NICE TOWN YOU PICKED, NORMA…
Bates Motel is a contemporary prequel to the story of Psycho where we see Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) as a teenager and witness his relationship with his mother Norma (Vera Farmiga). They leave their life in Arizona after the death of Norman’s father to start anew in White Pine Bay, OR when Norma buys a motel.
I wanted to wait before writing my first impressions of this drama as I wanted to see where it would go. Let’s just say The Following did not pan out after a brilliant start. Well, I’m glad I did because it gave me insight into the show’s direction.
There are clear differences in how Hitchcock envisioned Psycho and the world that is depicted here. Bates Motel takes place in present day but there is a distinct vintage look to the sets and costumes here. It feels like the purpose of that was to show the town being stuck in its own bubble.
Also, you quickly learn that there is dark underbelly to the town. Everyone has their own nefarious agenda and while it brings the Bates to almost same level as the townspeople, I feel like that was not the point of the Psycho story.
The point to the Norman Bates character was the fake it to make it thereby alienating his dark side from the way the town viewed him. Here, he’s discovering all the ugly and quirky things about the townspeople à la Twin Peaks, except without that disorientated poetic storytelling that made it a cult classic.
A&E isn’t really known for their dramatic programming anyways. This drama has probably succeeded above their other original dramas because they were able to cast well-known actors. Vera Farmiga is bitingly bitter one second but can ooze charm in the next.
Freddie Highmore is no longer that cute kid from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In fact, it appears that he has paid close attention to Anthony Perkins for this role as his speech and mannerism are eerily similar. The number one reason for watching this drama would be for Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga excellent acting. They not only individually play their characters very, very well but together they have peculiar chemistry as mother and son, which is exactly how I imagined these characters.
Out of all the characters, I can relate to Norman’s older brother, Dylan Massett (Max Theriot), the most. He may be a delinquent but he sees the town and its people for what they are. The inspiration for his character doesn’t extend from Hitchcock’s Psycho but from the real-life inspiration for Norman Bates’ character: Ed Gein. It was thought that Ed Gein killed his older brother so things don’t look too good for Dylan’s future.
Despite their dislike for each other, it seems that Dylan is the only person who seems to talk any sense. In his own way, he tries to look out for Norman but there relationship isn’t one that’s easy.
Sheriff Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) is my least favorite character. He’s got a one-track mind with Norma and I get the feeling that the drama is painting him as a bad guy only to later show that he’s the only person that’s trying to protect the law in this town. However, the drama doesn’t want us to spend any time with this character and therefore I don’t see why his character should be of any interest to me.
That’s the biggest problem with this drama. The whole concept of Norman Bates is his unique relationship with his “mother” and how that drives him to do the things that he does. If the whole town is twisted in their own little way, it diminishes the rareness of Norman’s character. And with that, on to the next serial killer drama.