It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"My mother just gets … impulsive. She has these ideas about things …"
That's 17-year-old Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) in the premiere episode of "Bates Motel," explaining to his admiring new teacher, Miss Watson (Keegan Connor Tracy), why he's been bounced around to five different high schools. His mother Norma (Vera Farmiga) has just moved them from Arizona to White Pine Bay, a sleepy coastal Oregon town, following the tragic (accidental?) death of her second husband. Apparently Norma has valid reasons for her impulsive behavior. Either that, or … she just goes a little crazy sometimes.
We've heard that line before; it's from Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 horror/suspense classic "Psycho," in which motel owner Norman (now in his twenties and played by Anthony Perkins) is revealed to be a homicidal psychopath, driven to murder by an extreme case of split personality.
Inspired by Hitchcock's film (and to a lesser extent, Robert Bloch's 1959 novel, which describes Norman as a pudgy, bald 40-ear-old), "Bates Motel" is being billed as "a contemporary prequel," allowing an exploration of teenage Norman's unraveling psyche in a present-day setting. It's a savvy ploy by veteran TV showrunners Carlton Cuse ("Lost") and Kerry Ehrin ("Friday Night Lights"), combining pre-"Psycho" history with new twists and turns while catering to all the commercial obligations (pop song soundtracks, social-net promotions, etc.) of TV in the age of Facebook and Twitter.