The Bates Motel-Series Two
So The Bates Motel, in my opinion, is one of the best things on TV right now. In its own way it certainly stands up to The Americans. Prisoners of War/ Hatufim being in a class of its own.
I wrote about the first series in just one review which i often do when something is so good that i just don’t want to spoiler it. Plus The Bates Motel depends on you following it from the beginning and being party to its seeming ordinary day to day things.
If you haven’t seen it i would really recommend that you start from the beginning of Series One. Whilst The Bates Motel
may not be everybody’s cup of tea, i was enthralled and captured from the first episode.
Watching and even writing about The Bates Motel does require that you know the story of the Alfred Hitchcock movie Psycho. Which is why i had to put a spoiler warning for those who had not seen Psycho on my first review. The series would not make much sense without the knowledge of who Norman Bates is and just what happens to his mother. Plus of course Norman’s adult life and the famous motel.
I am not sure if the motel was called The Bates Motel in the original film Psycho. However it is called that here, in the Prequel to Norman’s adult life. In Series one we saw the first arrival of Norma and Norman Bates, mother and son, to the supposedly unspoilt seaside town of White Pine Bay. Norma has bought a rambling old motel high up on a hill, with all her money and only a green-y cream classic C-reg Mercedes to her name.
The best thing about the Bates Motel is the amazing performances by its two central characters: Norman and Norma. Norman, as first described in my review of Series One, has a wonderful face for film and manages to convey puppy dog eyed innocence from his big brown eyes one minute and burgeoning anger and actual black-outs the next. Because, you see, Norman has these unfortunate odd interludes where he quite literally loses his conscious self.
Quite what happens in one of these interludes we find out very slowly and gradually. Norman is protected, indeed over-protected, by his loving ad deeply attached, far too deeply attached (to Norman that is) mother.
As in emotionally, psychically and both uncomfortably and visually: physically. A physical inappropriate closeness. This is noticeable from the start of Series 1 however becomes obviously more uncomfortably inappropriate in Series Two as Norman grows older and bigger.
Norma and Norman have both grown used to this physical closeness. Norman, of course, knows of no other comparison and so is unaware of the wrongness of the physical intimacy he shares with his mother. However Norma should and could know.
Yet Norma has made Norman her psychic partner unwittingly and as we slowly learn in Series Two, has had an unusual up-bringing of her own. Norma may not therefore have any regular example of normal acceptable family relationships and examples of physical appropriateness in families.
Norma, along with Norman is a fascinating portrayal of psychological factors at play in her own inner life and as a result of the traumas she has suffered. She gives an amazing evocation of a capable albeit timelessly undated caring and organised circa 1950’s housewife blended with modern career woman. As she renovates, cleans and prepares her huge ramshackle motel for business and opening to the public.
Along with Norma discovering that White Pine Bay is as far from idyllic and protected as it could be. Then bashing the Real Estate Agent furiously with her handbag when she finds out that the was sold a dud since there is a new by-pass road planned which will cut off her motel from the tourists.
There is far, far more than this to tell and see, but i don’t want to spoil the story. There is a moodily saturnine and exceedingly handsome Sheriff, Romero. There are dark doings in town and all around. There are skeletons tumbling out of metaphorical closets. Norman has taken up taxidermy, down in the basement of the motel, as a hobby.
Norma is on fire with love and motherly care and protection, then vague and mumbling and spaced out. She has been programmed to please. She is girlishly and single girl shy when taken out on a date. yet Norma can rise, terrifically and tigerishly and maybe even murderously, in her own defence.
Norma is naive and innocent of politicking and unseen non-verbal cues. She walks alone yet unscathed amidst all this and the wickedness about. Her love for her son is her over-riding passion. But Norman is getting older. Norman is getting larger. Norman is getting angrier..
There are some rare genuine moments of subtle comedy sometimes in The Bates Motel. The dialogue recently for example between Norma and Romero. Romero who has steadfastly supported Norma throughout yet who has had to be violent himself as the lone cowboy-like moral standard bearer of the town.
I secretly hope Norma gets together with Sheriff Romero . There was a magic maybe moment lately when Norma insisted on dabbing and cleaning Romero’s cut face. Either with Romero or the rather lovely ex-lawyer who admitted he liked an old movie where the lawyer was the good guy and saved the day. However i fear that Norma will never quite have that life of tea and roses and the little picket fence, like in the Westerns.
Norman’s brother is also a stunning performance,evoking with just a millisecond of a look from his forever hurt and innocent eyes, a thousand words of his pain filled story.A story which, in spite of believing his tale to be true, as told by his mother: Norma being who she is we can never be 100% sure of that story’s complete truth.
Because Norma is there but sometimes she is not there. She is fractured, hurt and splintered off. Like shards of glass fragments lying broken on the floor.
Norma’s unhealthy and intense attachment , both physical, whilst innocently meant and psychological, to Norman has had unseen results.
We learn how Norman has taken on, somehow, an intermittent identification with and actually as, his own mother. This psychological process has been played out before our very eyes. In the depths of the limpid pools of Norman’s ever changing and unpredictable, beautiful yet inscrutable, big brown eyes.
The Bates Motel is a towering tour de force of consummate acting achievement (in my opinion) from all the main actors and actresses concerned. Most particularly the roles of Norma and Norman. The fact that their names are actually part of each other only dawning on me in this second series. Due to the very depth of the series itself and how it portrayed this small and insignificant insight, to actually be very significant indeed.
Notes & Dialogue:
Its you and me Norman, its, always been you and me..”
Nora to Sheriff Romero:
“Don’t you ever get tired of being stoic?”
“Its kind of boring”!
Norma to Norman:
“Girls can be tricky, you have to have a good heart”
Norma gets jealous of Norman’s girlfriend. Just as he gets jealous of Norma’s success or men friends.
In a beautifully understated but classically horror laden scene:
We see Norman pick up his mother’s floaty gossamer pink delicate scarf from her bed as she excitedly tells Norman of her success (in fighting the new by-pass road) that she is off to meet the Mayor and how Ted, the ex-lawyer has been helping her and has told Norma how special she is.
Norman pulls the scarf tightly between his hands, as if to strangle someone. Then he bunches the scarf up and pummels it with his fist, before eventually releasing it and throwing the scarf, rumpled on the bed..