he can kill him anytime he wants Romero murders him once he realizes that he's more than just a nuisance.
    • Season 4: Rebecca Hamilton thinks that she can form an alliance with Romero to steal Bob Paris' laundered money, but he turns her down for Norma and the DEA busts her, forcing her to give in to their demands when they use her to arrest Romero.
  • Big Damn Heroes: In the first three season finales, Romero guns down that season's Big Bad. He's on his way to do this again in the Season 4 finale, but his plans are foiled when he is arrested.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: Norman's family, naturally. Some are more functional than others, but all of them have a dark side and a body count.
  • Black and Gray Morality: Though Norman's illness has resulted in him murdering multiple people, an argument can be made that if he had help, he could have turned out differently. The same cannot be said of White Pine Bay's numerous crime-lords, all of whom are in complete control of their decisions; decisions that have resulted in a kill-count that would put Norman's to shame.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Norma, who suffered and endured so much for her son, is still dead at his hands. Romero is killed, having been utterly broken by Norman's madness and his own destructive and failed quest for revenge. Norman himself is dead, having utterly descended into delusion and forced his brother to kill him. This removes him as a threat to society, but, despite his mental illness, they will always remember him as a Serial Killer. The true circumstances behind the deaths of Blaire Watson, Bradley Martin, Norma Bates, Gregg Edwards, Caleb Calhoun, and Chick Hogan will never be discovered. Amid all the destruction, Dylan and Emma are still alive and well with their daughter, but they are badly scarred by the losses they've suffered and, in Dylan's case, had to inflict.
  • Blatant Lies
  • Boom, Headshot:
    • Gil is shot in the head while being seduced by Bradley.
    • Chick is shot dead by Romero when he finds him under the Bates house's basement.
  • Break-In Threat: After Norma kicks Jake Abernathy out of the motel, Abernathy breaks into her house when she's out and leaves Shelby's corpse on her bed.
  • Break the Cutie: Norman, Emma, Dylan.
  • Break the Haughty: Norma.
  • Broad Strokes: Putting the issues of technology aside, the show seems to be heading for the same general destination as the movie, but taking a different route to get there. While some of the incongruities with the backstory could be explained as Norman being delusional in the movie, this show gives Norman and Norma active social lives, while the movie did not.
    • On the other hand, by the time of the film, Norma is dead and Norman himself has several very good reasons for having become a recluse. Additionally, the film never really explores the Bates' early social lives, allowing the show to fill in the gaps.
  • Cain and Abel: Norman is the mentally unhinged brother that poses as a threat to himself and others while his half-brother Dylan is a noble guy who tries to do the right thing and does genuinely help out people in need.
  • Call-Back: When Dylan was abrupt with him, Tom rebuked him, saying that small talk is how people find common ground. When Caleb returns, Dylan is quick to tell him he's not interested in small talk—even more of a callback when you consider that won him over twice before.
  • Character Death:
    • Norma eventually dies by her own son's hands.
    • Caleb gets ran over by Chick.
    • Sam Loomis dies in the shower.
    • Chick gets shot dead while Romero investigates the Bates house looking for Norman.
  • Character Title: "Caleb" (2.03); "Norma Louise" (3.06); "Norman" (4.10); and "Marion" (5.06).
  • Chick Magnet: Norman. Seriously. Every teenage girl seems to want a piece of him for some reason.
  • Christmas Episode: The ironically named episode "Unfaithful" features our main characters going out for a Christmas tree.
  • Composite Character: In Psycho IV, Norman's stepfather was an abusive Jerk Ass who hated him named Chet. In the show, Romero takes the role as Norman's stepfather and his rival, but he's more likable.
  • Control Freak: Mother is trying to dominate Norman's life.
  • Crapsaccharine World: At first sight, White Pine Bay seems like a prosperous little town, however…
    • The town’s economy, ostensibly based on light industries like organic pig farms and artisanal cheese; is in reality based on the distribution of illegally farmed marijuana.
    • Disputes related to the drug trade are dealt with brutally and publicly.
    • Some of the residents, including deputy Shelby, are involved in human trafficking.
    • The sheriff covers up and commits multiple murders.
  • Creator Cameo: Showrunner Carlton Cuse appears in "Dreams Die First" as the police officer who pulls Marion Crane over...because her jacket was sticking out of her trunk and covering up her license plate.
