Why You Should Be Paying Attention To BATES MOTEL!!

batesposterWhen A&E first announced that they had greenlit a straight to series order on a show based on Norman Bates, I was very skeptical. This was in light of the rise of popularity in genre programming on television in which I welcome, but properties that I hold close to my heart make me anxious to see re-imagined. HANNIBAL was also being turned into a series on another network, THE WALKING DEAD holds a huge mark in pop culture, and I worried that Norman would turn into some kind of poster boy for taboo fantasies. It promised to delve into the relationship between Norman and his mother, leading him to become the full fledged killer we all know and love. The marketing team released photos ahead of the series premiere and I scratched my head when I saw that Norman was holding an iPhone. Two questions plagued me: Was this set in an alternate timeline in the present and what kinds of playlists does Norman create?

Freddie Highmore (CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY) was announced as Norman, which was an interesting choice. While he has the obvious physical attributes similar to Anthony Perkins, his acting abilities are questionable as most know him as a child actor. Highmore has the unfair criteria that fans would be observing as he’s playing an iconic character in the genre that many are familiar with. While he seems to be impersonating Perkins for much of the series, season four really shows off his acting chops and hope it leads to more interesting projects for him. Vera Farmiga (THE CONJURING) is his mother, Norma. While we caught an interpretation that I personally love from Olivia Hussey in PSYCHO 4: THE BEGINNING, this version of Norma was going to be completely different. While the relationship dynamics were still going to be blurred, her love for Norman cannot be denied even if she is in her own denial in terms of her son’s mental state.

During the first season, BATES MOTEL quickly became one of my new favorite shows. I looked for Easter eggs in the first few episodes hinting at references from the original material, but the show makes it clear this stands on its own and does so successfully. (There are hidden gems for hardcore fans later in the series). While it veered off in a limbo state in season three, season four completely made up for it and gifted fans who have stayed since the beginning. Here are some things for those unsure if they want to venture into the motel should be aware of:

THE MYSTERY OF WHITE PINE BAY

After the suspicious death of Norman’s father, his mother moves them to White Pine Bay, Oregon for a new beginning with insurance money. It’s there she invests into the motel and meets the interesting residents of the town. While she is attempting to leave behind all her problems, Norma realizes this is only the beginning when she kills the former motel owner after he rapes her. Getting Norman to help her hide the body, Norma gets visits from the police department wanting to know her involvement in his disappearance. It turns out the former owner has many friends and enemies in town, including former occupants who stayed at the motel. This and a mysterious notebook Norman finds in one of the rooms leads to exciting mysteries and storylines that I did not expect in season one.

VERA FARMIGA AS NORMA BATES

Farmiga has become a genre favorite with roles in THE CONJURING franchise and JOSHUA, but BATES MOTEL has made me more interested in her work. The series introduces her as someone running from her past and finding new beginnings, but as seasons go on, she has slowly come to terms with the fact that her life will never be normal. When Norman displays his mental instability, her initial denial is heartbreaking as her son is the love of her life and will do everything she can to protect him and keep him close. Farmiga knows how to bring humor in emotional situations, showcasing many laugh out loud moments with little quirks in the least likely of moments that only pure talent can express.

INTERESTING NEW CHARACTERS CREATED FOR THE SHOW

I was one of the assholes who scoffed at BATES MOTEL introducing a brother for Norman, a character absent from the original film and novel. However, this proved to be an excellent creative choice introducing fans to Dylan, played by Max Thieriot as the family outcast who seems to carry the only sense of logic in the house. After a long absence from his family, Dylan returns home early in the series and is used as the voice of the audience as he points out to Norma the absurdity of her relationship with Norman. He eventually gets his own separate storylines involving the drug trades in White Pine Bay and why his place in the family feels so taboo.

Olivia Cooke plays Emma, a girl with cystic fibrosis that quickly becomes Norman’s best friend. She has a pure soul and genuinely is concerned for Norman. She soon becomes an employee at the Bates Motel and witnesses first hand all the family dynamics. Her personal feelings for Norman fall to the side as he takes an interest in Bradley Martin (Nicola Peltz), who I feel is one of the most interesting characters on the show. Bradley is the beautiful, popular girl in school but the show refuses to utilize her in the mean girl cliché most shows and movies would go for. She has a compassion for Norman that she finds hard to express and holds her own demons that are explored in season two.

An unexpected fan favorite is Sheriff Romero, played by Nestor Carbonell. He initially comes into the series investigating Norma and, for awhile, we are unsure if Norma should confide in him or not. He’s become a regular on the fourth season as he is now more involved than he probably bargained for. He has this suave demeanor that’s subtle, not cocky making him a potential love interest.

THERE APPEARS TO BE AN END POINT!!

I’m a huge fan of TRUE BLOOD, but, due to the success of the show, HBO really stretched it out with multiple seasons full of nothing. That series had an ending that left me thinking “This could have been done three seasons ago.” That being said, shortly after season 3 ended of BATES MOTEL, A&E announced that it was renewed for two more seasons, something rarely heard of. While the show has been a success for the network, it has nowhere near the popularity of THE WALKING DEAD or AMERICAN HORROR STORY. It does, however, have its dedicated fan base and a creative team that deserves to be recognized. While season three felt like they were unsure of how to keep the series going, season four feels like there’s a plan and Norman is full fledged psycho. While Norma is still alive (for now), Norman’s descent into madness is no longer denied and his self realized blackouts are not to be trusted. We are now at a point where it’s questionable if what we’re seeing is real or not when Norman is the room and it’s unbelievably creepy. The real story of their relationship is told and it’s an emotional one that really fucked me up and reminded me of why I love these characters so much. Season four is almost done airing (Only a couple of episodes left as of this writing) and it’s driving me crazy thinking not only of the season finale, but the direction season five will take. Five seems to be the cutoff point and, while I’m sad to see it end, I’m glad there’s a creative understanding to give a satisfying close to this version of Norman Bates.

NOW GO WATCH IT!!

Each season is 10 episodes, at about 45 minutes each so there’s not too big of a commitment. The first three seasons are currently on Netflix to stream or you can purchase the Bluray/DVD sets.

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