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17 March 2013 @ 11:44 pm
The Bates Motel  
An updated prequel to Psycho starring Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore as the most famous mother/son duo ever.

There will many reasons why people will hate this show. It's rehashing a classic, it sets it in the modern times, we all already know the ending to this story, and should we mention again that it's tampering with a classic? The list goes on and on. As a hardcore fan of the original Psycho I was prepared to wince a lot at A&E's new series.

But surprisingly, I found it somewhat engrossing.

I credit much of the show's enjoyment to acting and writing. Sure, the writers can't help but throw in some pretty ludicrously over the top scenes for what feels like forced plot points. But there is some brilliance to how the writing and the acting always treads the line between the disturbed relationship between Norman Bates and his mother and what might actually pass off as the usual interaction a mother might have with her teenage son. If you know the story of Normal Bates (which most if not all viewers know), you can see Norma's cloying, clinging behavior all over every little exchange. Some are obvious, some aren't. But in the more subtle exchanges if you forget for a moment you know the story's ending, you can believe this is just an average mother trying to raise her son. The show has set it up so that neither Norma nor Norman have succumbed to the horrendous family dynamics that led Norman to become the maniac we saw in Hitchcock's film. Yet.

Vera Farmiga is not an actress I have much love for. I've seen her in a handful of things and I've often disliked her in just about all of them. But she's pretty perfect in the role of the younger Mrs. Bates. You can just see the desperation that fires up every now and again in her eyes at the thought of being alone and her delivery of even the most guilt-tripping of lines to Norman is said with enough flippancy that you can actually believe she's saying them to communicate her actual feelings rather than try to manipulate her son. Freddie Highmore (man, he grew up!) felt a little more dull in the role of Norman at first. I felt like his Norman was a little too Innocent Young Boy that lacked any sort of budding menace until we got to the last few scenes and then I could suddenly see the beginnings of some true menace.

Surprisingly setting the story in modern times worked out just fine so far. I had considered that updating it would take away most of the isolation the 1960s Norman Bates must have felt while growing in the middle of nowhere. In 2013 even if Norman was a complete social outcast at school (which he isn't actually) he still would have things like the Internet to open up his world a little bit. However, the show manages to not so much work around this but work with the idea that Norman is not immediately set up as an outcast when he goes to his new school. If anything, the girls seem rather keen on him. We can all think about how this will cause problems later.

There definitely are moments in the pilot that I thought were sort of ridiculous and possibly put in there as a combination of shock value and some lazy writing. The real fun of the series so far for me has been watching the signs of mother and son slowly heading down that dark, insane path that I can only assume will be the endgame for the show. Surely they're not going to actually rewrite everything and make Norman sane this time and settle down with a nice young woman, right?
Astoundingly fond of avocados and rainy weather.: SPN_D+B_Securityguardian_chaos on March 19th, 2013 05:09 am (UTC)
Oh! I forgot this was on. I only recently saw the original Psycho for the first time, so I was excited to see what they would do with this. I'm glad to hear it's a good re-imagining. I'm especially glad it's not a direct copy of the original, instead leaning towards prequel status instead. :)
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on March 20th, 2013 02:12 am (UTC)
Did you like the original Psycho? I rewatched it a few months back and realized how much I LOVED IT.
Astoundingly fond of avocados and rainy weather.: SPN_Gamechangerguardian_chaos on March 24th, 2013 04:18 am (UTC)
Oh goodness, I loved it, too. Eee! I can absolutely tell why it became such a classic. I was so intrigued by the way the protagonist changed halfway through the movie. So much intentional misdirection happening there! That's brave writing, and I can see how it must have taken people by surprise.

Good ol' Hitchcock. :D