  • Creepy Basement: Shelby has one in his house where he has imprisoned a young girl as his sex slave. The basement ticks many of the creepy basement expectations such as the flickering lights, dimly lit rooms, and shadows all around.
    • The fruit cellar from Psycho appears in the season 2 premiere. Norma even comments about how Norman spends a lot of time working on taxidermy down there. In the final season, Caleb becomes held prisoner in it alongside Norma's corpse locked in the same room with him.
  • Creepy Crossdresser: Norman becomes this whenever he wears his mother's dress.
  • Cute and Psycho: Norman. Cute as a button and twice as crazy.
  • Daydream Surprise: Occasionally, Norman's hallucinations mostly happen at day.
  • Dead All Along: "Inseparables" reveals that Dr. Edwards died some time before the final season despite the fact that Norman thought he had been talking with him for a few weeks.
  • Deadly Bath: The Shower scene. Which has Sam Loomis dying instead of Marion.
  • Death by Adaptation:
    • A variation. Sam Loomis is the one who dies getting stabbed to death in the shower instead of Marion. However, Sam did die in both the film and novel versions of "Psycho II", but under much different circumstances, so in this case it's him dying a lot earlier than his counterparts.
    • Norman himself is killed by Dylan in the series finale, rather than being institutionalized like in the movie.
  • Demoted to Satellite Love Interest: When the show began Emma was once The Lancer to the Bates Family and went on many dangerous adventures with the other characters, but by the third season she became Dylan's love interest and never got much character development ever again. In the final season, she's just Dylan's faithful wife, though she gets A Day in the Limelight in the series' penultimate episode.
  • Deus Angst Machina: Norma and Norman.
  • Dirty Cop: Considering how many illegal activities are going on in White Pine Bay, it would be more surprising if there weren't any.
    • The main culprit in the first season was Deputy Zack Shelby.
  • Disc-One Final Boss:
    • Shelby is offed part way into Season 1 when he tries coming after the Bates family, but his employer Abernathy is revealed to have been the true antagonist controlling him.
    • Young is killed halfway into Season 3 when Romero decides he's had enough of him threatening his life.
    • Caleb gets killed not even halfway into the final season when he tries to kill Norman.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • Keith Sommers harassing Norman and Norma because the motel and house they bought was his. It's stated outright that it wasn't even their fault, the bank was the one that foreclosed on his family's house and motel.
    • With a possible helping of Never My Fault - between the day-to-day earnings of the motel and the ostensibly lucrative slave trade just how did he lose it to the bank? He can't have been a very good businessman, and it seemed to take a lot of work to get the place presentable after the Bates moved in...
    • Even though Sam Loomis was a cheating Jerk with a Heart of Jerk, the fact that the punishment for his crimes ends up being a deadly stabbing in the shower seems a bit too much.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Certain scenes between Norman and Norma are reminiscent of a long-lived marriage as opposed to a mother-son relationship.
  • Doomed by Canon: Norma, and whichever man she eventually ends up with, were doomed from the start. While Norma does meet her end, her new husband does not perish alongside her.
    • Subverted in the final season with Marion Crane, who actually survives and leaves the Bates Motel on her own, while Sam is the one who dies in the shower scene. Although as pointed out above in Death by Adaptation, Sam eventually did end up dying in both versions of Psycho 2.
  • Dr. Jerk: In Season 4, Norma encounters a therapist who outright calls her a bad parent and threatens to take away her son.
  • Dull Surprise: Nicola Peltz as Bradley Martin. The show seems to try to get around it by having her wear dark sunglasses at all times when she's supposed to be mourning her father's death, and then by turning her into an emotionless head case- before finally putting her on a bus.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Most everyone in the cast seems to have some kind of emotional problem or the like. The Bates family takes the cake, however, in White Pines.
  • Evil Cripple: Chick, a morally ambiguous gun runner, ends up crippled for life by Caleb.
  • Evil Matriarch: Norma is an incredibly unstable, overly-emotional and psychologically abusive mother, but she may not be evil, just incredibly toxic.
  • Failure Hero: All of Norma's attempts to help her son were All for Nothing due to her death.
  • Faking the Dead: Bradley. At least at first...
  • Family Business: The Bates Motel.
  • Foreshadowing: Unsurprising, what with it being a prequel.
    • For example, a member of Emma's family owns a taxidermy shop. There are some significant shots of the stuffed animals and Norman can't help but eye them which foreshadows how Norman will eventually get into taxidermy as an adult because he's lonely and needs a hobby.
