'Bates Motel' Premiere Recap: 'Psycho' Prequel Promises Murder, Mayhem
'Bates Motel' Premiere Recap: 'Psycho' Prequel Promises Murder, Mayhem
Jennifer Lind-Westbrook
Jennifer Lind-Westbrook
Contributing Writer, BuddyTV
At first glance, Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) looks like any gangly teenage boy. He's sprawled across a tiny twin bed, fully-clothed and napping. A beam of late afternoon sunlight shines across his chest. His Girl Friday plays on a TV in the background. All of the sudden, he wakes. He leaves his room and enters the hallway. Norman is unsteady on his feet as if drugged or in some type of drunken stupor. He calls out for his mother with no response. He wanders from room to room. Norman spots a steaming iron in the living room and dinner bubbling on the stove in the kitchen. He wanders into the basement and sees his father lying on the floor, apparently trapped under a heavy shelf. There's been an accident, and this is the premiere episode of Bates Motel, which tells the story of Norman Bates and his beloved mother, characters from Alfred Hitchcock's classic thriller, Psycho.

Norman panics and starts yelling for his mother. He beats on the bathroom door until she opens it; she looks refreshed after bathing. Norman can barely utter anything other than "Dad." He races back towards the basement. Norma (Vera Farmiga) lingers in the bathroom. When she reaches the basement, she is eerily calm. There are no frantic shouts to call 911. Neither even check to see if the man is breathing. As Norman weeps over the body of his father, Norma tries to comfort her son simply saying "I'm sorry" and eventually cradling him in her arms.

Moving On

Six months later, mother and son are driving along a beautiful coastline. They arrive at a dilapidated motel with a gigantic rundown Victorian house in the background looming over the other structure like an overprotective parent. (Fans of Hitchcock's classic film will recognize the location immediately.) Norma is giddy with plans and possibilities, but Norman lacks her enthusiasm. Of course, what teenage boy is excited by peonies. Norma shows her son his new bedroom and tells him that this is their chance to start over, "Maybe some people don't get to start over. Maybe they just bring themselves to a new place," Norman responds. Norma pleads, assuring him that everything is going to work out.

The following morning, things start looking up for Norman immediately. Sitting at the bus stop, he is suddenly surrounded by teenage girls. They are full of questions about who he is, where he came from, where he lives, is his family planning to stay? We do learn during this interrogation that Norman has an older brother. An adorable blonde in a convertible pulls up and offers the group a ride. It's a tight squeeze and Norman benefits because one of the girl hops into his lap. She puts her contact info into his phone and then introduces herself. Her name is Bradley Martin (Nicola Peltz). She tells Norman to call her if he has any trouble at school.

Meanwhile, Norma, who is handy with a cleaver, receives a phone call from her other son Dylan (Max Thieriot). He's slightly offended that she moved without telling him. She argues that the fact that he called her a bitch and told her to drop dead the last time they saw each other freed her from this obligation. He starts to ask for money, and she immediately hangs up.

Norman Has Mommy Issues

Norman arrives home from school to find his mother has prepared a candlelight dinner. She questions him about why he is so late, and he tells her that he tried out for the track team at the urging of Miss Watson (Keegan Conner Tracy), his adviser and Language Arts teacher. The first kinks in mother's cheery armor start to show. Norma questions how she's supposed to get the motel open if Norman is busy every day after school and on Saturdays. Norman attempts to please her by saying he won't do it. This isn't enough. She lays the guilt on thicker, telling him that she doesn't want to hold him back. She'll just take care of things herself, like she always does. Norma leaves her son to eat alone while she goes off to sulk.

The next day, the two are paid a visit by the original owner of the property who lost it in foreclosure. He is angry and threatening telling Norma, "I know everything about this place. Every nook and cranny, every dirty secret, " he says. "You don't know how this place works. This town, you know nothing about this town." Norma isn't the least bit intimidated and tells him if he shows up on the property again, she'll call the police or shoot him herself. He slowly backs down but doesn't seem concerned by her threats.

Later that evening, Bradley and the girls from the bus stop come by and see if Norman wants to go with the library with them to study. Norma tells them it isn't a good night since they are still getting settled. After the girls leave, Norman becomes enraged and accuses his mother of forbidding him from having a life. He storms up to his room and immediately texts Bradley. He sneaks out and meets the girls only to find out that they are really going to a party.

At the house, the previous owner brazenly breaks in. Norma tries to fight him off and screams Norman's name, but he overpowers her. As he begins to brutally rape her, Norman returns and knocks him out. They subdue him with handcuffs he brought himself. Unfortunately, they do a piss poor job. As Norman is elsewhere in the house searching for a first aid kit, the intruder frees himself and goes after Norma again. This time, Norma comes out ahead, brutally stabbing him.

Dead Again

Norman returns to find the man dead and encourages his mother to call the police. She refuses, fearing what affect the night's events could have on the business. Instead, she methodically begins to plan how to clean up the mess. It turns out covering up a murder scene is a lot of work. While tearing up the carpets, Norman comes across an old sketch book.

In the midst of cleaning up, a sheriff's car pulls up to the motel. Norma pulls herself together and goes out to meet Sheriff Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) and Deputy Zack Shelby. They inform her that they weren't aware anyone had moved on to the property. Romero is immediately suspicious that they are pulling up carpet at 2am on a school night. He also questions a wound on Norma's hand that she sustained during her fight. As hard as she tries to blow them off, Romero insists on taking a look inside the motel where the corpse has temporarily been stashed in a bathtub. In spite of what appear to be great instincts, Romero comes up empty-handed and leaves.

Things go from bad to worse, if that's even possible, when Norma finds out that the city is building a bypass on the far side of town, making their quaint little motel an unlikely pit stop. When Norman questions why the real estate agent didn't tell Norma, she doles out some unusual motherly advice, "Because Norman, people suck. I'll tell you everyone I've ever known has sucked; except you." The self-flagellation goes on until Norman tells her that she is everything to him, and he never wants to live in the world without her, "We belong to each other."

After the premiere episode of Bates Motel, several things are clear: Norman doesn't have an inherent stomach for murder, while Norma is barely fazed by the act; their relationship takes co-dependence to a whole new level; the motel and the town have secrets of their own, and not all of the locals are as welcoming and friendly as the town's teenage girls; and, of course, Norman loves his mother.

Bates Motel airs Mondays at 10pm on A&E.

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(Image courtesy of AMC)