TV Review: Bates Motel Season 1 Episode 1
Another new show in less than a week? My ambition is boundless.
It’s a shame I can’t say the same about Bates Motel.
TL;DR It’s all very creepy and Vera Farmiga is made for this role, but we already know the endgame of this story, so what’s the point?
Prequelitis. Just like most of Once Upon a Time’s season 1 flashbacks.
So we’ve all seen Psycho, right? Maybe even the Anne Heche version? Well it’s about some dude called Norman Bates who runs a motel where he murders people and dresses up like his dead mother. Pretty standard stuff. Bates Motel is telling a prequel thing about how Norman and his mum started off at the motel. They move there following the mysterious death of Vera’s husband/Norman’s dad. It’s soon made clear that Vera (Norma, mummy) is overbearing as fuck, and probably a little bit touchy-feely with her son. She tries to keep him away from girls he makes friends with at school, as well as an equally inappropriate teacher. Shit goes down when the motel and house’s former owner (who had been foreclosed on. Fucking Obama, amirite?) turns up and rapes Vera. Norman intervenes, then Vera goes stab-happy and kills his ass. They then have to dump the body and keep things hushed from the local sheriff.
Honestly, this first episode is pretty high quality stuff. Vera is fucking fantastic (even when relegated to nothing roles) and the creep factor reminds me of American Horror Story. Tie that in with the series being only 10 episodes long, and things are looking good.
But every time I took a second to really think about Bates Motel, I just couldn’t shake the sense of futility. Unless they’re planning on subverting Psycho, there’s only one way the whole series can really go. I get that this is more of an exploration of character and motivation and yada yada yada, but the plot is locked in. It’s unavoidable.
It’s like watching a character’s death scene in a slasher movie. You can scream at the screen all you want for them to get away, and that might be thrilling, even on a later rewatch, but in the end it doesn’t matter.
So, you know, it’s not great to have a show that “doesn’t matter.”
Unless it’s on The CW. That’s kinda their thing.
Why I hate this episode:
Freddie Highmore plays Norman. He got old and ugly. Disappointing.
He makes friends frighteningly easily. He’s just waiting at the bus stop and a car full of hot skanks rolls up and they immediately take him in. Is this a harem manga? I get that it’s a small town or some shit, but what the hell?
Probably makes a bit more sense when the snobbish, popular guy turns up and isn’t hot either. I guess these girls have got to take what they can get.
The wild teen party they go to is incongruous. This is supposed to be some boonies, backwater, nowhere town and the party looks like a fucking nightclub. Even for affluent teenagers it would be super OOT. There’s fucking lasers and UV lights and shit. Teen parties do not look like that. Hell, the “rager” in Gossip Girl season 2 was not even close to this, and the Van Der Woodsens are millionaires. Scale it back, Bates Motel.
Nestor Carbonell is the sheriff, and still hasn’t been able to put down the bottle of guyliner. Or are his eyes just like that? Either way.
The scene where he happens upon Vera and Norman ripping up the carpet (it’s part of the scheme to hide the body. Just go with it) is gross. He, like, just walks into the room they’re in and uses the fucking toilet. Rude. The scene is supposed to cause tension because the body is in the bath right next to the toilet, but the whole time I was just yucked out that he’d waltz into an unfinished motel room and whip his dick out.
Oh, and even though Vera’s suffocating mother act is mostly divine, there’s one moment that grated on me. When they’re rowing the body out to dump in the lake, she has a big self-pitying whinge. It’s compliment fishing, which is one of the worst things a human being can do. Yes, it’s just how Norma Bates rolls, but I had rage flashbacks to every time some stupid bitch would do that on my Facebook feed. Not okay.
Reasons to watch:
But Vera is perfect otherwise. It’s a delicate balance of overbearing, genuinely concerned, and viciously jealous. Vera Farmiga pulls it off effortlessly.
The rape/murder scene also shows the juxtaposition of her strength and vulnerability. Layers, man.
Freddie does a respectable job as the loving but oppressed Norman. I feel safe that we won’t have to suffer any overacting from anyone, really.
The blonde girl who hits on Norman is cute and nice. Rare, right? Her name is Bradley, which for some reason is hot as fuck.
Norman also meets some chick with a chronic illness who is kind to him when he stress-vomits at school. This boy is knee deep in pussy. Shame his mum is an epic cock block.
And even his teacher flirts with him (she is Blue Bitch from Once Upon a Time). Like, not even subtly. Vera’s got her work cut out for her.
The reveal of the iconic house (see pic above) was exciting. Homage porn.
Best line of the episode goes to the former owner, mainly because of Vera’s response to it. She’s got him cuffed after Norman saved her mid-rape: “You like it.” Vera then proceeds to stab the shit out of him. Now that’s some disproportionate retribution I can get behind.
He also has a line earlier where he’s going “this is my house.” Reminded me of this, which could never be a bad thing. “My laaaaaaaaaand.”
Vera’s post-murdering insistence that the motel was her “starting over” reminded me of this. Which stuck in my mind mainly because it’s a Funny or Die sketch that is actually funny. Huh.
Oh, and Vera has an older son named Dylan. He calls up and bitches at her for not telling him she and Norman were moving. Then he asks for money and Vera hangs that shit up. Because she does what she fucking wants.