Bates Motel’ debut is both eerie and successful
Norman Bates is a name that has made the collective American psyche cringe since the early 1960s when Robert Bloch’s novel Psycho debuted and the Alfred Hitchcock movie of the same name came out, portraying the fictional Bates as a deranged killer obsessed with punishing women. The new A&E drama, “Bates Motel,” which premiered Monday, March 19th, aims to give insight as to how Bates eventually became the maniac that was the central character of Hitchcock’s most notorious horror film. “Bates Motel,” starring Vera Farmiga (“The Departed,” “Source Code”) and Freddie Highmore as Norman (“August Rush,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”), is a unique approach at a prequel because it takes place during the modern age, not mid-20th century America.
“Bates Motel” places Bates on the West Coast with his mother Norma, played by Farmiga, who persuades her son into believing that all women are evil, aside from herself, and helps grow the roots of his disassociated personality disorder and murderous streak. The premise of this modern-day prequel is that the Bateses recently purchased a motel in a small town in the country, full of Main Street USA characters, and that the motel itself is the central grounds where Norman will begin to get in touch with his psychotic side as well as learn to hone his craft at the expense of the townsfolk.
At first glimpse, Norman looks innocent enough — a scrawny teenager, quiet and withdrawn. But as the premiere episode moves forward, it is evident that his personality has the framework to unfold into a psycho, as witnessed in the novel and movie. The dynamic between Norman and his mother, wrought with Oedipus complex and abandonment, does a great deal to explain where this character has been and possibly predict where he is going to end up. His constant exposure to violence and violent tendencies coupled with an obvious lack of remorse for any wrongdoing make Norman the ideal candidate to transform into a serial killer.
Overall the premiere episode of Bates Motel was impressive, which is saying a lot for a prequel when so many fail. Credit is due for any show that takes on a unique perspective of an old tale, especially when that tale is an American classic. This show will win the favor of fans of the original novel and movie, as long as they don’t botch the famous shower curtain scene!
The Setonian gives this show 5 out of 5 stars.
Brett Montana can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.