BATES MOTEL: S1 (BLU-RAY)
Reviewed by: Zombie Boy
Tucker Gates, Various
What's it about
A modern day, serialized prequel to PSYCHO.
Is it good movie?
There's something wrong with Norman Bates. I mean, we all go a little mad sometimes, but not quite like Norman. He's got some pretty serious mother issues, and that comes to a head a little later in his life, but for the moment he's just a teenage boy, right on the cusp of manhood. After his father's untimely death, his overbearing mother moves them both to a dilapidated motel in a new town, where she decides they will start a new life. This is hindered slightly by the town being batshit insane.
Not having cable, I wasn't able to watch any of this when it aired, so I wasn't sure what to expect when I popped these discs in. I figured it would be a slow psychological drama centering on Norman going from overly emotional teen with an oedipal complex to out and out murderer (surely that's not a spoiler for anyone). What I wasn't expecting was essentially an ensemble piece with highly Twin Peaksian shenanigans. There are pot fields, sex slaves, of course murders, and even a romantic quadrangle.
But amidst all of this, there is still plenty of interesting back story for Norman: we get to see the dispensation of his father, all too much info on his unstable mother, his efforts at both schoolwork and love, hell, even his beginnings with taxidermy. Most interesting, though, for me, was the inclusion of a half-brother, played by Max Theriot, who makes up here for the terrible HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET. He's the archetypal prodigal son, returning to the roost with his own profound issues with Norma.
Speaking of actors, I think the casting for this show was brilliant. All the principals are just familiar enough so that you know them, but not such huge stars that you see their other works before the characters they play here. The aforementioned Theriot, Freddie Highmore as Norman, Nicola Peltz as Bradley, and Nestor Carbonell as Sherrif Romero (whom fans of BATES MOTEL co-creator Carlton Cuse's other show LOST will quite well remember). I even think Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates fits that bill, though she's undoubtedly the most notably famous of the cast.
All in all, the show failed to really hook me. I mean, it's wonderfully made. As I said, the cast is great, and the writing and production of the show are both awesome. I think my problem lies in my expectations: i was fully unprepared for the level of insanity in the show. It felt like it was too much: then midway through they resolve all the crazy subplots in one fell deus ex machina swoop, and spent the rest of the season setting up new ones. There were moments where I was engrossed, but it just felt so kitchen-sinky that I kept getting taken out of the moment. Still, I will give it a good rating, because it is such a well done effort. I am sure it will be successful, and who knows, maybe in the second season it will find its pace and stop trying so hard.
Video / Audio
Video: 1080p, 1.78:1. The shows is shot really well. It is cinema quality.
Audio: DTS-HD MAster Audio 5.1, with optional English SDH subtitles.
Unfortunately there's really not much along the way of special features on this set, which is a shame.
Deleted Scenes: There are about ten minutes worth of deleted scenes on each of the two discs in this set, and these are mostly just fat trimmings. No dropped subplots or anything.
Paley Center Panel Discussion with the Cast and Creative Team: This is a 45-minute panel discussion in front of a live audience, featuring actors Nelson Carbonell, Nicola Peltz, Max Theriot, Freddie Highmore, and Vera Farmiga, as well as co-creators Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin. This is a lively, informative discussion. It's fun to see all the characters getting along and laughing, since so little of that is seen in the actual show. It's also weird to hear Highmore's British accent. But considering there are no audio commentaries, this is all the info you're going to get on the show.
Man, there is a lot happening in this show. I mean, a lot. It's got a great cast, the writing is clever and the production values are high, and surely Norman Bates's back story is a rich vein to be mined (see what I did there?). While I recognize and applaud the effort, and I am sure it will be a hit show, there were just too many crazy subplots for me. Even the creators of the show admit they were going for a TWIN PEAKS vibe. This is one of the few instances where I am going to rate a disc based on the content, and not my opinion of such. BATES MOTEL is a very well done and dramatic hour of television. I will stick around for season two and hope it finds its footing.