Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Bates Motel Season 1 Review

Bates Motel is a new TV series that is based on the characters from the novel "Psycho" written by Robert Bloch in 1959. And yes, that novel was adapted into the classic Alfred Hitchcock movie of the same name a year later, so Bates Motel references both at the end of each episode. In Psycho, we get the story of a woman that steals $40,000 and runs away, ending up at the Bates Motel. Norman Bates gets her a room and invites her to dinner with him, seeming like a nice guy. Later that night in the famous shower scene, the woman is stabbed by what seems like the extremely jealous mother, mad that her son has developed an attraction towards this woman. Well it turns out that (I'LL INSERT A 50+ YEAR OLD SPOILER ALERT) Norman's mother has been dead for a while and Norman, we learn, is a crazy psychopath that has developed a bad split personality where he is both his mother and himself. This makes Psycho more than the typical horror movie we see all the time nowadays and into more of a psychological thriller. The TV show Bates Motel dives into the psychological aspect of the movie/book and attempts to give us a prequel that explains how Norman got to the point where he is in Psycho.

Now I say that Bates Motel is a prequel and that is mostly true. The full truth is that it is not trying to completely remake Psycho, but instead is trying to create its own unique spin on it while at the same time trying to be very true to the movie/book. The biggest difference is that the show is set in modern times and not in the first half of the 1900's like would be the case if this were a perfect prequel focusing on a 17 year old Norman. The background is also a bit different as the show starts off with the tragic death of Norman's father, which only takes place six months before the setting of the show. Six months prior to that death, Norman's mother Norma decides it's time for them to start over, so they move to a small town and purchase a motel on the outskirts of town for them to renovate and live in. This of course becomes the infamous Bates Motel. Being just 17, Norman is just a high school student and he thus tries to integrate himself into normal high school life, but finds it hard as he is a bit socially awkward. Norma of course is trying to do her best, but she is rather crazy and short-tempered. She likes having total control of every situation and seems a bit bipolar, going crazy and impatient when things don't work out her way. So it turns out we actual feel bad for Norman at first because he seems like just a socially awkward kid who can't fit in and is stuck with a crazy mother. Also it turns out the town they live in is a fairly corrupt town where a bunch of drama is going on. All this adds to the intriguing psychological aspect of the show. We know how it ends up, but the journey to that end is rather intriguing. It's also really dramatic and keeps you on edge because you really have no idea what is going to happen around each corner, thus also making for a very tense TV show.

The show is very well casted. Vera Farmiga (The Departed, Up in the Air) plays the crazy mother Norma Bates while Freddie Highmore (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, August Rush) plays Norman. As the supporting cast created by the show (thus leaving their fates a complete mystery) we have Norman's level-headed brother Dylan played by Max Thieriot (The House at the End of the Street, Jumper), Norman's crush at school Bradley played by Nicola Peltz  (The Last Airbender, Deck the Halls), Norman's friend Emma played by Olivia Cooke, Norman's favorite teacher Miss Watson played by Keegan Connor Tracy (Final Destination 2, 40 Days and 40 Nights), and finally our two main cops, Sheriff Alex Romero played by Nester Carbonell (Lost, The Dark Knight) and Deputy Zack Shelby played by Mike Vogel (Cloverfield, The Help). And really, I give credit to all of them because I can't pinpoint one actor that does a bad job. The cast has a great chemistry that really propels the show.

Bates Motel just finished its first season, that is only ten episodes long, and the reviews and ratings were strong enough on the show that it earned a season two. The fact that it is that short compared to other TV shows means that it won't take you long at all to catch up. Ten episodes also means that it isn't packed with a bunch of fluff as is the case with many TV shows that are 20+ episodes long. Content wise, the show isn't too bad and very much TV appropriate, but ironically it is probably worse than the movie Psycho in terms of violence, blood and gore, and sexuality, which should say something about the ridiculousness of the R-rating that Psycho is labeled. It's pretty embarrassing when a movie that should be rated PG gets an R. But anywho, my recommendation for Bates Motel is that if you love the movie Psycho or you like psychological thrillers, than Bates Motel is the TV series that you really need to check out. I really enjoyed season one and am looking forward to season two next year.

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