Bates Motel: Season 1
The 2013 re-imagining of Norman Bates’ origin story is a little weird. As you might imagine the focus is the relationship between infamous Psycho Norman Bates and his mother, only this time she’s alive and kicking. The story of this first season is sowing the seeds of the man Bates is going to become in the boy that he is. The seventeen year old Norman has just moved into the titular Bates Motel with mom, and has a new school, new friends, and a new town to get to grips with.
Using it’s contemporary setting, it’s set in the modern day, there’s also a sense that it’s a story of a mother and son out of time and out of step with the rest of the world. Norman and Norma are both old fashioned, in their dress and in some of their interactions with the world around them. The main contrast between the two is the naivety of Norman and the manipulation and awareness of Norma. Obviously the relationship between the two is close, bordering on the inappropriate, with numerous instances of Norma’s behaviour - getting undressed in front of Norman - making the teenager feel uncomfortable, and Norman’s strange behaviour - keeping a workman’s belt - completely inexplicable to her. Even though this central relationship is alien to most of us, it’s also the most compelling thing about this first season. Vera Farmiga (Norma Bates) and Freddie Highmore (Norman Bates) both excel in their respective roles despite being diametrically opposite. Farmiga is calculating and is warm / cold towards her son depending on how she’s feels he’s treating her, whilst Highmore brings a distant, detached, feel to his character whilst still conveying the undoubted love he has for his mother. Weird, yet also weirdly magnetic.
Add to this mix Norma’s other son, and Norman’s half brother Dylan Massett, another impressive turn, with Max Thieriot as the charismatic and seemingly normal family member who can’t help but get involved in nefarious deeds. In most worlds he’d be the black sheep of the family but in Bates-land he’s not quite the moral centre, but the closest this family has. Other characters thrown into the fray are standard high school threesome material for Norman, hottie Bradley and geeky Emma, plus local cops, sheriff Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell from Lost and Ringer) and deputy sheriff, and love interest, Zack Shelby (Mike Vogel, last seen in Under The Dome). But nothing is what it seems in White Pine Bay. The series, by its creators own admission, wants to be Twin Peaksy in its own way, and there is more going on than just the Bates’ story. To say anymore would be to spoil some subplots, but it’s safe to say murder, kidnap, and drugs are all involved at some point.
The DVD has decent, Dolby Digital 5.1, sound. The picture is presented in a 1.78:1 ratio and is very clear, though the colours are a little washed out and there are some slight grain issues in the 'fake' light scenes, the scene on the boat in episode six for example. Despite this there's clear definition in most of the back and greys, and no other noticeable issues due to the transfer. You'd expect the source origin to have been high definition and the transfer avoids degrading the image too much. Also, the disc is region 2 and 4. The extras were not available to review.