Modern interpretations of classic television shows or movies are all the rage these days. Evil Dead. Mockingbird Lane. Hannibal. The Lone Ranger. But, none of them seemed as interesting to me as did ‘Bates Motel,’ a modern take on the life of Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho‘ Norman Bates. More specifically his life before he was stabbing women in the shower while wearing drag (spoilers).
Set in Oregon (instead of Arizona), Bates Motel follows a young Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) and his mother Norma (Vera Farmiga) as they attempt to restart after the death of Norman’s father. The pair buys a foreclosed old motel on the side of a dying highway, and attempt to forge a new life in a new town.
But, as to be expected, not all goes well for Norm and Norma. Shortly after moving in, the previous owner, Keith Summers (W. Earl Brown), starts stirring up trouble. He is bitter about losing his house to foreclosure, and he plans on making Norma pay. Shortly after Norman sneaks out to hang out with some girls, Summers breaks in and rapes Norma.
Norma screams out for Norman, but he doesn’t answer. As she is beginning to lose her fight with Summers, Norman arrives and hits Summers over the head with a metal door stopper. The two try to compose themselves. Norma picks herself off the floor and Norman goes to fetch his mother a first aide kit, because, in her struggle with Summers, Norma had cut her hand.
Before Norman can make it back, however, Summers comes to and attempts to come at Norma again. She doesn’t hesitate. Norma comes at Summers with a knife, and proceeds to stab him numerous times (she claims she stabbed him over 30 times). Instead of calling the police and reporting the attack, Norm and Norma decide to wrap his body in old carpet from the motel, and sink it into the bay to avoid any bad press for their struggling motel.
And, there’s your crisis for the season.
But, don’t let the actions of Norm and Norma fool you. Not all is well in their little seaside, Oregon town. There are shady things going on there. The town holds a great many secrets. There is a criminal underworld that holds an eye for an eye policy, often culminating in public murders (where’s the FBI?). Also, somewhere in the hills above the town, there’s a field of marijuana that stretches for what seems to be miles. You’d think that anyone with a Cessna and a keen nose could find it, but that’s not important (obviously).
What is important to the show is the fact that Norman has problems. Mental problems. This part is where I’d suppose watching the original film would have come in handy for me. Yeah, that’s right, I’ve never seen the original Psycho. Maybe I should get on that at some point. But, this is about Norman, not me.
Norman’s problems and how his mother handles themnare what keep the show interesting for me. Well, that and the constant feeling that he and his mother are going to make out (they did that in the original, right?). We are lead to believe that Norman suffers from some dramatic delusions and hallucinations. So, when the story is lacking somewhere, I can always sit back and say to myself, “Well, this probably isn’t real, is it?”
$10 says that he is actually in love with a corpse girl or something.
One of the problems with doing a show like this is that we already know the end result. How I fell about Bates Motel is how I felt about the Star Wars prequels — we already knew that Anakin “I Think” Skywalker would become Darth Vader and all that jazz. With prequels, all the excitement of surprise is gone, and replaced by someone else’s interpretation of a story you have created in your head long ago. In the end, I find myself sitting there and wondering why I should care.
Why should I care, really?
I would suppose that’s another post for another time. But, until then, I’ll be watching Bates Motel, and hoping that something new, unique, or crazy happens that makes me say to my wife, “So he (Nermen, as Norma calls him) wasn’t crazy after all.”
But, I doubt that, because I’ve seen the end result…