First Impressions

Bates Motel

Aired on: A&E

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                A couple of days ago, I saw a preview for an upcoming television series airing on A&E Bates Motel, a new horror series scheduled to premiere Monday, March 18, 2013 at 10pm EST on A&E, will serve as a prequel to the Alfred Hitchcock film Psycho.  Taking us all the way back to Norman Bates' teenage years, viewers will learn about the relationship between Norman and his mother, how they ended up with the Bates Motel and how he became the psychotic murderer of the films.  I was intrigued.  So when I was offered the opportunity to premiere the first episode of Bates Motel, I jumped on the chance.

                While the events of the original Psycho took place in the 1960s, the creators of this series decided to take this series into the present times.  Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) is a teenager with a high IQ and a penchant for old films.  His mother, Norma (Vera Farmiga), is a bit high-strung and impulsive, but Norman loves her immensely.  After Norman finds his father dead in a pool of blood, Norma decides it's time for a change.

                Six months later, Norma brings Norman to their new home, a hotel and house she purchased through foreclosure.  Norman isn't exactly thrilled with the idea, but he loves his mother and is willing to try for her sake.  Unfortunately, the former owner of the hotel is none too pleased with the arrangement and decides to let Norma know about it.  Meanwhile, Norman sneaks out of the house to study with some girls from his school and gets a lot more than he planned for when they instead head off to a party.

                Norman gets back just in time to rescue his mother from the hotel's former owner, but things seem to get worse by the minute.  Norma wanted a change for the Bates family, but history seems to keep repeating itself.  Can mother and son keep their bloody secret from the rest of the town?  Could it be that the secrets of the other members of the town out-trump those of the Bates' family?

                While I was annoyed at first at the creators' decision to have the show be set in present times, I got over it quickly.  It only made sense that if today's viewers were to be able to find some sort of bond with the characters, they would have to experience things in present time.  Having the series take place in the 60s might be an issue with younger viewers who would never relate to the issues and values of that time period.  That being said, you will notice some references to the time period the original movie was set in such as the car Norma is driving, the style of the hotel decor and the hairstyles of some of the characters.

                Some may find Freddie Highmore's portrayal of Norman Bates to be a bit stiff, but I believe that this is intentional.  When compared with the adult version of Norman in Psycho, this stiffness around other people makes sense.  After all, his mother dominated his time and he was basically forbidden to have any relationships outside of theirs.  It stands to reason that Norman would have difficulty socializing with other individuals, especially girls who seem to show an interest in him.  Vera Farmiga is amazing as Norma Bates, portraying her in just the fashion I would have expected.  She is every bit of the domineering, guilt-trip-laying mother with loads of secrets hiding in that demented mind of hers.  There is no doubt in my mind as to what might have happened to Norman's father and how her influence made Norman the murderous psychopath he would eventually become.

                I was surprised at the allusion to an older brother that apparently doesn't live with Norma and Norman.  I wonder if he will appear to cause problems for the two in later episodes.  I also find the former hotel owner's references to the secrets of the town and Norman's discovery under the rug of one of the hotel rooms to be rather intriguing.  Could someone from the town also have some sort of influence on the future Norman Bates. 

                Thus far, I found Bates Motel to be rather entertaining.  The actors portray their infamous roles quite well and have a good grasp as to what their characters will eventually become.  I enjoyed the dark lighting of the show while in the house, somewhat of a foreshadowing of the dark events that take place at the Bates Motel in the future.  Despite knowing what will happen to Norma and Norman eventually, I think Bates Motel will have some staying power as a means for Psycho fans to get an understanding of what Norma and Norman went through in the past and how all that had an affect on the adult Norman. 

                I guess I have a new television series to add to the list of shows I already watch.  I can't wait for the next episode of Bates Motel to air on A&E.  This is one horror series that I doubt I will grow tired of.


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