Between two posts about Hannibal and now this, I am just all kinds of macabre lately! I promise I do not exist solely on a diet of TV shows about murderers. That just seems to be the way things are lately. Anyway, I had hoped to get a review of season one of Bates Motel out before the season two premiere last night, but I didn’t manage to swing it. Hopefully I’ll do that later this week. For those of you unfamiliar with A&E’s Bates Motel, it’s basically a modern-day imagining of the adolescent life of Norman Bates, the infamous, mother-obsessed killer in the unbeatable horror classic, Psycho. Season one was pretty darn good, but how was the start of season two? Here are the particulars.
What I liked:
- Freddie Highmore as Norman Bates. I really wasn’t sure how I’d feel about Highmore in the role, but he continues to do a great job capturing the character. He has this sweetness about him, but you can sense the crazy there, too.
- Vera Farmiga as Norman’s mother, Norma. Yes—Norman and Norma. A little strange, no? Norma is over-bearing, manipulative, immature, quick to anger, and more than a little crazy, and Farmiga just eats the role up. Norma could very easily be an unlikeable character, but somehow Farmiga makes you love her.
- The relationship between Norman and Norma. If you’ve seen Psycho—heck, even if you haven’t—you probably get that this is one of the weirdest mother-son relationships ever. They live in their own little world, and they’re so close that they often seem more like husband and wife than mother and son. It’s creepy yet fascinating because it explains SO much about Psycho.
- The old-fashioned style. Though the show is set in modern times, the way the characters dress and the settings often have a throwback feel. It could just be a happy coincidence since retro styles are all the rage, but I have a feeling it’s a nod to the time period when Psycho was filmed (it came out in 1960).
- The surprising end. I don’t want to spoil anything, but let’s just say the end of episode one sets up for a very interesting season.
What I didn’t like:
- The focus on Bradley (Nicola Peltz). I struggle to care for this character. She goes through some rough stuff in season one, so I guess she’s somewhat sympathetic, but when it all boils down to it, she’s a selfish, stupid teenage girl. She’s hot, and I’m sure the fellas appreciate that, but so far I find her character fairly annoying. That surprising end, however, does involve her, so maybe she’ll grow on me this season.
- The lack of Dylan (Max Thieriot). I thought Dylan, Norman’s older half-brother, was going to be a dull character at the beginning of last season, but I actually grew pretty fond of him. He’s the bad-boy-with-a-heart-of-gold type. Who doesn’t love that? However, his role in this first episode is pretty limited, which is frustrating. I’m hoping he gets more screen time in future episodes.
- The lack of Emma (Olivia Cooke). If Dylan’s screen time is considered limited, Emma’s is almost nonexistent. She’s a quirky character that I liked from the get-go in season one not only because she’s sweet and funny, but because she has a unique condition: cystic fibrosis. It severely cuts a person’s life span (many of those affected die in their 30s), which ties in well with the show’s fixation on morbidity. However, Emma has a grand total of two brief scenes in the premiere, and that’s disappointing. C’mon, writers! Emma’s an interesting gal!
- The motel, which had been struggling to stay afloat last season, is suddenly teeming with customers. Wait, what? How? We don’t know, and there’s not really much of an explanation offered.
- There’s a council meeting in which one particular councilman is a little too snarky to be believable. However, Norma’s reaction to his ‘tude is pretty great, so I might be able to let that slide.
The Potential: I think it’s definitely there. Season one was a solid start for the series, and I think season two is off to a good start, too. I continue to love the idea of this show—exploring what made Norman Bates into the man we see in Psycho. I’m sure the focus will remain on Norman and Norma, which is exactly what needs to happen. I only hope that the time allotted to the supporting characters is distributed more evenly in future episodes.
My Grade: B+