Thursday, May 14, 2015

Bates Motel Season 3 Review (SPOILERS)

I do a lot of movie reviews on this blog. I don't do a whole lot of TV show reviews for several reasons. The most important of these is that I don't watch as many TV shows as I do movies. It's a much bigger time commitment to watch a whole season of a TV show, so I pick and choose the shows that I want to watch instead of watching as many as possible in order to get my thoughts out. That said, it's finale time right now which means there are several shows that I do want to get my thoughts out about the current seasons that just finished. In the past I have gone spoiler-free with my TV show reviews so that everyone can read the review, whether or not they have seen the show, and hopefully I can convince a person or two to watch it. This time around, my target audience for these reviews will be more specific as I will be writing towards the people that have already finished the current season. This gives me a lot more to write about and also gives us a lot more to discuss and talk about down in the comments. With that in mind, the first show that I am here to talk about is Bates Motel. If you have not seen season 3, I suggest you stop reading right now and go watch it because the seasons of Bates Motel are only 10 episodes long and the series as a whole is well worth your time!

If you don't know my history with the movie Psycho, I hadn't actually seen it until a few years ago, a year or so before Bates Motel started. However, I had a lot of recommendations to watch it from people who knew my taste in movies. So I finally did and I quickly learned why they suggested it because the movie completely blew my mind and is now one that I consider one of my all-time favorite movies. I love psychological movies and Psycho is definitely the best psychological movie I've seen. The reason I love Bates Motel is that it does a great job at paying homage to Psycho. It's not trying to redo Psycho in TV format. The creators of the show have stressed that frequently. However, the goal of the show has been to dive into how this young kid named Norman Bates became the iconic serial killer that we all know and they've done an amazing job with it.

That said, I think there's a very good reason as to why each season of Bates Motel is only 10 episodes long. There's not enough material here to do 23 episode long seasons. Even at 10 episodes you can sometimes see them pulling at straws to come up with enough material to make an entertaining season that's not just full of fluff. That was very much the case with a lot of the stuff happening in season 3. Granted, I'll give them credit for making everything happen feel really dark and suspenseful. I don't think there ever was a time when I was bored watching this season, but in hindsight I will admit that a lot of the story lines seemed to be there just because they needed a whole season full of stuff. I mean, a lot of the season we were following a mysterious flash drive with a whole lot of information that we never really learn too much about. A guy named Bob Paris wants the flash drive back and will do anything and kill anyone to get it. When Norma ends up with this flash drive, this makes life really complicated as she's trying to deal with this flash drive drama on top of everything else.

The other somewhat useless story lines come with Dylan, Caleb, and their crazy neighbor Chick Hogan. Once again, I really liked these stories. I especially enjoyed watching the relationship between Dylan and Caleb develop. Yes, Caleb is his dad and that should mean something, but Caleb is also his mom's brother, which makes things awkward for Dylan, especially knowing what Caleb did to Norma that caused Dylan to come into this world. Despite this, Caleb feels awful about everything that he's done and really just wants to mend things with Norma and Dylan and I really liked the good relationship that developed between him and Dylan as Dylan begins to realize that despite his past, he is his dad and is just wanting to be forgiven and change his life around. Then as Dylan and Caleb start developing this great father/son relationship, this mysterious Chick Hogan character shows up and spends the whole season trying to convince one or both of them to do this dangerous job for him. They finally do so in order to get some extra money so that Dylan can help Emma get her lung transplant and of course it goes terribly wrong as Dylan and Caleb almost get themselves killed. It was all interesting and suspenseful. But what was the point of it? To develop the relationship between Dylan and Emma.

What made this a great season, though, were the Norman moments. Holy freaking cow does Freddie Highmore pull off an excellent Norman Bates. Who would've thought that this innocent kid from Charlie and the Chocolate Factor and August Rush could pull off such a creepy character. The great thing about it is that you spend a lot of the season really liking Norman. He's a good kid with good intentions. He has his moments where he gets really mad, but you expect that from a teenager. Early in the season, he has his relationship with Emma and you really want that to succeed because you feel that he really deserves this happiness in his life. Later in the season, Bradley shows up again and you want to see something working about between the two of them. But then he flips. These are the moments where you start to fear for everyone around Norman. We've spent a whole lot of time developing Norma, Dylan, and Emma as characters close to Norman and we've began to really care for them. Bradley was such an interesting character that we are rooting for something to work out for her when she shows up again. But knowing who Norman is and the worse his psychosis gets in the show, the more we fear for all the characters we love because we know what happens to them. When Norman flips, the show becomes very suspenseful. 

