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Carlton Cuse on ‘Bates Motel’ Ending: This Isn’t a Show That Should Run for 10 Years

Super-producers Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin were on hand at the ATX Television Festival on Thursday to discuss the disturbing developments in season two of A&E’s “Bates Motel,” as well as the potential end of the series.

Thanks to “Psycho,” we already know the inevitable fates of Norman (Freddie Highmore) and Norma Bates (Vera Farmiga), so viewers may be curious about how long the prequel series can last — something that Cuse admitted the writers are cognizant of.

“I feel like we don’t want to do a literal version of what is in the movie, because that would feel anticlimactic. The specifics of exactly what happens to them, we have some ideas that I think are good, but it’ll be part of the unique world of our story,” he said at the Austin-based festival. “This is not a show that should run for 10 years. We feel like this year, we’ll have a pretty good sense of when it’s gonna end … a couple more seasons after that, perhaps? I would hope that we could work that out with Universal and A&E and tell the audience exactly how much longer is left.”

Cuse conceded that “Bates” is “a story that has a beginning, middle and end, and we want to write to the end of it. It’s not like a ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ which is sort of open-ended — there’s always another doctor or patient that’s gonna walk into the hospital.”

“Season seven, they start working in a hospital,” Ehrin quipped, admitting that she’s excited to write the show’s eventual conclusion. “It’s gonna be really fun – when you think of ‘Psycho,’ you see it all from this one point of view, (which is not) from Norman’s … What is Anthony Perkins doing in that house? What was he thinking was going on in there? It’s such a rich, fascinating world that will be super fun to dig into when the time comes.”

The season-two finale featured a shockingly intimate kiss between Norman and his mother – a development that star Freddie Highmore pitched to the writers.

Freddie has a “tendency of wanting to push the envelope on that storyline a lot,” Ehrin laughed. “It was a really fascinating idea that she would use something like that to try to control him in that moment.”

Cuse said the writers were a little surprised by the fan reaction to the kiss, admitting: “We did not expect that it would become such a buzzworthy moment coming out of the finale. It felt incremental to us, but I think it felt larger to the audience.”

The actors often contribute ideas for storylines, according to Cuse and Ehrin; In fact, Farmiga pitched what became one of the most pivotal plot points of the second season:

“The idea that she had had this allegedly incestuous relationship with her brother — and I say that just because something bad definitely happened, but the circumstances of that are meant to be somewhat shadowy still, narratively. It was her idea that Caleb, her brother, would’ve had this relationship with her. We just fell in love with that idea,” Cuse said.

Ehrin agreed: “We wanted to tell a story about him where we didn’t villainize him, where we told as two-sided a story as you can tell for a situation like that … There’s no truth (on ‘Bates Motel’); everything in the show is a perception — and I think as a writer that is so much fun, you really get to explore all the truths to different people and manipulate it.”

An audience member asked the producers whether season three would explore a relationship between Norma and enigmatic Sheriff Romero (Nestor Carbonell), something Ehrin admitted she would like to see too: “I certainly would advocate for it. We love them; Romero’s an awesome character, and they’re very interesting as a couple because they’re so similar – they’re both control freaks. That should be really fun and explosive … There’s a lot of stuff to work with there,” she mused.

“The answer is yes,” Cuse laughed.

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