REVIEW: BATES MOTEL – SEASON 1-3

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CAST

Vera Farmiga (The Conjuring)
Freddie Highmore (Finding Neverland)
Max Thieriot (House at The End of The Street)
Olivia Cooke (Ouija)
Nicola Peltz (Trasformers 4)
Nestor Carbonell (Lost)
Kenny Johnson (Cold Case)
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RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

W. Earl Brown (Deadwood)
Keegan Connor Tracy (Final Destination 2)
Mike Vogel (Cloverfield)
Terry Chen (Almost Famous)
Vincent Gale (Battlestar Galactica)
Brittney Wilson (Rogue)
Peter Bryant (Dark Angel)
Ian Hart (Michael Collins)
Aliyah O’Brien (If I Stay)
Ian Tracey (Sanctuary)
Jere Burns (Justified)
Ben Cotton (Stargate: Atlantis)
Hiro Kanagawa (Heroes Reborn)
Alexander Calvert (Arrow)
Keenan Tracey (Rags)
Michael O’Neill (Sebiscuit)
Rebecca Creskoff (Quintuplets)
Michael Eklund (Watchmen)
Brendan Fletcher (Smallville)
Paloma Kwiatkowski (Perry Jackson)
Martin Cummins (Dark Angel)
Michael Vartan (Alias)
Andrew Airlie (Final Destination 2)
Agam Darshi (Sanctuary)
Kathleen Robertson (Hollywoodland)
Tracy Spiridakos (Revolution)
Kevin Rahm (Mad Men)
Ryan Hurst (Saving Private Ryan)
Joshua Leonard (The Blair Witch Project)
Peter Stebbings (Never Cry Werewolf)
Tom McBeath (Stargate SG.1)

If Alfred Hitchcock were alive today, I’ve got a feeling he’d enjoy Bates Motel. This kinda-sorta prequel re-imagines the story of Norman Bates, his equally unbalanced mom Norma and their relationship at the business that bears their name, mixing the ordinary and the bizarre with unpredictable, broad strokes in a more modern setting. Hitchcock always intended his classic film as a pitch-black comedy…and from that perspective, Bates Motel shares a few similarities beyond its central characters and the all-too-familiar motel grounds.Filmed in British Columbia, the show’s foggy appearance and small-town backdrop will immediately remind viewers of landmark shows like Twin Peaks and The X-Files. It feels like a perfect fit, reminding us that we’re either in the midst of trouble…or it’s just around the corner. More often than not, however, Bates Motel is just as much “comedy” as it is “pitch-black”, piling on mountains of over-the-top absurdity that, for unknown reasons, feels kinda normal within the series’ unusual boundaries. As a total package, this is compulsively watchable, suspenseful, goofy, dramatic and, above all else, unpredictable television.Such unpredictability can be a massive gamble…but much like Psycho (and by extension, Robert Bloch’s original novel), Bates Motel has been designed to keep its audience perpetually off-balance. At the same time, there’s a constant cloud of guilt, paranoia and dread floating above this season, magnified by the unpredictable behavior of Norman (Freddy Highmore) and his mother Norma (Vera Farmiga) in the face of several horrifying events: one leads them to White Pines Bay, and the others happen after they arrive. The immediate and focused suspicion of watchful sheriff Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) makes us wonder if he’s just extremely good at what he does…or if, in fact, he’s secretly pulling the strings. As the initial story arc gradually shifts midway through this first season, lies multiply, layers of mystery keep us interested in this small town and, eventually, we realize that just about everyone’s a villain here.

This first season of Bates Motel includes ten episodes and several new characters, from Dylan Bates (Norman’s rebellious half-brother, played by Max Thieriot) to the amusingly named junior detective Emma Decody (Olivia Cooke) and popular student Bradley Martin (Nicola Peltz), who is substantially more feminine than her name implies. The casting and performances are universally excellent, especially our unpredictable leads and the countless scenes they have with each other and outsiders. Vera Farmiga is especially impressive from start to finish, consistently stealing her scenes with reckless abandon and deliciously black humor. It’s just one more reason why Bates Motel is more than the sum of its parts.

Season Two expands on these characters and, not surprisingly, adds in a few more for good measure; it makes Bates Motel feel more complex without being overcrowded. Standouts include Caleb (Kenny Johnson, The Shield), Norma’s estranged brother; Zane Morgan (Michael Eklund), the new drug kingpin whose hot-blooded personality leads to an all-out war; Jodi Wilson (Kathleen Robertson), Zane’s sister and the real mastermind of the operation; Christine Heldens (Rebecca Creskoff), an exhausting social butterfly who takes Norma under her wing; George Heldens (Michael Vartan, Alias), Christine’s brother and a potential love interest for Norma; Nick Ford (Michael O’Neill), a “friend” of the Heldens’ with deep political connections; and Cody Brennen (Paloma Kwiatkowski), a rebellious girl who helps Norman come out of his shell, for better or worse. What’s more is that, despite their shared running time with Bates Motel’s established cast, there are very few lags during this ten-episode season. Even Emma Decody, who felt like an afterthought during the first year—and Season Two’s first half, especially—is given more to do in later episodes, and she’s all the better for it.

