A&E's new series “Bates Motel,” premieres Monday, March 18th at 10:00 p.m. Inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller “Psycho,” the series is a look at what Norman Bates’ life might have been like before Janet Leigh’s character stepped into the shower of the Bates Motel that frightful night in the 1960 film.
*******warning possible spoilers ahead*************
In the series opener, a 17 year old Norman, played by Freddie Highmore, discovers his father has been murdered. Norman frantically begins searching for his mother all around the house. Food is being cooked on the stove and left unattended, the iron is on and yet when Norman finds his mother Norma, played by Vera Farmiga, and she’s just stepped out of the shower as if nothing has happened. Norma comforts Norman over his loss. No explanation is given, but from Norman’s mother actions suggests that Norman’s father died in some sort of domestic dispute between his mother and father.
The story then jumps to six months later. Norman and his mother have moved to a new town having purchased the Seafair Motel and the classic old house just adjacent to it. Norma wants the two of them to begin a new life. Things don’t go so well for Norma as they are soon greeted by former owner, Summers, who lost the business to the bank. He opposes The Bates taking over the property and threatens them which cause Norma to make a threat of her own.
Norman, however, seems to adjust to the new town very well at first. He goes to his new high school and immediately makes friends with a group of popular girls, led by Bradley. He also develops a relationship with shyer, less popular classmate named Emma. His high school guidance teacher, Mrs. Watson, suggests he become more social and suggests he try out for the track team. Norma doesn't seem to handle Norman’s new social life very well. When he returns home from school late for dinner, Norma’s upset that she waited for him and that he ruined the nice dinner she set up.
Further tension rises between the two when Bradley arrives at the house to invite Norman to the library (which is really a party). Upset that Norma wouldn't let him go, Norman sneaks out to join his new friends.
When Norman returns home later that night, something happens that will change his and Norma’s life forever.
Throughout the episode, you see Norman’s struggle with his conscious and with right and wrong, somewhat. Norman suggests they call for help and not threaten Summers during their initial meeting with him. Norman wants to have friends and a normal life outside of his mother, but Norma’s hold on him appears to be strong. She tells him repeatedly that he’s the best thing that’s ever happened to her. At one point they say that they love each other. They also point out that all they have is each other, which may not be the case.
The most interesting character of the series may just be Dylan, who we discover in the first episode if Norman’s older brother from a phone call that Norma receives. He’s estranged from the family (Norma didn't even tell him she was moving). His presence is sure to bring an interesting dynamic to the series.
Norman also finds a book left in one of the rooms that is a diary of unusual cryptic and disturbing sketches. Things are not what it seems as the very last shot of the episode appears to be one of the sketches in the book brought to life.
What I liked:
- The familiar setting of The Bates Motel and the house is hauntingly creepy.
- It’s interesting to see a younger Norman and meet all the female influences in his life.
- Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga have great inappropriate chemistry as mother and son.
- From Carlton Cuse of “Lost” fame.
- Two killings in the first episode give you an immediate indication of Norman’s psyche.
- The inclusion of Dylan as Norman’s brother is intriguing and his future story is one that needs to be told.
What I didn't like:
- Moving the story to a contemporary setting didn't seem to fit. The motel and the house were stuck in the 1950s while everything around it was modern day. The high school and the house party setting were from Beverly Hills 90210 compared to the town square setting.
- Why Norma would even buy the motel in the first place?
- The B story with Norman and the book is confusing. Is there more going on in the hotel and in the town than meets the eye?
- Hard to tell what kind of show it was supposed to be? Crime thriller or teen murder mystery
“Bates Motel” premieres Monday, March 18 at 10:00 p.m. on A & E.
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