(Scenes from Season 1 Episode 1 - First You Dream, Then You Die)
Year: 2013 | Studio: Universal Television and A&E | Directed by Tucker Gates
If you are a fan of Alfred Hitchcock (just like me) and have seen his film "Psycho" I know, you know, we all know what Norman Bates did and why. His actions are no longer a mystery waiting to be solved. So when I learn about the modern re-imagining of Psycho into a TV series I was more glad with the idea since I like watching stories that traces back into the roots of a character.
I don't think every stories deserves a prequel, however, Norman Bates is nothing short of interesting in my book, always was and always will be. The Hitchcock movie has given us the idea that his mother is a manipulative and controlling woman who drove him into insanity, but we've never seen her face. In the TV series produced by A&E our Norman is a teenager (played by the now grownup child star Freddie Highmore) living with his neurotic mother Norma (Vera Farmiga). After discovering his father's dead body in the garage the Bates' mother and son decided to move away into a different state where she bought a rundown motel so they could start over. Just like any other teenager we see Norman dealing with issues of fitting in with his new environment, his desire to make friends and his interest with beautiful girls. But with a possessive mother like her - he always ends up wrestling for his freedom to do what he wants, of course to no avail.
On a hindsight, the first episode perfectly established the strange bond between Norman and his mother, a relationship in the realm of madness that would cost him his own independence, whether physically or mentally. What makes Highmore's performance so convincing is because he's giving us the pathetic Norman we always know - a coward and a weakling in spite of his charming facade. Vera Farmiga's brilliance on the other hand lies on Norma's moodiness and her brief flashes of mania. She would just snap out of the blue and turn into a monster mother.
Although I would have prefer this adaptation to be set in the 1960s just like in the movie, I still think the studio did a pretty good job creating a back story for a character that started the mass media hype on psychological thriller and that is something I couldn't take away from this series. The production set of the motel before it became the infamous Bates Motel, the creepy house before it became derelict, the deserted roads, they all look nostalgic from the original piece and yet we're getting something new and different here - something distinct that enables this TV adaptation to forged its own personality.