[BD Review] Why Aren’t You Watching ‘Bates Motel,’ Asshole?

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Horror fans have had to deal with so many shitty remakes, reboots, and rebarfs over the past decade that it’s almost like a bad joke. Has any other genre had to put up with so much shit? Nope. Miraculously last year, two horror reboots hit the small screen with seriously positive results: Hannibal and Bates Motel. I haven’t caught up with Hannibal yet, but I’ve heard terrific things. Of the two, that show has a less risky premise – being the tale of Hannibal Lector before Manhunter (which is the best Lector film – the Michael Mann one – and you know it).

Bates Motel, on the other hand, has a tremendously sketchy pitch that could have easily gone horribly wrong: the origins of Norman Bates, one of the most iconic characters in movie history. Not only that, but they “modernized” it. Talk about balls…

The creators, writers, and (especially) actors pulled it off though. The first season of Bates Motel is a dramatic marvel that boasts the best female lead in a wicked long time. As Norma Bates, Vera Farminga shockingly depicts the dissolution of a grown woman’s sanity as she provides us subtle insights on how Norman Bates came to be. She’s an insanely talented actress and we should feel honored that she gets to flex her muscles playing the most famous corpse in film history for 42 minutes a week.

Norman is played by Freddie Highmore, who is like a fucking miracle of casting. Seriously. Imagine how hard it must have been to cast not only someone who looks like young Anthony Perkins, but who can also project the psychotic rage and misplaced sexual confusion of the character. Highmore knocks it outta the park. This is the kid who first came into the spotlight by playing guitar like an asshole in August Rush. Now he’s having audiences wonder week to week whether he’ll kill somebody. It’s a tremendous performance from a very young actor who can convey all of the awkwardness of youth while still remaining very dangerous.

Rounding out the cast is Max Thieriot as Norman’s brother Dylan. I initially dismissed him as another pretty boy actor (the worst kind) but this kid has some serious chops. Every single Bates family member started out the series rubbing me the wrong way. Then by episode five I was rooting for them. There hasn’t been a series that did that to me in forever.

The only problem with the first season is the muddiness of the story lines not completely centered on the Bates. The whole infidelity plot about Bradley’s father introduced in one of the last episodes was pretty weak. It’s made out to be a huge deal with the last shot of the season, but it’s TKO-overshadowed by the fact that Norman killed someone on his own. It’s what the whole season has been leading up to, and they do it really well aside from the “who is B?” aspect.

Ultimately, the creators took the right path by taking the Bates mythos and creating their own twisted Pacific northwest drama akin to Twin Peaks. If you haven’t seen this yet, marathon this shit. It’s highbrow drama meets exploitation with acting that’ll kick your teeth in.

A/V

Bates Motel is presented in 1080p HD in 1.78:1 widescreen. For a show with only 10 episodes, there’s a lot to engross yourself in. Split across two discs, the HD really stands out – detail is crisp and clarity is downright perfect. The DTS-HD 5.1 audio track is fine. It’s not a particularly strong mix, but it matches the show appropriately.

Special Features

45 minute panel discussion with actors and creators: Carlton Cuse talks about what makes the whole Pacific northwest so interesting and the “alchemy” that occurred on set. The actors talk about their characters and a whole lot more. This is a REALLY good feature for a package lacking in special features. Totally worth a watch if you dig the series.

Deleted Scenes: for several episodes. Nothing really worth a watch.

“Collectible” sketches from Jiao’s notebook. That books Norman finds, now you have postcards of it, you sicko.

Official Score