I never thought I would find myself writing about a TV show, yet here I am typing words into a blank page on my laptop… who’d have thought? Going from writing about things on my mind to writing about a TV show, essentially reviewing it. As this is my first review, I’m not sure how to approach it. So.. here it goes.
Reviewing this show came to me when I saw a tweet a couple of weeks ago of someone asking, “Who’s an actor you believe is real life crazy based on a role they played?”. When I saw that tweet, a few names came to mind. One is Kathy Bates for her portrayal of Annie Wilkes in Misery, and another is James McAvoy for his role in Split and Glass. The list goes on. As much as I can name those who played their characters well, one person stood out from the rest. Freddie Highmore. The boy who played Charlie in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In my eyes, his portrayal and take on Norman Bates in Bates Motel had been sensational, and I truly believed he was that character and that they were one. The perception of him being Charlie was gone. He was no longer Charlie; he was Norman Bates.
Bates Motel is a psychological horror drama and contemporary prequel to Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film Psycho. The show is focused on the lives of Norman Bates (portrayed by Freddie Highmore) and his mother, Norma Bates (portrayed by Vera Farmiga), before the events that occurred in the film. The film is also based upon a book written by Robert Bloch in 1959. With some fictional changes and in a modern-day setting, this show, in a sense, gives a take on how Norman Bates became who he was, what may have been the cause and reason as to why he was the way he was, and how his life was before the events of Psycho.
Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho was the first black and white film I ever saw, and after watching it, I understood why it was one of the most influential horror films ever made. As I knew the story of Norman Bates, I was late to the party by the time Bates Motel came around, and I only began the series after it had ended. As soon as it was recommended to me, I was eager to start the series as I was excited to find out how a prequel would turn out.
Like most people, I had my doubts. When it comes to prequels, sequels, and remakes of classic and iconic stories, it is met with scepticism 99% of the time. As hesitant as I was to watch it, the good news I was hearing put me at ease as I prepared myself for it.
The series begins with the death of Norma’s husband. His death then leads Norma to purchase a Motel in a different town so that she and her son, Norman, can have a fresh start in life. From the very first episode, it draws you into the family dynamic of mother and son, who I would say are too close for how a mother and son should be, in my opinion. It also draws you into the dynamic of a modern take on the world of Psycho.
Series 1-4 is essentially the prequel that leads up to the events of Season 5, which loosely adapts the plot of Psycho. As each episode and season moves along, you see Norman lose a sense of reality and descend further and further into his world, where he and his mother are the only ones who truly matter. The further he descends, the more detached from reality he becomes.
Freddie Highmore gave, in my opinion, an outstanding performance as Norman Bates. The way he would switch from Norman into his alter (forgive me if this is the wrong term), Mother, truly had me shouting at my TV saying how ‘Psycho’ he really is.
Bates Motel not only focuses on the protagonist in the story but also has stories and plot points that you, as the viewer, end up being invested in them. Characters that you at first were hesitant to like, end up being your favourite.
Characters such as Dylan Masset (portrayed by Max Thieriot) contributed a significant amount to the story of Norman and Norma Bates. The character development that he underwent could have been on a different TV series itself, and I would have been watching that series. He goes from the older brother that seemingly dislikes his family to a caring and loving man yearning for a loving family. He was longing for a mother who neglected him, looking for his father his entire life. All culminating in protecting his younger, whom he truly cares for.
The ensemble of casts ranged throughout the series, with each casting seeming perfect for each role. Many factors went into this series, the actors being a big part. However, the writing, the music, the lighting, and the setting all collaborated well together to set the tone of what Bates Motel is.
From start to finish, I was hooked and invested in this series. It took me on a roller coaster of emotions, whether it was anger, sadness, or fear. The ending even drew tears from me, from someone who hardly cries.
I believe that the story was told in a way that satisfies those who aren’t aware of Psycho and only know the TV Show and those who love Psycho through and through.
As a lover of all things entertainment, whether TV or film, I thoroughly enjoyed watching this series, I’ve watched it three times altogether since the first time at the end of 2018. When watching a show, the main factor of me liking it is if it has a rewatch factor. Bates Motel has just that.
Bates Motel is a series that I would say has everything that you would want. Suppose you are a casual horror fan, a fan of anything psychological, or a big fan of compelling storytelling. Then, Bates Motel is the right series for you to dive into. Even though it has its fair share of drama within the series, it is also thought-provoking. It gets you thinking about those in real life who are going through what Norman was, of course, not to the extent of murder. However, it gets you thinking that there are people out there losing time, memory, and thoughts due to the other personalities that they have.
If anyone asks me for suggestions of a TV series to watch, Bates Motel is the first thing that comes to mind.