    • Emma straight up states how traumatizing it must be "to be totally into a guy who turns out to be a monster." to Norman.
    • At the end of the final episode of the first season, we see Miss Watson is wearing a necklace that says 'B'—which is the initial of the woman Bradley's father was having an affair with.
    • "This road will ruin our lives!" Said by Norma in the second season's premiere.
    • When Remo and Dylan discuss why Gil hates Jerry Martin so much in the second season's premiere, Remo claims that Miss 'Blair' Watson is the daughter of the drug family - which becomes a key storyline as the second season progresses.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Any fan of the original series knows that eventually Norman will kill Norma once she finds a lover. Along with the fact that Norman will never be caught, and will wind up alone with the motel, with Dylan and everyone else in his life out of the picture.
  • Freudian Excuse: And how. Turns out, however, Norman isn't the only one to have them. Despite the distance he tries to create with Norma, Dylan can't get past his issues with his mother either.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Norman's Split Personality Mother is treated as the overarching villain of the series.
  • Gut Punch: The rape scene in the first episode.
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel: Norman's therapist Dr. Edwards is the good voice of reason to his split personality Mother, the voice corrupting his mind.
  • Gollum Made Me Do It: Norman thinks his mother is really doing "bad things."
  • Hate Sink: Sam Loomis is so despicable of a human being that he makes every other character look good in comparison. He's a lying, womanizing, bold-faced liar who thinks of himself as a noble guy, but really he's a Jerk with a Heart of Jerk.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Sheriff Romero unfortunately finds himself slowly becoming worse than the villains he fights in the series. He becomes a rogue hiding his own identity like Abernathy, he uses his connections to get what he wants like Nick Ford, he's not above manipulating others into getting his way like Bob Paris, and he kills people while covering his own hide like Norman.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Chick was previously a villain against Dylan and his family, but ends up realizing the error of his ways and becomes a nice guy.
  • Hell Hotel: Even before the Bates family's arrival, the Seafarer Motel still fit this trope as it was used by the previous owner as a brothel with sex slaves. As the Bates Motel, it bears witness to the dysfunction and madness of the Bates family, and a number of deaths take place on its premises. Afterwards, the hotel still stands and is put up for sale, waiting for new owners.
  • The Hero Dies: Norman Bates dies via gunshot in the series finale.
  • Hostage for MacGuffin: Nick Ford attempts to convince Dylan to kill Zane Morgan by kidnapping Norman.
  • Hysterical Woman: Norma.
  • Idiot Ball: Thinking that Shelby had leverage against Norma because he discovered Keith Summers' belt. Even if he'd kept it in his house, it would be hard for him to convincingly explain why he had it in his possession. But the truly idiotic part happens when it comes to the boat. How hard could it be to discredit the value of it as evidence? The boat it was being kept on belonged to the victim! Just leave it there.
  • I Have Many Names: Occurs during Romero's meeting with Jake Abernathy in the first season finale:
    Alex Romero: What do I call you? Abernathy? Fioretti?
    Jake Abernathy: I go by a lot of different names. Why don't you call me Joe?
  • Incest Subtext: If one were not aware of the premise of the show, he or she might think Norman and Norma are lovers from some of the commercials. This is not unintentional.
  • Intended Audience Reaction: Sam Loomis was meant to be seen as a total asshole because he's meant to be a counterpart, though more jerkish and self-centered than truly malicious and abusive, to Norman's abusive father, who was also named Sam and who Norman killed right before the show started, thus having Mother convince him to kill Sam in the shower scene and signifying a point of no return for the young man.
  • Irony: Norman is worried about his mother's mental state.
  • It's All About Me: Norma tends to think this way.
  • Karma Houdini: Marion Crane completely gets away with stealing $40,000 and committing vandalism. Though, depending on how you see it, she may come across as sympathetic.
  • Karmic Death: Caleb gets killed by accidentally getting ran over by his former partner in crime Chick, who he crippled for life.
  • Kill the Cutie: Mother murders Bradley.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence:
    • Paris is shot by Romero while in the middle of giving him "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
    • Chick is also killed by Romero in the middle of a speech.
  • Knight Templar Parent: Norman's Mother personality is a darker reflection of Norma.
  • Lack of Empathy: Mother completely disregards all human life.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: The final season makes absolutely no attempts to hide that Norma is now dead and her corpse is being preserved in her son's basement.
