Unless you’ve lived under a rock, you’ve seen, or at the very least heard of Norman Bates, his mother and the motel they once ran by the sea in California. Alright, they were characters from a book by Robert Bloch, made into a smashing success of a film called Psycho by none other than Alfred Hitchcock.
Hitchcock himself has been scrutinized this past year in two films, one made for TV and one theatrical, so it’s no surprise that a film he famously directed would be brought to the small screen in one form or another.
In the case of Bates Motel, it’s being brought to us by the A&E Network as a sort of a prequel. I say “sort of” because it takes place in modern times. That was something that took me a few minutes to suss out, what with the style of dress chosen, the furniture and even in some cases the way the characters speak. It’s not very often your see a housewife wearing a wide, belted floral skirt with similar shirt and an upturned collar in 2013, let alone washing the dishes in the outfit.
There are movies and television productions that deliberately try to throw you off kilter by their ambiguous sense of place and time, and for some reason Bates Motel has chosen to do this. I was only 100% certain we were in modern day when Norman (Freddie Highmore) had headphones in his ears and a cellphone attached. Dead giveaway.
Most of us have seen the movie, and know how it ends – only Norman was still alive during the story, but his trusty mother was in the film throughout. If you haven’t seen it, use your imagination. The path to Norman’s future, however, has only been shared in bits and pieces throughout the original and in the (dreadful) sequels.
Norma (Vera Farmiga) tries to be a loving mother, but comes off as a selfish, needy and controlling mommy dearest type. That doesn’t seem to stop Norman from loving her deeply, even though he does have his moments of rebellion.
Norman makes some friends at school, but the one that seems mostly like to stick makes him, another loner, a girl with cystic fibrosis named Emma (Olivia Cooke). It’s during one of his only attempts to reach beyond his mother than an unspeakable act binds them together in the premier, and it’s something that will not only hold them together but with which they will be able to use against one another for a very long time to come.
As Norman struggles to be a normal boy, his social insecurities are very apparent when he’s away from the house. We learn shortly after his father’s death (the catalyst for their move to White Pine Bay) that they have moved at least five times since he’s been in school because Norma tends to have flights of fancy she needs to pursue.
Before the end of the premier, they’re visited by the local sheriff (Nestor Carbonell) and his deputy (Mike Vogel) who appear to just want to snoop around the motel. It makes you wonder if there’s not more going on in the little village that we’ll learn as time progresses.
In the extended season clip below, we’ll see hints of Norman going class A angry, something he learned to tame by the time we met him in Psycho, and the arrival of his brother, Dylan, who we only meet via telephone in the premier.
While I wasn’t all that interested in the plot, to be honest, the inclusion of Dylan seems intriguing as does what occurred in the last ten seconds of the premiere that left me scratching my head and wondering “what the HELL?”
Is it worth tuning in? Sure. Psycho is a piece of history, there can’t be any harm done by checking out what Lost’s Carlton Cuse and Friday Night Lights’ Kerry Ehrin have in store for the prequel. There’s even a shout out to the great shower scene in case anyone could ever forget what happened in there.
Check it out by tuning in tomorrow, Monday, March 18th on A&E at 10/9c.