A gloomy laketown where people are lit on fire on a daily basis. A run-down motel where Asian sex slaves are sold. Fields upon fields of weed. And smack in the middle: The kid who will grow up to be Norman Bates – the killer from Psycho. Likes: Musicals, taxidermy, Mother.
These are the ingredients to the weird cocktail that is Bates Motel, a show acting like a prequel to Hitchcock’s classic Psycho while also trying to be an earnest teen drama. It’s like one of those “What my parents think I do” memes, with Twin Peaks locked firmly under “what I think I do” and Dawson’s Creek under “what I actually do”.
At times, it can be brilliantly creepy and produce wonderful moments like this:
You’re on the edge of your seat, you’re intrigued, your heart is pounding in your chest and you’re dying to continue on…
…Only then it does this:
And you’re like “wtf”!?
It’s the weirdest thing. One moment you have a dude killing another dude in cold blood, then you have a character trying out for a musical. The only thing keeping these trainwreck scripts together is the solid cast. Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga perform wonderfully (especially Vera deserves a nod, there’s no end to the creepy slapstick she can pull off) – and more than that: They bounce off each other incestuously well.
(I can’t believe I just typed that.)
I know what you’re thinking – Bert, as a writer, shouldn’t you be a beacon of good taste? Why do you tell us about this bad show? Aren’t you ashamed of yourself? Don’t you want to crawl into a ditch and cower in shame!?
Well, sure, but that is besides the point. The thing about Bates Motel is: It can be strangely honest sometimes. When Norma Bates tells her son (of all people) how she was brutally molested by her brother and hit on the leg with a red-hot iron, it’s so over the top it’s both tragic and hilarious. And somehow realistic. Yet nobody in their right mind would tell this to their 17 year-old son, especially knowing said son is probably a serial killer. Especially not with the iron cherry on the cake.
But here’s the thing: No one on this show is in their right mind. There’s only one character who doesn’t have a therapeutic issue and, guess what, they gave her a deadly lung disease.
So why do I watch Bates Motel? Because for all the schizophrenia this show is damn consistent.