TV review: BATES MOTEL

bates motel

“My mom’s just a little bit impulsive. She has these ideas about things and then we move and start over.”

Six months after his father’s death, Norman Bates [Freddie Highmore] and his mother Norma [Vera Farmiga] move from Arizona to a valley town with plans to run a motel. Norma Bates bought the motel on foreclosure and wants to start over. Yet what is she starting over from? The death of her husband or something darker than that? In the opening scene when Norman finds his father and runs to get his mother she doesn’t seem at all shocked that her husband’s dead. Creepy moment number one.

Bates Motel serves as a precursor to PSYCHO yet it’s updated. The brilliant aspect to this is that the motel setting remains dated. The music that play, how his mom dresses and acts and treats Norman all seems terribly old-fashioned. When Norman goes to school everything’s fresh with cool music. Interestingly only girls befriend Norman—a popular group headed by Bradley [Nicola Peltz] and the chronically ill, geeky Emma [Olivia Cooke], who tells him “You’re kind weird. Weird good.”

At school in his language arts class (what kind of subject is that by the way?) his teacher asks Norman if he plans to become involved in some extracurricular activities. She suggests he try out for track. When Norman arrives home his mother’s waiting for him like a stereotypical, bitter 60s housewife. Creepy moment number two. The table set, candles lit, wine poured. Immediately she starts attacking Norman and guilt-tripping him [an ongoing thing] about why he’s late and that she’s been working on dinner all day long. He explains he be involved in school. We just bought a motel? How can I do this myself? she demands then exclaims she’s lost her appetite.

The show’s filled with creepy moments, unsettling moments and also touching moments between mother and son. The true bonding moment between mother and son– after Norma bludgeons her rapist and her son helps her clean up the kitchen– she says, “Go wash up a little. Put your bloody clothes in the trash bag.”

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A supremely talented actress, Farmiga [Up in the Air, The Departed] convincingly portrays a range of emotions as Norma. Highmore is great at being awkward and insular. See Toast, Finding Netherland.

Norman: “It’s you and me. It’s always been you and me.”

Monday, March 18 at 10 pm. on A&E

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