Grady Jane Woodfin
The Writer's Cohort was a group creative writing graduates from Full Sail University who came together to bring the latest reports in video games, television, film, and literature. The Cohort remains a tight knit group, but the site disbanded in 2016.
You Should Be Watching Bates Motel Right Now
by Grady Jane Woodfin
*This article contains potential spoilers for Bates Motel. If you haven’t seen or finished watching the show (Kyle and Stephanie, I’m looking at you), please go do so immediately before reading this post. You can find the first two seasons on Netflix here.*
If you’re anything like me, you probably have good taste and an appreciation for the classics. Today I’m here to talk about one classic in particular. That classic is Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.
Psycho is the 1960 horror / mystery / thriller film based on Robert Bloch’s famous novel (inspired by the Ed Gein case) that delved deep into the filthy thoughts of Norman Bates. Psycho revolutionized horror, and Norman became one of the most iconic characters in Hollywood.
But in 2013, something happened that changed the game all over again:
Bates Motel is the A&E television series that explores Norman Bates’ life leading up to his appearance in Psycho. It’s a prequel, if you will, where the audience gets to really see what led Norman Bates to become one of the most horrifying villains to ever enter the entertainment industry.
Personally, I am in love with Bates Motel. You can ask anyone in the Cohort, and I’m sure they’d gladly confirm my infatuation. But as a writer and television junkie, I consider it one of the most underrated shows on the air.
Bates Motel hits a real sweet spot. There was pressure to live up to the expectations of Psycho, but it has done that and more. The show is good on it’s on. It doesn’t have to lean on Psycho as a crutch. The show itself is quality storytelling. But it also has enough reference to its beloved predecessor that the Psycho fans (like me) feel satisfied as well.
In my experience, television shows have good seasons, bad seasons, and some “eh” seasons in there as well. Sometimes we get our hopes up too high, and a show will let us down. I have been blessed so far to find that each season of Bates Motel gets better and better. The show’s third season wrapped in May of this year, and it was by far my favorite season yet.
The writing is just phenomenal. The writer’s took Norman Bates played by Freddie Highmore and his mother Norma Bates played by Vera Farmiga and made them real.
Instead of watching Psycho where Norman just is the way he is, we’re watching how we got there, and it is so scary.
It all comes back to me thinking, “Well, if the stuff that’s happening in this show had actually happened to me, I might be like Norman.” And that’s a horrifying revelation, and exactly the kind of thing that makes Bates Motel 10/10 when it comes to story.
In fact, Bates Motel has done something that Psycho never could. The first two seasons really show Norman for what he is. A teenager who is a little abnormal trying to function in society. That’s basically every teenager I know. So the set up is: here is this boy that’s kind of like us. Fall in love with him.
And we do. No questions asked.
But while one watches Bates Motel, we almost feel like there is hope for Norman to overcome his illnesses and get better. We are desperately rooting for the Bates family to overcome all the adversity and live healthy lives. But Psycho looms overhead. And anyone who has seen Psycho knows how this story ends.
I really think this is another reason I love the show so much. The characters have been made so real that even though I know where the show is headed and all of the horrible things Norman will do, and I’m still hoping that the characters don’t do it.
There is so much to be learned from this show. They made Norman Bates feel like a real human being. They took Norman and gave him a tragic backstory, a dysfunctional family, and some mental illnesses. And what they really did was they made him relatable on a level that he had never been before.
They took him and made him tangible. Which one could argue is more horrifying than him being a fictional character from back in the day.
It is non-debatable that Hitchcock’s film changed the horror genre, but it also opened a door. It opened the door for other classics to be born, and I am forever grateful for that.
Season four of Bates Motel will return to A&E in the spring of 2016.
If you haven’t done so already, watch the show. It’s worth your time. Also, I’m desperately looking for friends to geek out with. So watch it, and then call me, and we’ll talk about how brilliant it is for seven hours. Okay? Okay.