If tonight’s pilot episode of A & E’s Bates Motel struck a chord with you – you’re not alone. Set six months after the death of Norman’s father and Norma’s husband, the creepily connected duo try their hand in California as new hotel owners. Bates Motel is the 2013 origin story decades in the making, The series shines new light on the twisted Norman Bates, the killer from Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic suspense king, Psycho. If you haven’t seen the film, I highly suggest renting it before you watch another minute of the show. Seriously though – who hasn’t seen Psycho?
Norman’s mother is the crazy, over-protective, yet, criminally and psychological insane matriarchal figure for the ages. Norma’s archetypical insanity wasted no time in its introduction. A drunken local with former claim to the Bates’ home meets a bloody end after he brutal assaults and rapes Norma. The show proved rather quickly that this isn’t going to be a banal or stale back story for causal fans of the Hitchcock source material – this isn’t holding back. Most folks would be so emotionally damaged after a rape, Norma simply trudges forward with covering up the murder for the sake of her new business. Vera Farmiga is wonderful as the complex mother that Psycho kept us in the dark on.
To me, the real star of the show is Norman himself, Freddie Highmore. As if struggling with being seventeen wasn’t traumatic enough, factor in that he’s been in and out of roughly five schools in recent years – all due to his mother’s constantly changing whims, and you have the basics for a very complex character that’s already shining in his new role. The kid is a great study apparently, he has Anthony Perkin’s general twitchiness and vocal cadence down pat. In one scene inparticular, you would assume he was channeling Perkins through voodoo – eerily convincing. I think Bates Motel is going to be a hit. Combine the iconic horror characters and setting with a kid struggling with the typical adolescent pains compounded with his eventual mental state, and we have the makings of a quality serial show. Bates Motel air Monday’s at 10PM only on A & E.
I should add that the reappearance of the ominous Bates home overlooking the motel from high atop the Universal back lot is a nostalgic and welcome sight. The familiar home and hotel are obviously set dressing labors of love. Kudos to the entire production of this thus far inspiring show.