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Bates Motel - Season 1 - Review

       Because the first season is available in DVD and Blu-ray since September 7th, it is time to make a (small) review of Bates Motel.

From the producers of Lost and Friday Night Lights, Bates Motel is a modern day re-imagining of the classic film “Psycho”. The show looks at Norman Bates' teenage years and just how deeply intricate his relationship with his mother, Norma, truly is and how she helped forge the most famous serial killer of them all.

       The show takes place a few months after the mysterious death of Norman's father. Norma Bates bought a motel located in a coastal Oregon town, White Pine Bay, so she and Norman can start a new life. Unfortunately, the town, the residents and the way of life are not what they seem.

        A stunning cast:

       The first quality of the show is its flawless cast. Emmy nominee Vera Farmiga delivers an amazing performance: she fleshed out a multifaceted character in only ten episodes. Freddy Highmore, in a far cry from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, brilliantly embodies this lost boy with her stifling mother.
       Furthermore, the supporting cast has nothing to be ashamed of: Max Thieriot gives a significant evolution to Dylan's character throughout the season; Nestor Carbonell as sheriff Romero managed to infuse his character with a dose of mystery; the charming Olivia Cooke in the role of Norman's best friend, and Mike Vogel as Deputy Zach Shelby (much better here than in Under The Dome).
       The show mainly revolves around the interactions between the characters. If the actors were not so talented, the show certainly would not have been as good. Luckily for us, the cast is top notch.

        A unique atmosphere:

        One of the strengths of the show is the mix between contemporary time and the 60's. The reconstitution of the motel is absolutely gorgeous: the most minute details are there. In addition to the strangeness of the plot, the setting of the small town – crammed between a bay and woods – creates a very “Twin Peaks”-esque atmosphere. Bates Motel strikes a perfect balance between past and present: while the show handles very modern themes, the setting definitely feels retro thanks to the quaint town and a Norma seemingly stuck in the 60's.
       The show draws its inspiration from Psycho and added a modern touch to it without forgetting the roots of its myth. For example, violence is depicted frontally during all ten episodes. Unlike Hitchcock, who liked to toy with subjectivity, Bates Motel openly shows every action or little drop of blood.

        Interweaved plots:

       The masterstroke of Bates Motel is that it takes time to weave the different subplots together while progressively introducing the characters. The highlight of the show is the unhealthy relationship between Norman and Norma; all the other plots revolve around them in order to create a tension in which the characters seem to drown into during the season. With the murder of Keith Summers, trafficking of Asian prostitutes, Zach Shelby's relationship with Norma, Dylan's weird new job and the strange man in room No. 9... all these subplots eventually come together to form a whole. Nothing happens accidentally in the show, everything is perfectly calibrated and the writers know where they are leading us. With all these intrigues, the pace is quite intense, save for the somewhat slow episodes 7 and 8.

        Norman's teenage years:

       However, the main letdown of the show is its treatment of Norman's high school life. It is often poorly managed. This part of the show feels like it doesn't belong with the rest of the plots. It is quite flaky; especially when the show dwell at length on Norman and Bradley's relationship. Nicola Peltz does not really help... She sounds like she swallowed a box of Xanax every time she speaks.
       Fortunately, some elements like Norman's friendship with Emma and his reconciliation with Miss Watson make this part a lot more interesting. Let's hope there will be less teen drama during the second season.

       The bet was risky but A&E has far exceeded all expectations; the show is a real success. The season finale's cliffhangers announce a hectic second season.
       If you were already in love with the show, go buy the first season which was released on September 17 on DVD and Blu-Ray. Otherwise, give it a chance anyway because it is a must watch... Bates Motel is one of the best new shows of the year!

       GRADE: 4/5

About the Author - Laurent
Laurent is a 22 years old french student and he is currently studying cinema & television in college. He will review several shows like Tyrant and Wayward Pines. Always exciting about television, his favorite shows are Twin Peaks, Buffy, Damages, The Good Wife, X-Files, Lost, Bron and a lot of other dramas.
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