Sunday, 24 March 2013

Review: 'Bates Motel: First You Dream, Then You Die'

'Bates Motel: First You Dream, Then You Die,' 2013, Universal Television. Written by Carlton Cuse, et al. Based on characters created by Robert Bloch. Directed by Tucker Gates. Starring Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore. Rated TV-14 for dialogue, language, sexual situations, and violence. Airs 10.00 p.m. EST on A&E on Monday.

Spoiler Alert!

This is a series which seeks to explain how Norman Bates (from the classic film 'Psycho') became the deranged killer he was. 

For some reason, some people don't understand that this means it's likely that the series will contain material unsuitable for children. There have been complaints about the violence, in particular the rape which occurs in the first episode. Granted, the victim (Norma Bates, played by the ever-intriguing Vera Farmiga, pictured) pulled herself together pretty quickly after the rape; and her son Norman (played by Freddie Highmore, pictured) wasn't nearly distressed enough to find a man raping his mother in their kitchen, especially considering how close Norman and his mother are supposed to be. But the show is on at 10.00 p.m., it is on A&E (which features such grisly shows as 'The Walking Dead'), and it's about the birth of a serial killer. Acts like rape and murder are probably going to be par for the course. 

That aside, we liked the show so far. As mentioned above, Vera Farmiga is pleasant to watch, and the episode showcased her talents well. Freddie Highmore is also turning out to be talented, and we look forward to seeing how the writers turn the almost-normal Norman into a psychopath. 

A quick overview: Norman's father dies; we're not told how, but Norman finds his body in the garage. (We suspect foul play on the part of Norma, who was bathing at the time Norman found his father. She left things burning on the stove and the iron still going.) 

Six months later, Norman and Norma move to White Pine Bay, where Norma has bought the Seafairer Motel, which they are going to turn into the Bates Motel. Unfortunately, they run across an angry drunk (Keith Summers, played by Earl Brown) who believes the motel should be his. He consequently attacks Norma, who ends up stabbing him to death. 

What to do with the body? Norma convinces Norman not to call the police (it would be bad publicity for the motel if people started calling it the 'Rape/Murder Motel'), and the two set about getting rid of the evidence. Throughout the episode, the Norman/Norma relationship is revealed, although it doesn't seem so far as if the two are unnaturally close. Just close enough to keep the secret of murder between the two of them.  

The reason it's called 'First You Dream, Then You Die,' is because the characters have a dream of starting over, which then goes horribly wrong. This is a classic film noir idea, which we think is appropriate, given the origins of the series.   


  1. I did not watch the pilot episode, to be honest, because I wasn't overly enthusiastic about the premise, but your review certainly gives me a reason to give it a second chance. Thanks!

  2. You can watch full episodes (including an extended version of the pilot) at Hope you enjoy it!