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DVD Review

DVD cover

Bates Motel
Season One


Starring: Vera Farmiga, Freddie Highmore, Max Thieriot, Nicola Peltz and Olivia Cooke
Distributor: Universal Pictures (UK)
RRP: £34.99
Certificate: 18
Release Date: 03 February 2014

After her husband is killed in a seemingly bizarre garage accident, Norma Bates collects the insurance money and moves with her seventeen year-old son, Norman, to a town called White Pine Bay. She buys a motel, and the two of them begin to tidy it up in readiness for their new life in the accommodation business. However, almost immediately things turn sour. The bitter previous owner attacks Norma and is killed by Norman. Norman wants to tell the police it was self-defence, but Norma believes the motel will be marred with bad publicity, so they dispose of the body. A consequence of this is they are taken a keen interest in by the local sheriff. Furthermore, Norman’s elder brother arrives looking for money and gets tied-up with drug trafficking. They also learn the motel has a dark past, a past which is about to catch up with them...

I had reservations about anyone messing with such an iconic character and film, but let me say from the outset that from the very first scene you are reeled in and taken along for the roller coaster ride of psychosis and intrigue. The magic formula for any story is strong characterisation and plot, and Bates Motel has been very carefully planned and thought through by the co-writers/executive producers. Freddie Highmore is an inspired choice for the young Norman Bates. His portrayal of an insecure introvert with flashes of rage, and spacing-out is utterly believable to the point that you can’t help rooting for him. He and Norma are anti-heroes, in an environment where it seems nearly everyone is significantly more corrupt than they are.

What is really good about this show is that at all times there are several plot strands being played out. Just when you think things can’t get any worse, the stakes are raised even further. It’s pretty much edge-of-the-seat drama, which is curiously rare on TV. And underneath it all is the mother and son relationship. On the extras there is a Q & A panel, and it seems there is a difference of opinion among the cast over how risqué the relationship actually is. They start off very close, but events bring them even closer, so that the formula of budding psychotic and someone desperate to get real control over their life makes for an increasingly volatile concoction.

I watched every one of these ten episodes and not once was I bored with the proceedings. It’s been quite a while since an original TV drama came along that intrigued me so much that I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next (probably, it was Life on Mars). The season concluded by tying up nearly all the loose ends, but there is such confidence in this show that it has already been given the go-ahead for a second season. I sincerely hope the very high standards can be maintained.


Ty Power

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