Bates Motel Pilot
“Bates Motel” is a prequel to the critically acclaimed and mega successful 1960 film, Psycho, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. However, this is not the first time that there has been a television show titled “Bates Motel”. In 1987, the show was changed from a pilot to a made for television movie instead by Universal when the weekly show was not picked up. The writers had opted to kill off the main character, Norman Bates, which probably played into the subsequent disinterest and low ratings, along with many other issues.
For the A&E installment that debuted Monday night, Freddie Highmore adeptly portrays a teenage Norman Bates. The talented and beautiful actress Vera Farmiga plays his mother, Norma. The show is set in modern times, making it a bit of a unique entity in the franchise, but there are certain elements that harken to the time of the original film, such as the wardrobe and the older interiors and exteriors of the house and motel. But you can’t miss the placement of iPhone’s for Norman and Norma and the classic marimba ringtone.
The purpose of the show is to give the audience a glimpse into what contributed to Norman and the man he becomes. They are setting us up to see what horrors Norman has been through by way of his environment, his background, and, of course, his mother. In the first episode we jump right in with a little bit of Hitchcock favorites such as voyeurism and a flawed main character. Making Norman a younger boy also helps to play to the audience’s soft spot in wanting to forgive him, to truly understand how he ticks.
After his father’s suspicious death, Norman and his mother move to a coastal town where she buys an old, run down motel and the accompanying house. Yes, it is the house that we all remember. Right down to the iconic stairs. Parts mirror the original film such as a brutal death, and a corpse in the bathtub. Mind you, it wasn’t made to remake the film, it is setting the stage to explain why Norman did what he did when he was older, and how he knew to do these things in a particular way.
Along with developing Norman’s character, we have the opportunity to also learn more about his mother, Norma. Being her namesake, we already have an idea that something is amiss between the two from their interactions, but when Norman stops outside on the steps at night to look at his mother, who is only wearing underwear, through a lacy curtained window, the ick factor is cemented. Later in the show, their exchanges drive this home, if there was any doubt left. They profess their love for each other, their need for each other, and their complete and total reliance on only themselves, effectively isolating the two of them and strengthening their dysfunctional bond. Their dual participation in the above mentioned crime also serves to tighten their bond.
As a fan of Hitchcock, I am very interested to see how the show will be shot in terms of Hitchcock’s unique style and use of particular thematic elements. Also, I will be interested to see how will the modern setting will successfully intermesh with the setting of the film.
There is a new element that we haven’t seen before being explored in the first episode. Norman finds a small book hidden under the carpet in one of the motel rooms that contains images of a girl being tortured. This may be setting the stage for his violent tendencies toward women, as well as other things.
The show revealed a quality set that well resembled the Bates Motel and the house, good writing and excellent acting. In the preview for next week, it appears that the show will contain many more twists and surprises, along with shocks. If the series ends up meeting the high expectations of the many fans, maybe it will lead the way to see other reincarnations of classic films in order that we may further explore the reasons and motivations behind some of the most horrible yet fantastic characters in film history and their crimes.