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Bates Motel

Bates Motel

What He said:

He

Some people are anti-remakes. I think that’s a foolish stance to take, especially when you consider just how much creativity you can take with the source material nowadays. Creators of these newer versions have taken so much liberty with the original sources that remake isn’t even the appropriate word anymore. We now call them a “reimagining” or “retelling” instead. I can see that, because they take a concept and switch things up again, but it’s also semantics to me.

If ever were there a modern work that takes a rough outline from an old book or movie and changes aspects of it – and even adds more depth – it’s the Bates Motel. I don’t want to give too much away to those who haven’t seen this yet, but there’s so much more going on here than a serial killer who has a split personality, like Norman Bates does in Psycho.

Norma Bates (Vera Farmiga) and her son Norman (Freddie Highmore) have recently moved from Arizona to Oregon. She has also recently purchased an old motel. You see, her husband has recently passed away and she plans on taking the money left to her and her son and beginning a new life.

Some of the locals have other plans though. Keith Summers (W. Early Brown) is the former owner of the hotel Norma just bought. He is not happy about that and doesn’t hesitate to show her. He often shows up at his former home harassing Norma and Norman about how they “stole” his house away from him.

Norma attempts to get the police involved, but Sheriff Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) almost seems inconvenienced whenever she contacts him. Deputy Zack Shelby (Mike Vogel) seems to take her concerns more seriously, but has his hands tied due to his boss’ disinterest – if not outright disdain – in Norma and her problems.

Bates Motel

If her life isn’t dramatic enough, her other son, Dylan, unexpectedly shows up on her doorstep. Dylan (Max Thieriot) is from the wrong side of the tracks. He doesn’t get along with Norma at all, but seems to have a soft spot for Norman; though you have to wonder if that stems from his dislike of Norma and his desire to see her unhappy. Does he really care about Norman and want to see him break away from their possessive mother or does he just want to piss his mother off; whom he already dislikes due to her breaking up with her dad and getting together with Norman’s dad.

Speaking of Norman, he’s not immune to the drama either. First off, he’s Norman Bates, and if you know anything about the character, he has a bizarre relationship with his mother. They are very close. He has no friends, he calls her “mother”, and caters to her every command.

Norman also has some trouble with the ladies. From the second she spots him, Bradley Martin (Nicola Peltz) takes an interest in him; so-much-so that you have to wonder why. She’s the most popular girl in school, Norman Bates is…well Norman Bates, and she wants to be his buddy? Something ain’t right there. Then you’ve got Emma Decody (Olivia Cooke). She is the opposite of Bradley. She too seems to have an interest in Norman, though her crush seems more sincere. She’s smart, wears an oxygen tank, and likes to solve crimes. She lugs around her oxygen tank solving mysteries, like a little handicapped Nancy Drew. This kid is adorable. Even the She thinks this girl is cute. She’s just the kind of character you really like to root for. She seems to genuinely care about Norman, and despite the fact that they are friends, you can’t help and feel bad for her that Norman seems more interested in Bradley. Emma and Norman discover something in the hotel that sets them off on a quest. That’s all I’ll say, because it’s worth the surprise.

I remember coming across a few images of this show only a few weeks before it came out. I didn’t think it looked bad, I just didn’t think about it at all. I don’t even remember how or why I decided to check it out, but holy crap! This show is fantastic. The acting is top-notch. Vera Farmiga, Freddie Highmore, and Max Thoeriot have excellent chemistry with one another. Norma is possessive as hell, Norman loves her, Dylan hates her, but seems to want to get to know his brother, and it makes for a whole lot of drama between the three of them. That isn’t even touching on some of the other stuff going on around town. Nestor Carbonell is awesome in this show. He seems to hate Norma for no apparent reason. You are dying to know why the entire season. Why does this guy have it in for this woman he didn’t even know up until recently?

There are also some great twists in this show. This takes the classic Psycho story and blows it out of the water. There’s a lot more going on here than what we see with the Norman Bates character in the Hitchcock classic.

This show is funny, dramatic, and tense. It’s got it all. It’s like Breaking Bad in that sense. I did not see this show coming at all and it has blown me away by how much it entertained me in its inaugural season.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This review was written for your reading pleasure on May 29, 2013

Bates Motel

What She said:

She

It seems like so often when television reimagines or does a spinoff of a movie, the magic is lost.  That is why I approached Bates Motel with some trepidation.  In fact, I didn't really join the 10-episode season until its third week.  I had sort of thrown in the towel on ever watching it, when I happened upon the show in marathon one rainy Saturday afternoon.  I was home alone and bored so I figured I'd check out the first episode and see what was up.  I was almost instantly hooked, and quickly got myself caught up.

Bates Motel is a slightly trashy, modern day take on the Hitchcock classic Psycho.  But just because it's based on the concept of the old black and white thriller, don't think you already know what to expect. This version of the story presents Norman as a teenager--polite, curious, and a bit creepy.  Norman moves to a new town with his mother, Norma, after the accidental death of his father.  As the season advances you'll learn the truth of the father's death, but you'll immediately sense that something is up with this family.  Norma is weird and Norman clearly has got something going on.  Shortly upon arriving in town Norma's other, older son, Dylan, shows up.  Dylan does not get along with his mother, and is on and off with Norman as well.  Frankly, he thinks that Norma and Norman has a warped relationship, and that Norma is responsible for this.  Dylan is a bit of a badass, and quickly becomes involved in the local underworld economy, pot growing.  Meanwhile, as Norma struggles to get the motel up and operating, Norman begins to adjust to school.  He makes friends with the popular girl, Bradley, and as well as the inquisitive girl-next-door, Emma. Like every normal teenage boy, he struggles with lots of hormones and drama with the ladies.  Both Norma and Norman also get wrapped up in a mysterious death and a prostitution ring.  Crazy, I know.

Bates Motel

I'm totally glossing over a lot of the details here, but I don't want to give too much away.  Let's just say that a lot happens in these mere 10 episodes.  It's actually somewhat amazing how much they can stuff into one fairly short season.  So, what did I think?  I loved it!  I mean, clearly there are plenty of things to overlook.  First and foremost, I don't believe there is any place on this planet with quite as much drama as this misty Oregon town.  There is so much crime and such over-the-top characters; I truly believe everyone living there is corrupt.  But I tried to suspend believe and just took everything with a grain of salt.  What you end up is plenty of drama, thrills, and general weirdness. 

The cast of this show is solid.  Freddie Highmore plays young Norman, and he really captures that character's quirkiness and his development into a murderer.  Vera Farmiga stars as Norma Bates, and she does a great job of giving her character depth.  The only other actor that I know from elsewhere is Nestor Carbonell, who plays town Sheriff Alex Romero.  His character becomes more and more important as the season progresses, and I think he will carry a lot of weight next season.

The show is darkly shot, with solid cinematography, considering it's a TV program.  I like that certain networks have really been investing in the quality of the visuals of their dramas. 

I think the real weakness of this show is its eccentric plot.  Some people will not like it because it is so crazy and out there.  Clearly, this is very fictional.  Also, because so much happens in season one, I fear that this could go by the way of Glee and run out of good story by the second season, but we'll have to wait and see.  In the meantime, if you like the drama/thriller genre then check out this show.  I hope you'll like it as much as I did.

Thumbs up.

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