Tyler

Bates Motel

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An A&E series based on Psycho (thread here), Bates Motel will star Vera Farmiga as Mrs. Bates and Freddie Highmore (the kid from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) as Norman. Carlton Cuse (of Lost fame) is the executive producer.

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So...is this a reimagining of the 1987 television series that starred Bud Cort and Lori Petty??

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Heh. No, it looks like this is a reimagining of Psycho IV: The Beginning, the 1990 TV-movie which not only starred Anthony Perkins but also featured Henry Thomas (the kid from E.T.) as the young Norman Bates, as well as Olivia Hussey (Zeffirelli's Romeo & Juliet, the Virgin Mary in Jesus of Nazareth) as Norman's mother.

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Has anyone watched this? It arrived on Netflix a few months ago and I'm about half-way through the first season. Carlton Cuse, the showrunner for it, cites Twin Peaks as a prominent influence and I think the show definitely has some of that vibe.

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I've been meaning to check it out, but haven't gotten around to it yet.

Edited by Ryan H.

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Watched the first season...not great television or anything but not bad.

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I took advantage of the fact that I was laid low with a head cold this weekend to watch seasons 2 and 3 (I saw season 1 about a year ago). It ain't Hannibal, but nothing is. It is a very interesting re-imagining of the Psycho backstory from the perspective of Norma Bates; I said on Facebook that, if Hannibal is about the anxieties and ambiguities of male friendships, Bates Motel is about the anxieties and ambiguities of motherhood. Vera Farmiga is quite good as a woman who doesn't understand what her teenage son is becoming, who feels deeply the loss of closeness with him and who resents that loss and tries desperately to protect young Norman. That is, this is a pretty astutely-observed maternal struggle, cast in the language of horror-melodrama. Put another way, it's an Oedipal drama from the perspective of the mother.

As Norman, Freddie Highmore walks a tightrope between doing a fairly close impression of Anthony Perkins and doing his own thing. Most of the time it works; he doesn't have the endearing fragility Perkins exhibited (even at a later age, as in Psycho II), and sometimes the melodrama calls for him to reach for effects just outside his grasp. But he's good. One scene in particular, toward the middle of season 3, gave me mild chills that I think were unrelated to my head cold--and the finale of that season is really quite good. 

If anything doesn't quite gel for me, it's the storyline surrounding Norma's brother. It's dark and melodramatic--like everything else on the show--but it seems to push a bit too far in that direction, to the point that I was legitimately flabbergasted that characters would make some of the decisions they make. 

By the third season, all of the elements are in place leading up to the events of Psycho. The show's been picked up for two more seasons, so I'm curious how it will play out. Part of me hope they do the Hannibal thing and make season 5 a more-or-less direct adaptation of the original story.

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New season premiered tonight. For various reasons, it'll be the weekend before I can catch up with it--but here's the AV Club:

 

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 t’s going to become awfully tough to stay connected with Norman emotionally when his crossing over into Crazy Land happens as consistently and capriciously as it does here. This episode spends a good portion of time dealing with the fallout of the season three finale, which means that for a decent stretch, it feels more like a denouement to a previous story than the first section of a new chapter. That’s not a bad thing, in and of itself, but it doesn’t exactly make for a superlative installment. Let’s catch up with each of our main characters individually, because it’s worth noting just how separated they all are—geographically, narratively, and emotionally.

Vulture also has a recap.

Edited by NBooth

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Midway through the season and it's really quite good. Freddie Highmore is killing it this season--one scene in particular, from yesterday's episode, along with the visit to the strip club in the previous episode, has cemented him as the best Norman Bates since Perkins (not that there was all that much competition--I mean, he's up against Vince Vaughn from the 1998 remake and Henry Thomas from the 1990 pre/sequel, neither of which carry the role particularly well (although there have been other actors in the role, none of whom I've seen). The real star is, of course, Vera Farmiga, who is heartbreaking and campy and funny all at the same time. I think the humor she brings to the role might be underappreciated, but it's there.

This show is locked in through season 5, but it's looking like season 4 is going to end in a very familiar place.

Edited by NBooth

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I might be the only person on-board watching this show, but man. Vera Farmiga killed it in last night's episode. The last scene is, on one level, pure exposition--and, for that matter, exposition of stuff we already knew--but Farmiga sold Norma's emotional breakdown so much that I almost didn't care. And the last line of the episode.... This is good stuff. It's certainly better than a Psycho prequel has any right to be.

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I'm also a fan but have to catch up with seasons after the fact. 

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I'm going to be catching the finale later today, but the AV Club's spoiler-filled review has me excited.

Meanwhile, THR has a (spoiler-filled) conversation with Cuse, Highmore, and Ehrin, including a tease for what season five will look like.

Edited by NBooth

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This show has no business being this good. Possibly because of current events in my own life, the season finale tore me up. I mean, shredded me. Highmore is devastating as Norman, and his performance here is best in show. Kudos to the showrunners for avoiding too-obvious melodrama and deciding to end the season on a relatively restrained, sad note.

