Monday, June 16, 2014

Bates Motel Season 2 Review

Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho in my opinion is one of the most brilliant movies ever made. In general I love psychological movies and TV shows and Psycho is the best I've seen in that category. Bates Motel started last year as a prequel series to Psycho that is set in the modern day. This premise intrigued me the second I first saw Bates Motel advertised and thus I gave it a shot right when it started, which is rare for me. Turns out I was immediately hooked as the series quickly became one of my favorite current shows. With the seasons only being 10 episodes long -- going from March to May -- it made for a very long wait for season 2, but the wait was worth it. Season 2 ups the ante by diving deeper into the characters and into the story, thus getting us sucked into all the drama both within the Bates family and throughout the whole city.

Season 1 does a great job of introducing us to what's going on. Shortly after the death of Norman's father, Norman and his mother Norma move away to this little fictional town of White Pine Bay, Oregon where they purchase a motel to live in and run. This is of course the infamous Bates Motel. The idea is that this will give them a new start. Being that Norman is only a teenager, you begin to actually feel bad for him. He seems like a good, innocent kid that's just being dragged around in life by his crazy mother. She's super protective of Norman and is also a chronic liar who seems bi-polar as she jumps back and forth from being nice and friendly to bitter and angry or super depressed. Meanwhile, Norman is just trying to make his way through school and fit in just like a normal kid. However, as more background into the family is slowly revealed the tides definitely turn and you begin to sympathize for Norma. Given everything that she's been through, she's doing the best she can, especially because she has a son that occasionally goes through these psychotic breaks and does things that he doesn't even remember doing when he wakes up.

Season 2 picks up where season 1 left off. During season 1, Norman developed this close relationship with one of his teachers, Miss Watson. She did a great job of taking him in under her wing and helping him out through school. At the end of the season, he is at her house and suddenly she is in her room undressing, suspiciously leaving the door wide open for Norman to see. This triggers one of Norman's psychotic breaks, but all he can remember is suddenly being outside running away. The next day Miss Watson is found dead in her home and suddenly as a viewer you are mortified as you first see signs of this innocent, lovable kid turning into the psychopath that we know of in the movie. But yet, you are still torn because when he's not in one of his psychotic breaks, you really can empathize and relate with him.

The story in season 2 begins with the police's investigation of the death of Miss Watson and from there we dive more into the inter-workings of this small town. First off, Norman's brother Dylan has got himself stuck in the middle of a very bad situation with his secret work in the town's marijuana business. Certain events lead to what can be best described as gang wars with the rival drug company. Meanwhile, Norma begins to publicly fight a new bypass that the town has announced that would essentially ruin the Bates Motel business. This leads to her inadvertently getting sucked into this same situation that Dylan is in. Finally we have Norman who is obsessing over Miss Watson's death while working on his taxidermy. He seems a bit of a recluse, but gains a new girlfriend after helping his previous romantic interest escape the city. All this combines leads to lots of drama throughout the season that you get sucked into. At first it seems like this distracts from main purpose of the show, that of diving into the psychology of Norman, but it definitely keeps on the right track as Norman starts getting more and more blackouts during the season and that's when things start to get super intense.

The show is brilliant because with it brings a ton of uncertainty that makes things really intense. Diving into the drama in the town and thus introducing more new characters also is fantastic because you start becoming emotionally attached to these characters and that makes things more intense because you have no guarantee that any of them are safe. The eventual end goal with this is if they do connect with Psycho would be for Norman to be a loner, psychopath in the Bates Motel. This means something has to happen to all of these characters that keep being introduced around him, but you have no idea what is going to happen. Psycho doesn't explain Norman's past, so really there are a lot of ways the show could decide to go with this. In season 1, we dive a little bit into Norman's psychological problems, but not too much. Only enough to tease the idea of Norman completely losing it. Season 2 we get teased even more with Norman's increased blackouts and there are a couple of different scenes in season 2 as pertaining to this that for me were blow-my-mind awesome. Scenes that correlate perfectly with the ending of the movie Psycho. I'm going to leave the details as a surprise, but when they happen, you'll know what I'm talking about. To many people, these scenes wouldn't be described as awesome, but rather freaky. If certain parts of Psycho were too much for you to handle, then I wouldn't suggest Bates Motel, but if you found Psycho just totally awesome like me, then these scenes in season 2 that I reference will be when you will just start praising Bates Motel just like I did.

When all is said and done, in addition to the brilliant writing of this show, what really has to be praised is the cast. Everyone involved completely hits it out of the park. Vera Farmiga is excellent as Norma Bates. Max Thieriot is also excellent as Dylan. We also have Olivia Cook (Emma), Nester Carbonell (Sheriff Romero), and Nicola Peltz (Bradley) returning from season 1 as great side characters. Newly introduced in season 2 is Michael Eklund (Zane), Michael O'Neill (Nick Ford), and Paloma Kwiatkowski (Cody Brennan). All these people combined give a great cast. But of course, you are wondering why I have left out the outright star of this show. The reason is that I'm saving the best for lest. Freddie Highmore as Norman Bates. He is absolutely perfect in his role and he is what really makes this show work. If you are going to make do anything with the Psycho world, you need a good Norman Bates to make it work and this is exactly what this show does. Highmore not only is great as an innocent teenager that is relatable and lovable, but when he goes into his psychotic breaks, he is also insanely freaky. There's a look he gives at the end of the season and HOLY COW! That look is the exact look that Norman Bates gives in Psycho. Much praise for Freddie Highmore for pulling that off and much praise to the show for finding this perfect teenage version of Norman Bates.

Overall, if you liked season 1 of Bates Motel, you will love season 2. I can't necessarily pick which season is better because in this instance they are both equally as epic. Season 2 builds off of season 1 and thus they feel like they come together as one whole. If you have read through this review, but haven't yet watched either season, I highly recommend you give this series a chance, especially if you like the movie Psycho or if you enjoy psychological thrillers in general because this show is excellent. It's only two short seasons in, but in that small time-span, I believe that this has become one of the best shows currently on TV. My only issue is that a part of me wishes that I had discovered this show after it had ended because the wait between seasons, which is about 10 months, is torture.

No comments:

Post a Comment