Norma and Norman, Anything But Normal at the “Bates Motel”

Bates Motel

A Review of the A&E Drama “Bates Motel” by Tiffany A. White

Norma and Norman Bates are anything but Normal in Bates Motel

In A&E’s Bates Motel, we revisit the Alfred Hitchcock favorite… only this time we’ll see how it all began with a young Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Spiderwick Chronicles ) and his very-much-alive mother, Norma (Vera Farmiga from Safe House and Orphan). Anyone who has seen Psycho understands why Norman is how he is as an adult, but Bates Motel plans to show us more of the sordid relationship between mother and son.

The pilot begins with a seventeen year old Norman discovering the dead body of his father. Viewers are led to believe that his mother had something to do with his father’s death, but she never admits to the crime, nor does Norman or anyone else accuse her of harming him. Mother and son pack up and move from Arizona to the small coastal town of White Pine Bay, Oregon to start over, leaving another son, Norman’s older half-brother (Dylan, played by Max Thieriot from House at the End of the Street), behind.

Using the inheritance from Mr. Bates’ insurance policy, Norma buys the recently foreclosed Seafairer Motel and the residence located directly behind it. She appears very competent, even without experience running a motel, but also very controlling… very controlling, specifically of Norman.

Norman is just a sweet boy who always does as his mommy says… until now. When a pretty girl from school shows interest in Norman, he sneaks out of the house to be with her. And of course this one time he acts out, his mother needs him when the angry former owner of the property (Summers, played by W. Earl Brown from Scream) returns, beats her, and rapes her. However, Norman does return home just in the nick of time to rescue her. And when Norman leaves the kitchen to fetch the medical kit, Norma kills the intruder… stabs him multiple times in the chest with little to no remorse. One might think she’s in a state of shock, having just been attacked and forcibly penetrated, but no… I think she’s just crazy; but then again, I’m a Psycho fan and I know she’s crazy.

The sweet and innocent boy that he is, Norman wants to call the local police; but Norma insists otherwise. After all, “Who is going to book a room in the rape slash murder motel?”

Halfway through the first hour, we have two dead male bodies—both murdered at the hands of Norma… or so we think anyway. How many more bodies does she have in her closet? And does the horrendous scar on her inner thigh have anything to do with another body she’s hiding?

Speaking of Norma’s inner thigh brings up a conversational piece of Bates Motel—the relationship between mother and son. Just how inappropriate is it? Well, we haven’t seen anything sexual between the two yet, but we have seen Norma undress in front of Norman. But don’t worry; “It’s not like it’s weird or anything.” Or so Norma says…

The pilot episode moves fast; Norma and Norman hide the body in one of the motel room showers; they rip up the carpet to cover up the blood stains from when they dragged the corpse in; the local authorities show up, adding to the drama and tension of the situation (Sheriff Alex Romero, played by Nestor Carbonell from Ringer, and Deputy Zack Shelby, played by Mike Vogel from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre); and Norma and Norman dispose of Summers in a body of water, in true Bates and Psycho fashion—and this is all in the second half of the one-hour show.

While ripping up the carpet in the motel, Norman finds a journal hidden beneath the old flooring full of hand-drawn images of a young girl, showering, being watched, and then held against her will and injected with drugs. At the end of the pilot, viewers see an actual girl being held against her will and being injected with drugs. There is more to come of this story in the following episodes; but I don’t want to give too much away for those who haven’t watched Bates Motel… however, we are left wondering: Is this girl real? And if so, who is holding her and where? Or is this just another of Norman’s fantasies and hallucinations? Oh yeah; Norman has fantasies of women being tied up and he also has conversations with people, specifically his mother, when she’s not there. Uh-oh…

Now three episodes in, I could go on and on about the show… there’s so much we haven’t discussed, including: Dylan hunting Norma and Norman down; Emma, Norman’s classmate with Cystic Fibrosis, who is just as fascinated with the journal of drawings as Norman is; the gigantic marijuana farm; the budding relationship between Norma and Deputy Shelby; and the fact that the Bates aren’t the only abnormalities in the small town …

Like I said, there’s more to Bates Motel than just the Bates…

I don’t know what I expected from A&E’s new series, but I will say the writers and creators have far exceeded whatever expectations I might have had. Is Bates Motel the best new show on television? Probably not… But does it have me wanting more? Yes! Instead of comparing it to a bag of greasy potato chips, I’m going to liken this guilty pleasure to a bag chocolate miniatures—one just isn’t enough, but eat too many in one sitting and our stomachs might flip upside down.

A&E has already picked the series up for a second season, so that’s good.

And before we go, remember, “Norman is a good boy.”


Tiffany A. White is the author of the YA mystery “Football Sweetheart” series. She blogs at The Ooo Factor and is available for contact via Twitter at @Tiffany_A_White, Facebook at Tiffany A. White, or by email at tiffany@tiffanyawhite.com.

© 2013 Tiffany A. White. All written content on this page is protected by copyright. If you would like to use any part of this, please contact us at the above links to request permission.

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