HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Bates Motel: Season 2
HTS Overall Score:86
Horror season is in full swing and we’ve also had a rash of “Season 2”’s coming out the last several months. “Bates Motel” is going to garner instant comparison to another horror show that runs concurrently, as “Bates Motel” and “Hannibal” share a lot of similarities (and some startling dissimilarities). In a way they are both two sides of the same coin, for the two shows both are about extremely famous film (and novel) serial killers that have been done in years past on the big screen, and both of them are doing a simply fantastic job at rebooting the characters. Yes, I said reboot, for as much as “Hannibal” and “Bates Motel” serve as prequels in a sense, they are doing a completely new twist to the characters, and both creative minds behind the two shows have said that when previous incarnations overlap with the present show it will be done similarly, yet differently. “Bates Motel” had a shockingly good first season that started out with a few rough patches and only grew from there. Season two takes what made Season one good and just added to it, making it one of the best modern psychological horror series I’ve seen.
When we left off last time, Mrs. Blair Watson (Keegan Connor Tracy) had been killed and Norman (Freddie Highmore) had one of his blackouts during his presence there. Running home, Norma Bates (Vera Farmiga) quickly consoles the boy and everything seems to go back to normal. Well, as normal as you can in a town littered with drug lords, crooked cops and the craziness of high society snobs can bring to a situation. Norman’s friend, and ex hookup, Bradley Martin (Nicola Peltz) ends up finding out who murdered her father, which forces Norman to extricate her from the town in order for her to be safe, staging her death in the process. This small action veers off and starts another chain of events as Norman meets a young delinquent named Cody (Paloma Kwiatkowski) who coaxes him out of the shell he’s created for himself (for better or for worse).
Simultaneously more drama is going on with the other side of the Bates household, as Dylan gets deeper and deeper into the drug trade and starts going up the ladder faster and faster. Soon enough he’s meeting the whole boss of the operation and getting into a drug war as the bosses brother, Zane (played by the fantastic Michael Eklund), comes into town and gets himself a bit too out of control. As fate would have it, this rival drug lord, played by Michael O’Neill, has intertwined himself with Norma Bates life, and her desire to keep the town from opening up a bypass which will completely cut off Bates Hotel from the incoming tourists. With this drug lord on one side, and Dylan, Zane and the rest of the crew on the other side, that leaves poor Norman and Norma trapped in the middle, which can only lead to more trouble.
“Bates Motel” was one of the singular shows of last year that brought my faith back for modern broadcast television. Recently most broadcast television has just turned to pot as the big shows are all given homes on HBO, Showtime and other cable TV stations leaving most of the shows over the air foundering in their own mediocrity. With “Bates Motel” and “Hannibal” breathing new life into ABC and NBC we hopefully have a new era of non-cable television. As I mentioned earlier, “Bates Motel” and “Hannibal” are both very similar, but they also are almost opposite sides of the same coin. Both shows feature sadistic serial killers, but the take on the two shows is so diametrically opposite from each other in many ways. “Hannibal” focuses much more on the gore and the twisted allegories of the psyche, showing the fractured mindset of Hannibal Lector and Will Graham, while “Bates Motel” is a slower paced psychological thriller of sorts, leaving almost no murders committed by Norman. “Bates” unfolds as a crime drama, playing on the sordid relationship that Norma and Norman share, watching as Norman Bates slowly unfolds, each episode in the story pushing him farther and farther along and showing him take those slow, but steady, steps towards the famed killer of Bates Motel.
Norman and Norma’s rather incestuous relationship is both sickening and frightening at the same time. Both are so co-dependent on each other that it’s hard to see where one ends and the other begins. In season one we were made to feel revulsion for Norma and pity for Norman, as you saw her tight grip on him just suffocating the poor boy and seems to be creating a monster. It wasn’t until the last episode of the series that you realized it was the other way around, as Norma turns out to be the pitiable one and you realize that there is a lot more to Norman than just a “poor suffocated boy”. In many ways you still feel pity for him, but it becomes blatantly obvious this season that Norman is not well, and has not been well for some time. Norma is desperately trying to take care of her family, but has been so damaged over the years that her efforts are sadly almost as twisted as her sons. With the introduction of her brother, Caleb, you realize just how pitiable Norma Bates really is. All of this leads up to Norman revealing just what happens during his blackouts and the final episode to the series leaves you with chills running up and down your spine, as the demented character we know from “Psycho” unfolds like a flower in the noon day sun, albeit a rather dark and twisted flower.
The Episode Rundown is as follows.
Gone But Not Forgotten
Shadow of a Doubt
The Escape Artist
The Immutable Truth
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=29425[/img]The standard 1.78:1 encoded Blu-ray looks absolutely jaw dropping on Blu-ray as the show sparkles in the Oregon sun and simmers in the shade of the night time drama that occurs. The color palette for the show is surprisingly natural, but given a slight earthy tone at times, particularly on the inside of the creepy old Bates house when Norman and Norma gives some of their best performances together on screen. The rainy and damp looking town looks appropriately detailed and even in the dark of night, during a midnight drug raid, the clarity and crispness of the cinematography is par excellent. Black levels are inky, deep and unmarred by crush or nasty contrast issues and the brightly lit scenes make you feel like you could step into the screen and walk right beside the characters. Fine detail is simply beautiful allowing you to see everything from fibers on the clothes as well as even the minute amounts of blush and rouge on Vera Farmiga’s face in close ups. Honestly, this is one of the best looking shows on Blu-ray that I have seen for a long time, as most TV shows, especially on broadcast television, just don’t have the budget to eek out the best that the cameras can do.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=29433[/img]The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track on the discs certainly is not going to be outdone by the video as it is a powerhouse track from beginning to end, sizzling with energy and a creepy atmospheric tone that gives it a life of its own. Being a dialogue driven show you’d expect it to be a bit laid back and front heavy, but the audio takes the bull by the horns and tells it who’s boss without breaking a sweat. Full use of the surrounds is a standard, as the sounds of the Oregon town hustle and bustle from all sides, including ambient noise, the sounds of a gun battle, and the near constant use of the score to send a chill down your back when you least expect it. The LFE present in the show is surprisingly robust as you can tell from the opening credits alone, where the flickering Bates Motel sign is accompanied by a dull bass tone that can shake the foundations. Clarity of dialogue is above reproach and the bombastic track balances some explosive overtones with the softer and more laid back moments of the show to create a seamless experience that is worthy of the big boys.
• Deleted Scenes
• Origins of a Psycho
• After Hours
I am in awe at how well “Bates Motel” has been able to reboot such an iconic character. This is almost on the same level as being able to reboot “Ben Hur” and having the audience love every minute, as Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous character is some hard shoes to fill for a young actor and a lone woman. Personally I think that if Alfred Hitchcock were alive today he would be very impressed with how this particular wheel has been reinvented. Freddie Highmore really has come into his own in the series this season and Vera Farmiga is drop dead perfect as Norma (puns intended), and the ending finale leaves the series with a perfect turning point for the series to continue on and take some wonderful new twists to an old tale in further seasons. The video and audio are just as amazing as the series is, with the only downside being some rather mediocre extras. Still, “Bates Motel” is one of the best non cable television shows in the last several years and definitely deserve a watch this Halloween season.
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Freddie Highmore, Max Thierot
Created by: Anthony Cipriano
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 427 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: October 7th, 2014
Buy Bates Motel: Season 2 Blu-Ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Must Watch
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