The show runners have opted for the prequel approach, attempting to sell the untold story of some of film’s most revered characters in order to present a whole new twist. Refreshing, revitalising and tantalising for disciples of the original content these can often be, in the case of Bates Motel those superlatives can be applied over and over again.
Bates Hotel aims to tell the untold story of Norman Bates, this time played impressively by an increasingly unsettling Freddy Highmore, with Vera Farmiga taking the reins as the matriarch of the piece – Norma Bates. From the mysterious opening scenes involving Norman’s father, Bates Motel latches itself like a leech, aiming to suck the audience into a world we have previously been immersed within. From there on, the show twists and turns its way through the dark descent of Norman Bates, presenting murder, family quarrels and a whole selection of new characters who help to shape an ever-changing Norman into the psychotic murderer we all know him as.
At the core of Bates Motel’s success is a wonderful blend of eras; the remote Oregon town, despite its deviation from the source material, plays out as a terrific setting for some deadly goings-on, with classic cars remaining on the roads while we witness Norman and his schoolmates all making use of the latest mobile phone devices. Some may find it a little distracting but in essence the showrunners appear to have found a healthy balance that will appear to both audiences new and old.
Of course, such a show attempting to continue upon the foundations of a cinematic classic requires a cast that reaffirms a sense of stability, and both Farmiga and Highmore ensure just that. Casting of two such integral leads was of paramount importance and the pair simmer on screen in their respected guises and offer up a unique and constantly evolving mother-son relationship.
Farmiga, no stranger to the darker content herself, portrays a woman whose predominant focus is her son and that is shown instantly as she looks to shelter him following their move. At first understandable in her approach to parenting, Farmiga’s Norma becomes more and more overbearing of young Norman, and the first cracks in her character begin to show as she copes with her most dearest familiarising himself with girls. Seemingly the perfect woman for the role, Farmiga brings her own level of mystery to Norma, all while maintaining that sheltering nature over Highmore’s Norman.
Speaking of Freddie Highmore, who would have thought that sweet innocent boy who entered Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory would turn to darkness? Highmore has indeed spread his wings from his previous arena of family films to forge a brilliant interpretation of a young Norman Bates. Nailing the trademark Bates evil glance down the lens of the camera, Highmore instils a level of empathy from the audience towards Norman in a wholly effective performance. Portraying Norman as a young man who is gradually looking to break away from the chains of his mother, the young British actor toys with our emotions as we essentially back someone whom we all know to become a murderous monster. Such is the strength of his delivery that this version of Norman is one that we will gladly back and hope against hope that he comes to good.
Aside from the exceptional leading acts, Bates Motel features a wealth of rising talent that are difficult not to throw superlatives at from left, right and centre. Nicola Peltz, soon to be seen in the upcoming Transformers: Age Of Extinction, helps to create a gripping love triangle along with Olivia Cooke, and Max Thieriot’s older brother Dylan helps add a whole new dynamic. All are integral characters in forging the future for Norman and these young talents are simply subliminal in their chemistry on-screen.
Bates Motel is among one of the best television shows on offer and looks to head into its second season with yet more twists and turns than ever before. With such a wonderfully developing storyline and some truly intriguing and fleshed-out characters, this is one television offering that is hard to pass up.
Bates Motel returns to UK screens on the Universal Channel on 2nd April at 9.00pm.