In the first two seasons, we got a glimpse of Norman's psychosis. The show smartly decided to ease us into it because they wanted us to care about Norman and it worked. This season we really dove into Norman's problem and it was really interesting. In Psycho we know that Norman flips back and forth from being this nice, friendly man to what looks like him being possessed by his mother. In fact, the first time I watched Psycho it appears that his mother is the one doing the killing until of course we find that his mother is dead and that's when we realize what's been happening. Season 3 is where we dive into that. Earlier in the show, we just saw Norman blacking out and going crazy. This we learn what's really happening to him while he's going crazy and it develops due to this uncomfortable relationship that he has with his mother. Norma is a very touchy, feely mother who loves her son. But then Norman starts to have feelings for her and he realizes that this might be true when the psychologist bluntly screams it at him when Norman verbally attacks him. Pretty soon his mom is showing up everywhere and having these arguments with him. But it's not the real Norma. It's the weird, angry, jealous Norma that Norman's messed up mind has created and we see that Norma take control of him. It's especially interesting when Norman loses the ability to tell the difference between the real Norma and the Norma that his mind has created.

There's a lot of great scenes that I could give as an example of great Norman/fake Norma moments. In my opinion, the greatest and probably creepiest scene in the entire season is when real Norma runs away following the revelation that Dylan is living with Caleb. Real Norma running away like this completely ruins Norman and he goes into this crazy psychosis for a really long time. Then in the middle of the night, he gets up and starts to make breakfast. But it's not him making breakfast. It's Norma. But it's Freddie Highmore as Norma. He's even cross-dressed like Norma. It is amazing at how perfectly Freddie Highmore nails all of Vera Farmiga's mannerisms as Norma in this scene. I was blown away. And yet I was also creeped out. Dylan at this point walks in on this and the look he has on his face as he is digesting the scene, realizing what is actually going on, is priceless. This scene is the best scene in the series thus far.

Now about the ending of the season. I didn't think that Nicola Peltz would show up again on this show, but I was pleasantly surprised because I really loved her character in the first season. Going off on a quick tangent, I'm actually really sad that she was in Transformers: Age of Extinction because now the general population sees her as the slutty, hot girl from Transformers who can't act and is only there for her looks. This is sad because she's a really good, young actress and she shows it at the end of the season. Her moment to shine would definitely be the scene where she robs and destroys her mother's home. All she wanted to do is come back and be with her mother again, but then she sees how fast her mother has moved on after her father's death and her apparent suicide. Her mother doesn't even seem to care about her one bit and this brought out some very powerful, raw emotions that Nicola Peltz did a great job with. You really feel bad for her as you watch her destroy the house. This is the point where you want things to work out between her and Norman because you want happiness for both of them. She eventually convinces Norman to leave town with her and as this is unfolding, you really feel bad for her because you know the one person she trusts is a crazy psychopath and she doesn't even know it.

I wanted Nicola Peltz to survive. I liked her character and I would've loved to see her stick around for another season. I almost wanted to be mad at the show for bringing back one of my favorite characters just to have Norman bash her head into a rock a couple of episodes later. This was a sad scene. But at the same time, this showed the brilliance of this show. Not for the brutal violence. I'm not condoning that. But the whole sequence at the end of the season between Norman and Bradley is great. This is classic Psycho. In Psycho, Norman starts to develop relationships with his hotel guests. But before he can do anything about it, his mother takes over and kills the women out of jealousy. This is exactly what happens here with Norman and Bradley. He decides he's leaving town with her. But then fake Norma shows up and when Norman lets her in, she kills Bradley. I really love how the show portrays this as we see Norman turn into Norma. The fact that we see Vera Farmiga killing Bradley while Bradley is screaming for Norman to stop because that's what she sees was excellent as it portrays Norman's psychosis in full force. Then when Norman gets back to his senses, he blames Norma for what just happened. Holy cow! Then he puts Bradley in the trunk of her car and drowns the car in the swamp was another holy cow moment because that's exactly how Norman Bates disposes of the bodies in Psycho. Total win for this show.

Overall, while these season did have it's flaws, I still really enjoyed it. Yes, a lot of the different story lines in this felt useless. They were still intense enough to keep my interest in the show, but I was always wondering where they were going and in the end they didn't really go anywhere useful. But whatever the show lacked in those aspects, it totally made up for with all the Norman moments. Watching Norman's psychosis get worse and worse as the series went on was really interesting to watch for me and definitely blew my mind more than once. Some have knocked this season for being really predictable, especially with how it ended, but honestly I didn't feel this was an issue at all. We know the end game with this show. Being crazy and unpredictable is not what this show is going for. The point of this is to dive into the character of Norman Bates and show how we get from what seems like a nice, innocent kid at first to a psychotic serial killer and this show is doing a great job at that. I don't have a rating system for TV shows, but know that in the end, I still really enjoyed season 3 of Bates Motel and I'm crossing my fingers for A&E to bring this back for another two seasons because I'm excited to see how this show ends.

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