Nothing Is As It Seems in ‘Motel’

Courtesy of AE

Courtesy of AE

Carlton Cruse returns with his first series since “Lost,” with the help of Kerry Ehrin (“Friday Night Lights”) and Anthony Cipriano. It’s a haunting hit that you don’t even have to be a Hitchcock junkie to fall in love with.

Despite being the prequel to “Psycho,” “Bates Motel” takes place in the present. Norma Bates (Vera Farmiga), an eccentric mother and Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore), a shy teenager with an attachment to his mother, have just moved to White Pine Bay, a small town with an eerie, retro feel.  Norma purchases an old motel with the insurance money she has after Norman’s father mysteriously dies.

Within the first three episodes there is plenty of drama, blood, illegal activities and mystery. The first episode includes a violent rape and murder scene that may deter some viewers from continuing with the series.

While remodeling the motel, Norman finds an old sketch book that opens up a can of worms about the town’s past and present. Meanwhile, Norma deals with her inner demons and the local police.

Aside from the drama and action, we are given the everyday life of Norma and Norman. She has to deal with a whole array of characters that are introduced, including heartthrobs Max Thieriot as Norman’s good-for-nothing, half-brother Dylan and Mike Vogel as Officer Shelby who has a crush on Norma. Norman’s quirky nature pegs him as the new, “different” kid at school, but that doesn’t stop him from making friends. A sort of love triangle forms between Norman and two girls — Emma (Olivia Cooke), the strange girl suffering with cystic fibrosis, and Bradley (Nicola Peltz), the pretty girl in school with a bad boy-looking boyfriend.

The acting performances of Farmiga and Highmore are superb. Farmiga paints the picture of the overly protective mother who harbors secrets of the past. She easily drifts between your stereotypical single mother to an extremely manipulative instigator. Highmore brings the spirit of Anthony Perkin’s portrayal of Bates into a fresh light that is equally as spooky and memorable. Amongst this cast of all-stars, Thieriot is probably the most relatable of all the characters.

We all know the story of “Psycho,” and Norman is inevitably going to become that iconic character. There will be no redemption, which is a somber thought. Although we have glimpses at sweetness amid the darkness, the show has yet to offer the triumph viewers tend to look for.

Only Recommended If: You’re a fan of drama and suspense, and can handle violence.