Earlier this year, A&E announced that they renewed their horror drama series Bates Motel for a fourth–and fifth!–season, which is projected to air in 2016 and 2017. This decision made Bates Motel the longest-running original drama to air on A&E in the history of the network. Fans of the show were not surprised by the renewal, nor were most TV fans who have kept up with the reception of Bates Motel by both audiences and critics throughout its three year run (so far).
The premise of the series is fairly simple: it is a prequel to the hit 1960 horror film, Psycho, directed by Alfred Hitchcock; although there is one distinct difference: the film, which was based on a novel of the same name by Robert Bloch, is set in 1960 while the prequel sets events in contemporary times.
The show stars Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates and Freddie Highmore as Norman Bates. Each season explores the growing darkness in both Norman and Norma, who are anything but (excuse the pun) normal. The idea behind the series is to give viewers a glimpse of what happened before the infamous events of the Psycho film and novel: how did Norman Bates become the Norman Bates we know and fear in the Hitchcock film?
In addition to Highmore and Farmiga, who have both earned critical praise and even awards for their performances in the series, the show stars: Max Theirot as Dylan Massatt, an estranged son of Norma who does not appear in the film or the book; Olivia Cooke as Emma Decody, Norman’s best friend who suffers from an illness that ultimately makes Norman fiercely protective of her; Nicola Peltz as Bradley Martin, a classmate of Norman who has a tumultuous relationship with him; Nestor Carbonell as Sheriff Alex Romero, the sheriff of the small town Norma and Norman live in; as well as Kenny Johnson as Caleb Calhoun, Norma’s older brother who knows more about Norman’s psyche than even his own mother.
Bates Motel has a lot to offer viewers, whether they are huge fans of the original Psycho film or book or are simply looking for an interesting drama with a scary spin. If you aren’t yet watching the show, you should really catch up—still need convincing? Let’s take a closer look at some of the best reasons you need to be watching Bates Motel.
Freddie Highmore gives a terrific performance
Most people will remember Freddie Highmore in far more innocent performances: he is best known for starring as Charlie Bucket in Tim Burton’s adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, as well as his role in Finding Neverland, a film about the real-life ‘Peter Pan’ author, J.M. Barrie.
Here, Highmore’s role is far more complex—and far more sinister. Highmore gives a terrific performance as the fragile, conflicted and ultimately dangerous Norman Bates, who struggles to come to terms with his dark deeds and conflicting emotions. Highmore has been nominated for numerous awards due to his performance in the show—and each nomination is well deserved.
Vera Farmiga is fantastic as well
If there is one actor in the show who can match Freddie Highmore’s performance, it’s Vera Farmiga, who stars as Norman’s mother, Norma. Vera Farmiga’s performance has been so critically recognized that she was even nominated for an Emmy Award for her performance as Norma Bates. Farmiga and Highmore have the perfect chemistry together—which is definitely necessary for the bizarre, inappropriate, and ultimately destructive relationship that the two share. Fans of the film will delight in seeing Vera Farmiga’s interpretation of the younger, but still quite mad, Norma Bates; who must struggle with her own demons while recognizing that her son has darker ones that she could have ever imagined.
It fits perfectly with the Hitchcock film
Bates Motel isn’t a replacement for the Psycho film, or the book for that matter, nor are they technically considered a “canon” prequel to either version of Psycho. However, Bates Motel plays plenty of homage to the original story and the result is a prequel series that fits perfectly in with the tone, madness and sense of dread that Psycho brought (and still brings!) to the table.
If you’re a fan of the Hitchcock film, you won’t be disappointed by Bates Motel—in fact, you’ll probably get hooked!
The seasons aren’t too long
Each season of the show is 10 episodes long, which is perfect for this type of series—it doesn’t introduce a bunch of filler or pointless storylines or characters that go nowhere just to pad out 22 episodes. The ten episode format is perfect for portraying the slow decline and madness of Norma and Norman Bates. And it makes it easier to catch up if you haven’t yet started watching the show!
It’s a bit retro
Some fans were disappointed to learn that the show would not be set in the 1960s, but in the contemporary era. However, the show does maintain a somewhat retro vibe, especially when it comes to Norma and Norman. Both characters dress in a somewhat vintage style, and Norman even dabbles in retro hobbies like listening to record players.
The town is creepy on its own
Most shows would have set Bates Motel in a quiet, charming town that becomes uprooted by the violent actions of the troubled Norman Bates. Bates Motel, however, doesn’t go with that clichéd route: instead, the seemingly small, innocent town that Norma and Norman move into has its own dark, troubled secrets. The town is in a way a metaphor for Norman’s own psyche: on the surface it appears sweet, charming and friendly, but there is something rippling underneath that façade that bubbles to the surface every so often. This unique take on a “small town” makes the show doubly interesting to watch, and helps keeps viewers on their toes, since they never know what might happen in the town next.