On the whole, then, this character-driven season path gives Bates Motel even more potential for future seasons. Much like NBC’s Hannibal, this series builds on an established franchise successfully and, as a result, plays out much better than expected. Production values are high, giving Bates Motel a potent, effective atmosphere from start to finish.

Soon after the events of the second season, Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) begins his senior year at school. He experiences hallucinations there, so his mother, Norma Louise (Vera Farmiga), decides to homeschool him. After Norma’s mother dies, her brother Caleb (Kenny Johnson) returns to town, seeking to bond with Dylan (Max Thieriot). Norman takes a liking to new guest, Annika Johnson (Tracy Spiridakos), but she later goes missing. When searching Annika’s motel room, Norma finds an invitation to a gentlemen’s club. She infiltrates the club, but Sheriff Romero (Nestor Carbonell) catches her and promises to look for Annika. Romero later asks Norma to identify a woman’s body, and she is relieved that it is not Annika.

Romero meets with Bob Paris (Kevin Rahm), who runs the gentlemen’s club, to get information about Annika. Norma meets psychology professor James Finnigan (Joshua Leonard), who offers her his assistance. Norman has a blackout and submerges himself in a bathtub, hoping to recall whether he had anything to do with Annika’s disappearance. Norma saves him from drowning, then goes to lock up the motel. Annika arrives with a gunshot wound, gives Norma a USB flash drive, and dies. Norma is determined to access the password protected flash drive, and asks Dylan to help decrypt it. Norman follows Dylan to his cabin one night, discovering Caleb. He threatens to tell their mother, but Dylan begs him not to spoil the good relationship he has been building with her. Bob ransacks the motel office in search of the USB drive. Later, a man runs Norma off the road and tells her to give Bob the flash drive. Dylan insists that Norma should give the USB to Romero. Norman becomes confused over recent events, thinking he has already told Norma about Caleb when he hasn’t. Romero meets with Bob again, who admits he wants the flash drive back but won’t reveal its contents. Dylan’s friend Gunner (Keenan Tracey) decrypts the USB, finding a financial ledger inside from the town’s illegal drug trade.Bob agrees to a motel billboard near the bypass in exchange for the USB. When Norma is told of Caleb’s return, she packs a suitcase and storms out. Arriving in Portland, she buys a new outfit, trades her car, and ends up at James’ house, where she confesses that Norman killed his father during one of his blackouts. Dylan struggles with Norman’s separation anxiety, which includes an episode where Norman assumes Norma’s personality and wears her robe. Romero is shot and hospitalized; Marcus Young (Adetomiwa Edun) visits and tells him that his time as sheriff is nearing an end. Romero follows Marcus to the parking garage and kills him. Norma realizes that she is still a mother and returns home. She honors her sons’ wishes to meet with Caleb, who breaks down and apologizes upon seeing her.

Dylan grows closer to Emma (Olivia Cooke), learning from her father that she is a lot sicker than she lets on. Romero discovers his mother’s name on the ledger and confrontations his father in jail. His father used his mother’s name in order to get drugs into the prison. After being attacked by Norman, James tells Norma that he needs help. Norma cooks a family dinner in order to get closer to Norman. She invites Caleb, whose presence angers Norman, and Dylan invites Emma. Bob abducts and tortures James to get information about Norma. He then tells Romero about Norma’s relationship with James, and that Norman killed his father. Romero ends his friendship with Norma when she maintains that her husband died in an accident.

James tells Norma that he told Bob everything, and skips town. Dylan takes a risky job in order to gain money for Emma’s lung transplant. Following a blackout, Norman discovers Bradley (Nicola Peltz) has returned to town. After finding out that her mother has quickly recovered after her “death”, Bradley initiates sex with Norman, but he envisions Norma there and leaves. Norma tells Bob she’ll give him the flash drive, but he states that she has nothing left to bargain with. Desperate, Norma ransacks Romero’s house to find the USB, only to learn from Romero that the DEA is investigating it. Their heated argument hinges on her stating the truth about her husband’s death. She ultimately says that they both know who killed him.

Before Caleb leaves town again, he tells Norma about Norman assuming her personality and attacking him. Dylan gives Emma’s father the money for her lung transplant, but later gets a call from him saying that Emma has disappeared. Dylan finds her, and she informs him of her fears about the surgery; the two then kiss. Romero calls Bob to warn him of his impending arrest. Bob goes to the marina and finds Romero there, who shoots him dead. Norman plans to leave town with Bradley and argues with his mother about his mental state. She knocks Norman unconscious and drags him to the basement. Norman escapes and runs off with Bradley. In Norma’s persona, he pulls Bradley out of the car and kills her. He then rolls the car into the bay, as he and his “mother” watch it submerge.Image result for bates motel UnconsciousI really loved all the seasons! this season is even better and more intense! Norman and Norma just keep getting better! The reunion with Norma’s brother was seriously touching! The hooker was great! Norman’s expressions get really psycho looking! Just such great, great acting! It is so much fun! It is funny, yet, disturbing and all at once!! This show is just phenomenal.

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