Bates Motel has all of the ingredients for greatness: a good cast, endless possibilities for crazy story lines, and the built in fan base from Hitchcock masterpiece Psycho. But the show doesn’t live up to any of its potential. Norma (played by Vera Farmiga) and Norman (Freddie Highmore) are perfectly cast. The tension between the two is palpable and it’s entirely believable that there is some sort of darkness living in Norman. It appears that the writing and directing are the problem here. The tone of the show is confusing. It’s neither a serious drama nor a scary thriller. It feels more like a soap opera based around classic characters.
There are filler characters, like Norman’s older half brother who is a glorified drug dealer, his loser uncle who had an incestuous relationship with Norma and the town’s police chief who is always stirring up trouble. Then there’s the quirky girl-next-door character that has health problems and is in love with Norman; the actress is way too pretty to be believable in the role, but this is a widespread issue in Hollywood and not unique to this show (don’t get me started on that Carrie remake). These characters are a total waste of time. When you have a subject like Norman and Norma Bates, why on earth would you need to focus your attention on anything else? Show us the insanity and murder and explore the characters fucked up relationships.
Season 3’s premiere continues to tease the audience with Norman’s relationship with his mother. I am almost ashamed to say I actually want these characters cross into some incestuous territory. They actually show a glimpse of the character you know that Norman is destined to become when he’s caught watching a girl through her motel window. Otherwise, the episode was a bore. I mostly found myself glancing at my cell phone to see if anything interesting is happening on Facebook.
With this franchise’s pedigree there’s no reason why this series can’t be every bit as good as NBC’s incredible Hannibal. Unfortunately, it only continues to do nothing but disappoint.
Bates Motel is on A&E Monday nights at 9am EST.