Bates Motel: Norman Bates, The Teenage Years

Hello everybody! Today we have the prequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, the tv series Bates Motel.

BATES MOTEL

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DIRECTOR: Carlton Cuse, Kerry Ehrin, Anthony Cipriano

STARRING: Vera Farmiga, Freddie Highmore, Max Thieriot, Olivia Cooke, Nicola Peltz, Nestor Carbonell

NO. OF EPISODES: 20

YEAR: 2013-2014

GENRE: Drama, Thriller, Suspense

COUNTRY: United States

The first season follows Norman and Norma Bates when they buy a motel shortly after Norman’s father dies. On one of the first nights of the two owning the motel, things end badly when the former owner breaks in and rapes Norma. A returning Norman knocks the attacker out and Norma then kills him, and they decide to hide the body in a lake. When the town sheriff and his deputy notice that a man has gone missing, Norma and Norman must keep them from digging too far.

The second season follows the aftermath of Norman Bates and the mystery of the death of his teacher Miss Watson and her past secrets being revealed. Meanwhile, his mother Norma struggles to keep the motel open with the impending bypass about to be open just miles away, and his older half-brother Dylan deals with a disturbing discovery about his true parentage.

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The Norma-Norman relationship isn’t the show’s only deviation from its source, or sources; Bates Motel is mostly deviations, really. It’s set in the present. Norman has an older, tougher half-brother named Dylan Massett (Max Thierrot) — his mom’s son from a previous marriage — who gets involved in the local underworld while needling Norma for being a rotten parent. There are hints that Norma’s a femme fatale/black widow with more than one brutal crime in her past. Everyone uses a cell phone and communicates via text message, and in one sequence, Norman uses his phone’s camera light as a flashlight to navigate a dark house.

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I’m torn between condemning the series for piggybacking on a classic and promising an origin story it doesn’t really care to deliver, and praising it for avoiding the homicidal Muppet Babies formula and pulling a pretty brazen bait-and-switch. More the latter, I suppose — for now, anyway. Bates Motel is tangentially connected to Robert Bloch, Alfred Hitchcock, and Psycho; like Norma Bates, it has kept its married name while pursuing its own identity and agenda. It’s as much Norma’s show as Norman’s. Their relationship — which often suggests age-imbalanced, platonic spouses rather than mother-son — is the tale’s misshapen center of gravity.

PROS:

  •  Norma-Norman relationship.
  • Main cast performances.
  • Themes.
  • Tone.

CONS:

  •  Strong deviation from source material.
  • Not much of an origin story.
  • Supporting cast performances.

SCORE: 7.2 / 10

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