Sometimes, there are characters in genre pictures and television shows that are so darned righteous and awesome, you can’t stop thinking about them or their amazing feats long after it’s over. This column is dedicated to those cinematic bad-asses of both the big-screen and small-screen that keep us coming back for more. And after 4 seasons, I’m setting my sights on yet another amazing television character – let’s give it up for Sheriff Alex Romero as played on Nestor Carbonell on A&E’s BATES MOTEL.
Now, I know I’ve been giving a hell of a lot of love to the BATES MOTEL series as of late, but look – I’m a die-hard PSYCHO fan. I’ve always loved Alfred Hitchcock’s original film and the sequels that followed. I took my “mad” love of the franchise a bit too far and made a love-letter documentary about it titled THE PSYCHO LEGACY back in 2010. The main purpose of that was not only to remind people how great a character Norman Bates was, but to also inspire the hope that someone, somewhere would revive him and do it with style, grace and proper reverence for the original material. Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin stepped up and did just that with their reinterpretation of the PSYCHO legend for A&E’s BATES MOTEL.
It’s been a somewhat bumpy ride. It’s not easy to set the PSYCHO prequel story in modern day, or find a suitable actor that can fill the shoes of Anthony Perkins. Freddie Highmore (who also got his own #RESPECT column!) has pulled it off. And the other constant that’s just been such an intricate part of Norma Bates’ world and has only continued to add to the show’s success has to be Sheriff Alex Romero. First of all, can we give applause to his name? He was obviously named after the father of the zombie genre George A. Romero. No coincidence as there’s also a character named after John Carpenter in the first season. Second, the former LOST alumnus’ casting on the show is no coincidence considering he very much resembles original Norman Bates, Anthony Perkins. In particular PSYCHO III Norman!
Since the very beginning, Sheriff Romero has proven to be a strong part of the show and the town of White Pine Bay. We learn pretty much from the first season that the town thrives economically from the drug business. Everyone steers clear and takes their cut, as long as they keep it going. Romero skates the fine line. He has his duty as the Sheriff and tries his best to do the right thing, yet he’s done some morally questionable things over the course of the series that are tough to overlook. Regardless, I’d say it took until the second season before we got a feel for who this guy is and whether or not his intentions were genuine. Ever since the second season when he suspected Norman’s involvement in the death of local teacher Blair Watson, they’ve been setting Sheriff Romero up as an arch rival for Norman.
By the end of Season 3, Bob Harris (Kevin Rahm) has put Norma in a very compromised position for her knowledge of a certain flashdrive containing dirt on the entire town, including Alex’s father. And although he steps up and takes Bob out for threatening him and his family’s reputation, I think a big part of it had to do with his subliminal feelings for Norma, something that’s been growing ever since he took residency at the Bates Motel when his house was burned down by a drug kingpin.
It wasn’t until Season 4, where initially Norma begged Alex to marry her so she could use his insurance to get Norman into a proper mental facility, that Norma gave into her true feeling and fell madly in love with Alex. Without the burden of Norman and hiding his… well, dark side from the rest of the world, it was the one time in the history of the series where Norma was allowed to let go and actually be happy, for once! Naturally, that was cut short as soon as Norman managed to talk himself out of the institute and essentially put Norma in a position where an ultimatum was presented. It’s either him or Alex.
I don’t know why, but I loved and respected Alex Romero more in this forth season, and in particular in these last few episodes than I ever had before. Granted, I’ve always thought he was a badass, unafraid to get his hands dirty, and I’ve loved how he’s handled some of White Pine Bay’s other undesirables over the years, but I think it’s the vulnerability he showed with Norma that stood out. He genuinely loved that crazy woman. He tried his best to be there for Norman, but that wasn’t happening, especially after that disastrous dinner together. And even after her death, he tried to find any evidence he could to prove Norman was responsible.
His side-activities that branched outside the law finally caught up with him in a very abrupt and inconvenient way. Internal Affairs and the FBI have long been trying to pin something on Sheriff Romero. He very cleverly avoided admitting anything damning to former lover and Bob Harris associate Rebecca Hamilton while she was wearing a wire. (Yet another one of his bad-ass moments.) But in the closing moments of Season 4, they managed to arrest him on a perjury rap! Wait… really??? THAT’s how they take down someone as awesome as Sheriff Romero? Well, fine.
The question now is will he be the one to come back for Season 5 and finally prove to the world that Norman is a “Psycho?” Or will they instate Sheriff Chambers from the movie into the show. Regardless, I’ve enjoyed nothing more than the moments of Sheriff Romero, in particular his ever-evolving and complicated rapport with Norma Bates for the last 4 years on BATES MOTEL. And for being a great actor, and character, we’re giving you this hashtag, sir.