With its Season 2 premiere still several months away, “Bates Motel” is one of the most exciting returning shows on the midseason slate. The A&E drama proved itself in Season 1 to be fantastic not just for its connection to “Psycho” but also on its own merits, and delivered such a quality story that there’s no denying it does the classic thriller justice.
Yet still there might be some out there doubting whether “Bates Motel” is worth their time. It’s hard at the outset to understand why a prequel/retelling of “Psycho” would be must-see television. This writer will be the first to argue that remakes and sequel/prequels horribly overpopulate the Hollywood landscape, yet “Bates Motel” is a project that’s proven its worth many times over.
The key to having a project that revisits previously successful source material work is having its new take on the story inform the original, and “Bates Motel” does that. While there was some initial concern that “Bates Motel” would ruin the mystery of “Psycho” by exploring the adolescence of Norman Bates, it actually enriches it.
Norman becomes more of an enigma in “Bates Motel” than he was in “Psycho,” and the A&E series is able to walk the same line the Alfred Hitchcock movie did of making the audience both empathize with and be turned off by the titular psycho. The exploration into his state of mind and his descent into madness is one that is fascinating to watch.
It also helps that this isn’t a strict prequel. Yes, the main characters Norma and Norman Bates and yes, they run a hotel together, but this TV series is a reimagining of their relationship in the modern world. There are high school parties and cell phones and fields of marijuana being grown, and yet the heart of the story remains intact. The lesson is that a psychopath can be bred in any time frame, and that the story of “Psycho” exists outside the setting of the ’60s.
“Bates Motel” isn’t seeking to replace “Psycho,” but instead explore its themes in a lengthier manner. The relationship between Norma and Norman in “Psycho” was one of the most horrifying and interesting aspects of the movie, and seeing Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga bring that relationship to life is the most engaging part of “Bates Motel.” If their acting wasn’t top notch then this series might not have worked, but both are perfectly cast and dive deep into the psyches of their troubled characters.
This story is never one that was expected to have a happy ending but, like the recently concluded “Breaking Bad,” it’s one that’s worthy the journey. Even though the ending is seemingly set in stone, “Bates Motel” explores a tale that is new and exciting for both first-time viewers and old “Psycho” fans alike.
“Bates Motel” Season 2 will premiere on A&E in March.