  • Love Hurts
  • Love Martyr: Norma and Norman.
  • Mama Bear: Norma Bates is fiercely protective of Norman. Overprotective.
  • Man Hug: Norman and Dylan have done this a few times, notably after Norma runs off in Season Three. Dylan and Caleb, too.
  • Mike Nelson, Destroyer of Worlds: Though the Bates family isn't exactly defenseless, White Pine Bay's many crime families are much more dangerous. However, as soon as Norma, Norman, and (especially) Dylan move into town, their very presence starts a chain reaction that...
    • Begins with Norma and Romero killing Jake Abernathy, the leader of a criminal syndicate that dealt in sex slaves.
    • Results in Dylan assassinating Nick Ford — the kingpin of the second marijuana cartel in White Pine Bay — in his own home. With a fire poker.
    • A civil war between the opposing Morgan cartel that ends in the deaths of its sibling leadership, Zane and Jodi.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Cody's friends assume Norman is gay.
  • Morality Pet: Norman has a literal one inside his mind named Juno.
  • Mummies at the Dinner Table: Norman takes his mother's corpse home and acts as if she's still alive.
  • My Beloved Smother: You only get one guess at who is the biggest perpetrator of this trope. Norma will do anything to keep Norman by her side. She gets angry whenever she believes Norman has abandoned her and continually tells Norman that it's just the two of them against the world.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Norma has gone through absolute hell trying to protect Norman and help him conquer his Sanity Slippage, but ends up murdered by his hand in the end.
  • Not His Sled: It's Sam Loomis, and not Marion Crane, who gets the shower death.
  • Oedipus Complex: To the point where Norman even confesses to Norma at one point that he has uncomfortable thoughts of being in love with her. She immediately tries to shrug it away as just being his teenage hormones and telling him it's not a big deal. Which only seems to normalize the notion in his mind.
  • Official Couple: Dylan and Emma are the only couple that receive a Relationship Upgrade.
  • Origins Episode: Most of the series is this for Psycho. The first four seasons and the first four episodes of Season 5 take place prior to the show's version of the events of the film.
  • Parents Walk In at the Worst Time: Subverted in "The Man in Number 9," in which Norman is in bed with Bradley, then Norma walks in and cheerfully asks him how he's doing. Only then is it shown that the whole sex scene was a fantasy sequence and Norman's been alone in bed the whole time.
  • The Password is Always "Swordfish": In "The Deal," Emma mentions that the password to the Wi Fi at the Bates Motel is "MOTHER, all caps."
  • Prequel: Well, sort of. The series is a contemporary account of teenage Norman's troubled relationship with Norma and its eventual downward spiral, while Psycho, to which this show is supposedly a prequel to, was released and set in 1960. When Season 5 starts adapting the actual events of the film, the series turns into a Continuity Reboot.
  • Present Day: The biggest update.
  • Psychotic Love Triangle: Norma finds herself caught between choosing her love for Sheriff Romero or her own son Norman.
  • Put on a Bus:
    • Literally, two episodes or so after she had sworn revenge to her father's death, Bradley found and kill the responsible, taking a bus in order to escape. It is done so quickly, ending what looked like a season-wide plot because the actress who played her was cast to star in a big budget action film.
    • Cody also ends up moving away after the death of her abusive father.
  • Rape as Drama: The show seems "fond" of this trope. Between the sex slave trafficking and Norma's numerous sexual assaults.
  • Really Gets Around: Miss Watson before her death. She had slept with Gil, Jerry Martin, a stoner named Kyle, and quite possibly another unidentified person who may have killed her.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Happens quite a few times between the main characters.
  • Redemption Equals Life:
    • Cody, who was a bad girl who caused tension between Norman and his mother, makes peace with the Bates family and friends before she moves with her family out of state.
    • Marion Crane also makes peace with Norman before being one of the few women in his life to depart better off than before despite her misdeeds.
  • Reluctant Psycho:
    • Norman expresses no desire to be an unhinged monster.
    • To a certain extent Norma as well, but her desire to protect her son result in her going to such extremes.
  • The Reveal: In episode six, Norma reveals that she didn't kill her husband like Dylan and some of the audience have assumed. Turns out Norman killed his father while he was in a trance and doesn't remember any of it. Norma made the death look like an accident so Norman wouldn't have to face what he'd done and moved them away to start over and officially leave his death behind them.