Edited by NBooth

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Den of Geek's Gabriel Bergmoser: Bates Motel: how the Psycho prequel went from good to great

 

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Ten weeks ago, I never could have anticipated that Bates Motel would become anything more than a show I watched to fill time. While Hannibal remains by far the greatest horror reboot, Bates Motel has managed to enrich its source material while carving its own path and forging an identity that is entirely unique. With only ten episodes left to enjoy of this little gem, let’s hope they hit the ground running for a final season that makes Hitchcock proud. On the evidence of this year’s run? I wouldn’t bet against it.

 

Edited by NBooth

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Rihanna is Marion Crane

"Season five is about the ways in which our show does and more specifically does not intersect with the events of Psycho," showrunner Carlton Cuse told THR after the season finale. "We are going to see a version of Norman that is much closer now to the one in the movie, but the way in which he acts and the events in the story will not be the same as the movie. They will cross paths with some of the events in the movie and lead to an ultimate resolution. What that resolution is and how that plays out is something that will be not disconnected to the movie Psycho but will be very much our own story in the same way the entire series has been."

Note that they're going with the movie's "Marion" as opposed to the novel's "Mary."

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Huh, that link also says the fifth season will be the show's last.

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Yeah, that's been pretty evident since the finale of last season (and, actually, the showrunners have been saying it since before then).

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Bates Motel is back! The new season is actually set a couple of years after the previous one, so the characters are a bit farther along than they were. Nothing really special to add, except that Vera Farmiga is definitely still the MVP here, though Highmore is (of course) very good.

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Last night's episode was--of course--very good, but it prompted me to do some reading on Ed Gein and now I'm wondering if Madeline isn't doomed. Gein's final victim was the owner of the local hardware store, and we know how "Norma" reacts to women Norman is attracted to....

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And the Marion Crane arc begins. This has always been the challenge the show would have to confront--how, exactly, to deal with the Hitchcock movie (and, to a far lesser extent, the source novel). I can't say it really grabs me, though it's certainly more intriguing than the Dylan-Emma stuff; those actors really don't sell the married-with-child angle. After seeing how effectively Hannibal cannibalized and reconstituted its own source material, I was hoping for something a bit more daring vis-a-vis Marion, but (the AV Club to the contrary), the scenes involving her play very much like a remake of the Hitchcock original.

There are changes, of course. Sam Loomis's marriage (and the existence of cell phones!) pushes the story in a slightly new direction, as does Norman's ongoing breakdown. Highmore is working overtime to sell that angle and it shows; his Norman Bates seems constantly on the edge of tears, lately, which is effective insofar as this is so very definitely Norman's story now. 

The fact that Norman has a whole other life as Norma--frequenting a bar under her name and having trysts with the patrons--was hinted at last season, but it gets a payoff here. This new angle, more than anything else, has the potential to push the Marion storyline in interesting directions; as she pulls up to the Bates Motel, Norman has just returned from discovering the truth about his own double-life. I'm genuinely curious to see how that works out

To my understanding, the Marion storyline is a two-episode arc, so next week we'll presumably be getting to the shower. I'm more worried now than I was about how that will play out.

(On another note, I would like to emphasize how gorgeous this show is. The sequence with Marion pulling up to the hotel was a treat to watch)

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Just assume Spoilers

 

Well, that was all at once predictable and unexpected. 

 

I get a kick out of gender-swapping the shower sequence for a couple of reasons, not least of which is the fact that it inverts eroticized violence against women

Gotta say, though, this show has much too much expository dialogue. I feel like--good as Highmore and Farmiga are--we really didn't need "Norma" to explain to Norman what, exactly, she is. Not in so many words, at least.

EDIT: But! (And this is interesting--far more interesting, I think, than the daddy-issue stuff) During that long, long (well-acted, but) expository sequence, "Norma" says something like this: "Just like Adam in Eden wanting all the knowledge--but if you want the knowledge, you have to take the pain." Now, as it happens, yesterday I led a class discussion in The Marble Faun, which plays with similar ideas. And this is, I think, a place where Bates Motel could stand to do more exploration. The focus in the show has consistently been on the subjective experiences of Norman and company--any sort of existential or metaphysical speculation was quickly shunted aside (which distinguishes it from its bunkmate Hannibal; in spite of surface similarities, Bates Motel has always been more of a soap). An exploration of the idea of a "fortunate fall"--Norman finally knows himself, though a kind of dark transcendence (indeed, though blood sacrifice)--would be a bit outside this show's wheelhouse, but it shouldn't be (and, after all, they are the ones who invoke Adam). The problem is that the show hasn't gone full Gothic; I can imagine Hannibal going there, because that was a show that actually loved its own perverse premise. Bates Motel has always been about the tragedy of Norman Bates, and it has actively pushed back against getting too perverse (places where you start to think they might actually try something daring--like exploring Norman's apparently polymorphous sexuality--the showrunners draw back and double-down on a hard distinction between Norman and "Norma" even though "Norma" is just part of Norman's psyche, and therefore presumably her urges are also his).

Part of this might be political, since the showrunners want to carefully keep from implying that sexual minorities are in some way insane (which hasn't kept The AV Club from worrying about transphobia in the depiction of Norman's psychosis-- even though it should be thunderingly apparent that Norman isn't trans to anyone who's paying attention). That's understandable; if a fiction veers too close to real-life stereotypes and calumnies it can get troublesome. But safety isn't what Bates Motel needs, particularly here in the home-stretch. It needs to jump the rails a bit.

Perhaps Hannibal just spoiled me.

Edited by NBooth

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