A&E’s modernized, prequel series Bates Motel is set to return for season two March 3rd. After watching season one and being surprisingly impressed by it I am now anticipating seeing the same quality continue from season one with even more relationships being strained, elaborate sinister secrets being covered up, more blood being spilled and main characters that are coming evermore closer to snapping altogether.
I was the first to be doubtful of this series when it was first announced. The first uncertainty came when I discovered it would be set in modern day. I got a big ‘uh oh’ moment from that. I started to picture a generic, wishy-washy CW-type of family drama that happened to star Norman Bates.
A young cast of good-looking boring characters would romance each other and every now and then Norman would ‘go a little crazy’, kill them and go back home to get consoled by good old Mother.
Meanwhile the guest-star of the week would end up dead in one of their hotel rooms. It would all simply be a way to capitalize on a famous fictional character and ‘prequel-ize’ their story. Something that has become a growing trend in recent years.
Fortunately Bates Motel turned into more than that. Developed by Carlton Cuse (Lost), Kerry Ehrin (Friday Night Lights) and Anthony Cipriano, Bates Motel has a Twin Peaks/Blue Velvet atmosphere to it. While on the surface everything in the town of White Pine Bay Oregon looks as normal as normal can be, with a little digging there’s a dark disturbing underbelly to everything that’s waiting to be discovered. This includes the characters.
Freddie Highmore managed to do the seemingly impossible and portray a young Norman Bates and not be buried under the dark shadow of Anthony Perkins. His young Norman stands on his own quite well.
Additionally Vera Farminga gave a consistently impressive performance as mother Norma from week-to-week. The show managed to create this famous mother figure into a thoughtless, affectionate, controlling woman who can be both sympathetic and frightening.
I can empathize with her in her failed attempts to start a new life with her son and get this motel to start makeing a profit, while at the same time be sickened by her manipulation of the people around her. The two are both great on the show.
Another thing I liked was the presentation of the show. Being a ‘present day prequel’ it could easily have glossed things up and really modernized elements around this famous gothic looking house.
However, everything from the clothes, the dialogue, the general gloomy feel of the town feels timeless. Sure we get the inevitable inclusion of cell phones and computers, but they’re simply tools to help tell a story that could be taking place fifty years earlier. Bates Motel almost plays out in it’s very own unique time period.
Early on the series seemed to be throwing a bit too many story elements around to see what would stick. But as things got more focused and more characters came in and the relationships evolved between the Bates’ and the other townsfolk things really started to gel on the show.
White Pine Bay started to be established as the worst possible place for Norma and Norman to move to. They’ve become surrounded by characters where most are just as disturbed as them. It’s not the best environment for these two.
I don’t know what to expect from season two so I can’t offer up any spoilers. I haven’t bothered reading anything about it preferring to be surprised like Marion Crane in that shower.
I expect there will be repercussions from the death in last seasons finale, brother Dylan will continue to be the most level-headed character around, Norma will persist to try to control everyone around her and Norman will grow just a little bit more mad. I’m looking forward to it.