“BATES MOTEL”: A Mystery Wrapped In an Enigma?


“Bates Motel” is one of the most confounding television experiences I’ve ever had.

I have absolutely no idea what the show is supposed to be and I’ve seen every episode. It’s not that interesting, or engaging or thrilling but it has had some wonderful moments of high camp, usually thanks to Vera Farmiga who has bitten down hard into a character that, as written, is a complete enigma.

Freddie Highmore as Norman Bates? Well, he sure is…British?

Nothing much happens on “Bates Motel” and very little of what does happen has much to do with the establishment of a “Psycho” prequel mythos. Chinese sex slavery? Uh, ok. I continue to watch merely because I always finish a book – I started this story, I want to see how it ends. Maybe the end will justify the means.

In the meantime, what does one get in a visit to “Bates Motel”?  It’s not compelling enough as a small town drama nor suspenseful enough as a mystery.  It’s occasionally unintentionally funny but in a disappointingly rote way.

From moment to moment it is unclear whose story this is exactly.  Norman’s?  Norma’s?  Or Dylan’s?  Sadly, for a story inspired by one of cinema’s greatest shockers it seems to arbitrarily be Dylan’s story.  Dylan is an entirely new addition to the “Psycho” mythos – the casually ruggedly handsome older half brother of Norman Bates.  He’s certainly the most sympathetic character as well as the most consistently played one – Max Thierot does a lot with very little.

Still, if we’re meant to care about Dylan or how he views the events surrounding him, then “Bates Motel” fails again.

What would happen if you took a potentially fascinating exploration of the formative years of one of the world’s most legendary cinema psychos and then removed any depth, any drama, or much of any connection to the world of Hitchock’s classic as we know it?

I think we have our answer.

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4 thoughts on ““BATES MOTEL”: A Mystery Wrapped In an Enigma?

  1. Great idea for a show, too bad it isn’t working.

  2. Max says:

    There was potential with this show, but it’s just a mess of bad acting and ridiculous situations. Farmiga is dreadful in this, as is Highmore. Dylan is the only character who is well cast and enjoyable to watch. His weed protection job is more interesting than the motel plots.

  3. […] “BATES MOTEL”: A Mystery Wrapped In an Enigma? (christopherhorb.wordpress.com) […]

  4. M. Dali says:

    I actually enjoy the show even though it frightens me. I think it has a lot of fascinating elements and the twisted side of Norman is beginning to show through the sweet-but-mildly-aloof exterior he usually projects. Vera F. is an exceptional actress and she makes me care about her character while at the same time I cringe seeing how she unwittingly fosters the psycho element of her son. I find that the Dylan older brother role adds some hope to this crazy situation in the making even knowing that it’s beginning to add up to a totally lost young man who has no control over his darkest impulses. To me this is scarier than any horror film.

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