Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Check Out Time


Some quick thoughts on the premiere episode of Bates Motel, "First You Dream, Then You Die":

The driving force of the show is Norma (Vera Farmiga), not Norman.  This Ms. Bates isn't some shrill, shriveled harpy, but an alluring femme fatale.  She can manipulate her son with tears just as easily as with tirades.  It is going to be fascinating to watch the mind games she plays on her unfortunate son.

The verdict is still out on the casting of Freddie Highmore as 17-year-old Norman.  He looks like he should be playing in an Eli Manning biopic.  Judging from the first episode, he is more nerdy than unnerving, and lacks any real sense of menace.  Making him too sympathetic a figure could be a fatal flaw.

The show will benefit greatly from the iconic nature of the Hitchcock film.  Shots of the hilltop manse and the roadside motel create instant atmosphere.  There are plenty of opportunities, too, for sly references, as in the scene where a corpse is secreted behind a drawn shower curtain.

The setting of the prequel series in modern times proves a bit disorienting.  Norman Bates wielding a cell phone just doesn't seem right.

The darkness apparently is going to reach beyond the Bates family to the community as a whole.  Such attention to American Gothic
detail could be vital to the show's success, helping it to overcome the familiarity of its Bates-related material for audience members and the pre-ordained nature of its plotline (i.e. we all know already that Norman is going to grow into a psycho).

Based on the premiere episode, there is the potential for some grim and sinister splendor here.  I'll be stopping off at Bates Motel again next Monday night on A&E, and hope that it will be open for business for the rest of the season.


Louis Columbus said...

After the first couple episodes, I was unsure, but it has become a favorite now. I felt the sexual tension between Norman and Norma was overplayed in the first two episodes, but the writers have since toned it down.

Joe Nazare said...

Thanks for the comment, Louis.

I just watched this week's episode ("The Truth"); the show keeps getting better and better. Hope they can sustain the story line for the long term.

I've been blown away, too, by the acting. Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore are outstanding in their roles.