    • Viewers of the first season are left to wonder who this mysterious "B" is, who wrote to Bradley's father while they were having an affair. The second season's premiere does not hold back, immediately revealing that it's Miss Watson, whose first name is Blair. She was also sleeping with Gil, which could motivate him to kill Bradley's father.
  • Retro Universe: While the show is set in modern times (an early shot of Norman has him listening to an iPod), it does have some nuances, characteristics and feel of the 1950s and 60s, particularly the fashion and cars. If it weren't for the technology, it could almost be any time in the last 50 years.
  • Revenge Before Reason: In the final season, Romero is tracking down Norman to gain revenge against him for killing Norma, but along the way he commits multiple felonies that almost overshadows Norman's crimes.
  • Right Through His Pants: when Norman walks in on Keith Summers raping Norma, he knocks him out. Summers collapses with his jeans around his ankles, but his boxer-briefs pulled up.
  • Self-Made Orphan: Norman kills his mother in the fourth season finale.
  • Serial Killer: While under the influence of his split personality "Mother," Norman kills Sam Bates, Blaire Watson, Bradley Martin, Audrey Ellis, and Jim Blackwell. Of his own free will, he murders Norma Bates, Sam Loomis, and Alex Romero. Furthermore, he accidentally causes the death of Jimmy Brennen and is implicated in the disappearance of Gregg Edwards.
  • The Sheriff: Alex Romero in the first four seasons. After he is sent to prison for perjury, he is replaced by Jane Greene.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Chick was a very humorous, if not bizarre, comic relief who brought some lighthearted moments in an otherwise dark show. However, he's killed off in the eighth episode of the final season to bring back the spotlight on Norman's dramatic life.
  • The Shrink: Dr. Edwards.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: The main reason Norman's a Clueless Chick Magnet to the girls of White Pine Bay. He stands out for being a nice guy who's appealingly innocent about sex. If only they knew...
  • Spared by the Adaptation:
    • Sheriff Romero, who become Norman's stepfather, does not get killed alongside Norma like his counterpart in the original source material and lives on to become Norman's Archnemesis Dad.
    • Marion Crane doesn't die in the shower and gets to live in this version.
  • Spiritual Antithesis: Psycho was so groundbreaking and iconic because of its unprecedented Halfway Plot Switches that viewers would never see coming. Bates Motel, on the other hand, is a Tragedy precisely because viewers know exactly what's going to happen.
  • Split Personality: Just like in the original movie, Norman seems to be developing a split personality that takes over whenever Norma is in trouble. Afterwards, Norman can't remember what he did but when he gets into these states he's always violent, refuses to talk to anyone, and very, very dangerous. As of late, his split personality seems to have the persona of a more vicious version of Norma.
  • Split-Personality Takeover: Mother's ultimate evil plan is to have total control over Norman. She finally enacts a plan to take total control over Norman in the final season, growing into the true final antagonist of the series.
  • Start of Darkness: For Norman, of course.
  • Stepford Suburbia: Though updated to fit into a modern setting, White Pine Bay fits the bill as it is a seemingly quiet, little seaside village that just so happens to have a local economy dependent on manufacturing marijuana.
  • Straight Gay: Dr. Edwards.
  • Talking Down the Suicidal: Norma talks Norman down from committing suicide in the Season 2 finale.
  • Taxidermy Is Creepy: As of Season 2, Norman has begun to kill random animals and turn them into creepy figures.
  • There Are No Therapists: If there were then the series would never start. The closest thing to an actual acting therapist in the series was James Finnigan, but his selfish actions and romantic pursuits towards Norma only made things worse.
    • Averted in Season 4 where Norman is admitted into a mental facility and undergoes therapy sessions with Dr. Edwards. Unfortunately Norman's unwillingness to cooperate and Norma's weak incapability of staying away from him for too long causes him to get pulled out of there before any progress can be made.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: Bradley's death is shown through Norman's perspective. Specifically, the audience sees "Mother" killing her, not him. Word of God says this was done to keep the audience sympathetic towards Norman, showing he's not in control of his actions and trying to keep his mother safe.
  • Time Skip: According to Caleb approximately a year and a half passes between seasons 4 and 5. After the skip, Dylan and Emma have a child and Romero has been in jail long enough to have been up for (and denied) parole.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Caleb escapes from Norman's Creepy Basement and tries running straight into a car down the middle of the road for help. This results in him getting ran over.
