We are less than a week away from the hotly anticipated premiere of Bates Motel, A&E’s “prequel” to Hitchcock’s masterpiece Psycho. The series stars Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga as the models of dysfunctional families: Norman Bates and his dear mother. The focus is on Norman’s formative high school years, and the dark family history that led them to their own motel. We will have our full review Monday morning, with recaps and dissections every Tuesday morning, but for now, here are five little teasers to look forward to.
It’s not a period piece... but it could be
Aside from the cell phones, the pilot episode has a certain “timeless” quality about it. Norma dresses in classic, neo-vintage floral prints and dresses with high décolletage and full skirts; Norman’s clothes are none-too-specific hand-me-downs that have a 1970s color palette. Norma drives a classic car (I know nothing about cars, but I know it isn’t modern) and no one is driving around in a Prius. The only media shown is an old 1940s movie that Norman watches on a small television. The pilot has a significant lack of technology: no computers, no televisions (aside from the antique model Norman watches), no iPads or iPhones. Even the cell phones are basic “feature” phones.
“Passive aggressive” takes on a whole new meaning
Jewish mothers are notorious for the guilt trips they give their kids. Jewish mothers have nothing on Momma Bates. It’s bad enough when Norman is late coming home from school because he tried out for the track team. But he made the team, and wants mother to sign his permission slip. Mother, of course, had other plans for Norman: “We just bought this new business and I really need your help running the place... But I’m not going to be the mother who tells her son he can’t be on the track team.” It’s a passive-aggressive classic that only annoys Norman into sneaking out later on - with dire consequences.
Norma and Norman’s relationship is creepy
Yes, you may be thinking, “Of course their relationship is creepy.” We’ve all seen Psycho. Maybe it is because of Psycho that I read more into every little mannerism. But there is a very creepy vibe between mother and son that leaves you feeling like you need a shower. But there were far too many scenes that felt like Norma was a little too close to kissing her son.
The mean girls aren’t mean
As Norman waits for the bus for his first day of school, he is beset upon by a quartet of pretty, popular girls. In any show, these would be the “mean girls,” but in the pilot for Bates Motel, they are... nice to Norman. They don’t tease him or knock his books to the floor. They engage him in conversation, invite him to a party, and try to get him to fit in. They are too nice - it instantly makes me suspicious. I assume that they have to be up to no good in a later episode.
Norman isn’t the only psycho in town
A previous tenant or renter brought torture and bloodshed to the property well before the Bates’ moved in. In the pilot, Norman finds the first hints of this... and it doesn’t scare him.
Bates Motel premieres Monday, March 18th on A&E.