By: Kh Ishrar
“First You Dream, Then You Die”
Remember Alfred Hitchcock’s psychological thriller, “Psycho”? Did that movie leave you asking for more or left your questions unanswered? Are you one of the curious ones, like me, who wanted to further understand the underlying reasons behind the makings of the character? Well, if yes, then consider yourselves lucky because this is exactly what you are going to get from the TV series, Bates Motel. The show is a prequel of the movie “Psycho”, which hardly anyone has missed. For this very reason, many critics were unsupportive of the inception of such a TV show because we are likely to know exactly where it is going and what Norman Bates (the to-be Psycho) is likely to become. It’s is very much like skipping to the very last page of the murder mystery and finding out who the killer is, which takes all the fun out of it. But does it though? I believe the real fun lies in the journey. The twists and turns you face in a story is what makes it worthwhile, not merely how the story ends. Why something is what it is, makes you all the more connected to it, brings you a tad bit closer to the subject. This is exactly what Bates Motel would do. It’ll give us a rare insight into the psychological condition of a young boy and his mother and what it has been caused by. We know how it ends for them. But is that enough? I’d say it is the very reason why I want to follow the show. So let’s dive in people! There will be some severe Spoilers, so buckle up!
The show starts off with the death of Norman’s father and the second husband of Norma. Norman wakes up from his sleep, as if he already knows that something is wrong. He looks around the house, searching for his mother, when he finds his father’s dead body, lying on the floor of their garage. He gets his mother to come out of the shower and leads her to the body. Now, this very first scene plants queries and plots that sense of mystery inside you. Questions like, why did Norman wake up in that manner? What exactly happened before he went to sleep? How did the man die exactly? When a panicking and weeping Norman tells his mother that there is something wrong with his father, she depicts utter indifference and is unruffled by the event of the death, why is that? Surrounded by enigma, are we? A very solid commencement, I’d say.
We know for a fact that Bates Motel has decided not to take things slow as the creepiness, much like the suspense, begins right now. Well, mother, Norma and son, Norman, move to a new place where they have bought one Seafairer Motel, which they later name, Bates Motel. Now, before Norma shows the hotel to her son, she makes him close him eyes and hops on the hood of the car and poses before making him opening his eyes. You just helplessly find yourselves asking, so what’s up with that? And this incident is soon followed by more mildly disturbing events to learn more about which, I suggest you follow this show.
The more normal aspect to Norman’s life, his school life, is also highlighted through the series. Young ladies, particularly a blond, Bradey seems to be taking a lot of interest in our boy Norman. Also, pretty teacher, Ms. Watson, takes interest in his grades and asks him to join the track team. So he finds a motherly figure at school, or not? I don’t know really. The teacher is showing over concern towards a student she has just met. Is this really a genuine feminine approach? It might not be as there cannot be any possible connection established between the two as they have just met. So, creepy again? Let’s hope not. Norman gives his mother the parents’ permission slip to be signed. Firstly she asks him how he expects him run the place if he is not around to help her, as he would be out mostly for his practices and then signs the paper while using reverse psychology on the poor boy who was only trying to be a little normal, for a change. When the girls came over to the motel one night to ask Norman to join them for a group study session (actually meaning that they want him to come over to a party with them), the mother jumps into the picture and refuses, saying that they need to settle in first. Norman gets furious at his mother for doing this to him. So we figure out Norma is an overprotective mother, has quite a temper and according to Norman, is impulsive.
He was actually very eager to socialize with his new friends and by the way the argument goes, it’s evident that his mother often intervened between him and his social life. Norman actually sneaks out of the window and joins the girls and at he party he even shares a moment with Bradley. This whole thing makes you happy for a split second and you think: Atta boy! Way to go Norman Bates! But you know for a fact that things will not go smoothly for the kid. Keith Summers, the previous owner of the place who got his property seized by the bank, which is quite obvious, looking at his drunken nature, intrudes into the Bateses’ house. He had once come earlier and threatened Norma and this time begins to sexually assault her, when Norman comes from behind and knocks him down. Norman goes to get the emergency kit when Norma stabs her rapist to death. Frankly, I’d say justice served but then again something inside me says he deserved to suffer way more than that. Well, Norma comes back to find a dead body and suggest they call the cops as his mother killed in self-defense, but then asks: “It was self-defense, wasn’t it?” Either way, Norma is reluctant to call the cops as no one would be booking a room in a rape/murder motel. Strong woman she is portrayed as, thinking of her business even in a situation as such. She seems to be thinking strategically instead of feeling vulnerable. You can tell that this woman has been through a lot. She decides to keep the body in one of the tub of one of the hotel rooms and get rid of the body later. But in the process they manage to spill blood on the room’s carpet. So now they decide to take out the carpets of several rooms altogether to make it appear as though they are refurbishing. The lights of the motel draw in the sheriff and his deputy who did not know that anyone had moved in yet. The cops ask to look around and the sheriff comes dangerously chose to the dead body but does not discover it.
Later mother and son take a little boat trip to dump the body. Norma nags about how she is a lousy mother and that Norman is too good for her and how he is the best thing that has ever happened to her. And Norman is no better, he says there is some cord between their hearts and quotes Jane Eyre, and we think seriously, cut the cord already! We’d like to see a mother-son bonding moment which will make us tear up but this somehow managed to become cloying.
We figure out in this episode that Norma shares a complex relationship with her other son who is soon to appear on the show. Her older son and Norman’s haklf-brother, seems to be having financial issues and asks his mother for help when she hangs up on him.
One of the reasons for the show’s success is that it lets us into an unusual world, a world absolutely unimaginable for us to live in, yet not a world of fantasy. It has a perfect balance somehow, while being absolutely out of balance. Quite tricky, huh? It takes a lot of courage to pick up a rare piece of work like “Psycho” and make a prequel. The weirdness in the show seems to be increasing by the minute. The spooky music and atmosphere gives the show its perfect bit of rustiness. There is a new surprise/shock waiting for you round every corner, giving you no time to get bored. May be this is what will keep you hooked to the show, despite all the unpleasant events you’ll have to witness. Well, I will surely take a trip to Bates Motel every week and let’s see how it goes!