    • Sam Loomis breaks into Room 1 of the Bates Motel at night without paying Norman at all, planning to permanently squat there, and immediately takes a shower in the room assuming nobody will see him. This results in the character getting killed in the shower.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Bradley shows she's quite competent with a gun and more than willing to use it.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Romero becomes a very unhinged, violent madman in the final season while on his quest to gain revenge against his stepson for ruining his life. Justified, Norman killed his wife Norma.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: White Pine Bay apparently has several, even before the Bates Family moves in. There's certainly a reason why everyone is so well off in the small town. From what the audience sees, many people in the town seem to be in some illegal business ranging from drug trafficking, selling young girls as sex slaves, or running guns across the border to Canada.
  • Tragic Villain: Norman, who finds himself being a Reluctant Psycho desperately trying to conquer his insanity.
  • Trailers Always Lie: Most of the show's promotional commercials portray Norman as outright evil and unsympathetic instead of the Tragic Villain he really is.
  • Troubled, but Cute: Both Norman and Dylan qualify for Mr.Fanservice, but they also have lots of emotional issues.
  • Uncertain Doom: Norman has a random encounter with Dr. Edwards in Season 5, but this is later strongly implied to be a hallucination and it turns out Dr. Edwards has been missing for over a year. Whether Norman had anything to do with his disappearance is never revealed.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Norman is this. His mother is doing everything in her power to prevent him from becoming a psycho and he is getting upset at her. In his defense, he assumes that she is trying to ruin his life.
  • Unreliable Narrator: The show has the effect of applying this trope to the original film. A lot of the events shown make sense only if you assume that the psychiatrist who gave the summation of Norman's condition in the original got all of his information about Norman's history directly from Norman without bothering to fact-check anything with anyone else, and a great deal of it was distorted by Norman's delusional mind. The two main points are Norman apparently imagined his mother as abusively controlling, when she was actually a woman desperate to control her unstable son, and Norman and Norma living in isolation, when they actually had active social lives.
  • Unrequited Tragic Maiden: Emma. So far.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: We get to see Norman vomit in school in all its glory. He later vomits again when Norm tells him that she's in love with Romero.
  • Wham Episode:
    • At the end of "Unconscious," "Mother" takes over Norman and kills Bradley.
    • The fourth season premiere, "A Danger to Himself and Others" lives up to its name when Norman strangles Emma's estranged mother.
    • Season 4's penultimate episode, "Forever", has Norman attempt a murder/suicide with his mother by carbon monoxide poisoning, only to have Romero come and attempt to save them both while only Norman comes to, having killed Norma.
    • "Marion" ends with Sam Loomis becoming the shower scene victim and Marion getting spared.
    • "Inseparables" ends with Norman calling the police and confessing to Sam's murder in order to save Dylan's life.
  • Wham Line:
    • Dr. Edwards tells Norman that his mother has never visited him at all in the hospital while the audience clearly saw him interacting with her multiple times, which was actually all in his head.
    • In "Inseparables," when Dylan asks the pharmacist for Dr. Edwards' address to talk with him about Norman she tells him that the doctor died a long time ago. This is despite the fact that Norman talked with Edwards in an earlier episode, meaning that he hallucinated him.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • While the police fish the corpses of Jim Blackwell and Audrey Ellis out of the lake, they apparently do not look hard enough to find Keith Summers, Bradley Martin, and Caleb Calhoun, who are also rotting there in watery graves.
    • Zack Shelby chases Jiao, his sex slave, into the woods near the Bates Motel with murderous intent. When he comes back seeking revenge on the Bates family, the fate of Jiao gets no further mention. Many viewers concluded that Shelby killed Jiao off-screen. It takes four seasons, but the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue of the series finally reveals that Jiao not only survived, but became a real estate agent in White Pine Bay, tasked with selling the Bates property, apparently having earned a happy ending.
  • Will Theyor Wont They: Norma and Alex, Norman and Emma, Dylan and Emma. With 1 and 3, they do.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: The story follows our Tragic Villain protagonist Norman Bates and his depressing struggle with his insanity.
  • Yandere: Norman's split personality Mother. She murdered Bradley to remove her as a rival for Norman's affection.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Sam Loomis is cheating on his wife Madeleine with the iconic Marion Crane.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Series/BatesMotel