HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Bates Motel: Season 2
HTS Overall Score:79
Horror season is back again! Only 1 day till Halloween and we get to go back and visit the third season of the intensely popular series “Bates Motel”. Chronically the life of Norman Bates and Norma Bates before the infamous movie “Psycho”, the series ends up retooling more than actually being a traditional prequel. The characters are the same, the names are all there, but the show takes the IDEA of Norman Bates, and builds an entire backstory to the character that was never in Hitchcock’s masterpiece. Once I realized that they weren’t going to just lead UP to the events of “Psycho”, but actual reimagine and create an alternate universe I was slightly disturbed. However, I soon got over that once I realized that different interpretations of the same source material isn’t a bad thing, especially when you have the acting talent and writing talent behind “Bates Motel”.
We last left Norman and Norma with Norma (the stunning Vera Farmiga) letting Norman (Freddie Highmore) in on the secret that HE was the person responsible for his dad’s death, as well as Norman realizing for himself that he did horrible things during his blackouts. Including kill Miss Watson, his high school teacher. The DEA has raided the drug fields that Norman’s half-brother, Dylan (Max Thieriot) was working in and now Dylan has to create something else for himself. With Norman off the hook for the murder of Miss Watson (thanks to some ice cold blood on the part of Norman), the pair are back to manning the Bates Hotel and letting in new Visitors. Trouble comes in the form of Annika Johnson (Tracy Spiridakos), a beautiful, but mysterious, young lady who brings in a lot more trouble than she seems at first.
After only being there two days, Annika winds up missing after Norman drives her into town, which leaves poor Norma fraught with worry that Norman is back to killing beautiful women. Setting out a city wide manhunt (or womanhunt in this case), Norma tries to solve the mystery, just begging to God that Norman didn’t end her. When Annika comes back to them, just on the verge of death, she leaves a mysterious flash drive that has enough information on it to set the entire town ablaze. To make matters worse, Dylan’s father/Norman’s brother Caleb (Kenny Johnson) is back in town and intertwining his life with Dylan’s in an effort to reconnect with the son he never had.
“Bates Motel” has been one of the shows that has renewed my faith in broadcast television. I’ve said this before, but up until a few years ago I was convinced that Cable Television was the new frontier and Broadcast TV was nothing but a memory of the past. Recently, with shows like “Hannibal”, “Bates Motel” and a few others, I’ve seen a resurgence in regular TV. Devoid of the nudity and gratuitous violence of its Cable TV brethren (though those shows are just as fun in their own right), “Bates Motel” has to rely on incredibly witty writing and a sense of the macabre to keep its viewers entertained instead of said blood and gore. While Norman Bates of this series is not the exact same Norman Bates from Alfred Hitchcock’s imagination, they are still incredibly complex and well thought out characters.
Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore really make the series. While the writing is great, and the plots are a lot of fun, Very and Freddie embody their characters so much that you just can’t help but crave more of them. Very puts her heart and soul into Norma, as we watch her change from a creepy and manipulative women that you love to loathe, into a character that truly deserves your pity. As the series progresses I started to realize just how much of Norma’s exterior and over protection of Norman is just a front for her own terror at what Norman is capable. At the same time Norman shifts from being a slightly odd young man, to someone truly terrifying and capable of things that you wouldn’t have dreamed of during season 1. The only thing that I can really complain about is the filler episodes with the whole drug issue in town. They act to pad the series a bit, and keep the 10 episodes moving along instead of focusing on what really makes the show good, Norma and Norman. If I could change something about the show, it would be to eradicate these “filler” episodes, no matter how decent they are, as they have run their course, in my opinion.
The Episode Rundown is as follows.
A Death in the Family
The Arcanum Club
The Last Supper
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=57537[/img]Unfortunately Universal did not send out Blu-ray Screeners, so I sadly can not review the Blu-ray as I have for you in the past. Still, the overall look of the show is the same. 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, with Norma and Norman skulking around the house together, the clarity and crispness of the series is good, but is a tad softer than the extremely crisp Blu-rays of prior series. Black levels are inky, deep, but sometimes a bit TOO deep as I noticed some black crush seeping in. The brightly lit scenes make you feel like you could step into the screen and walk right beside the characters. Fine detail is excellent, but sometimes some of the longer shots look a tad bit soft (as mentioned before). The Show has always done the best it can with a TV budget, and the DVD is an excellent representation of the SD presentation of the show.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=57545[/img]The 5.1 Dolby Digital 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. if the DVD suffers just a tad in the video department, the audio is almost as good as it's Higher resolution counterpart.
• Deleted Scenes
• A Broken Psyche - Creating Norma-n
"Bates Motel" is less of a prequel, and like "Hannibal", a retooling of the entire character set and story lines. We're not seeing a lead up to HOW Norman Bates becomes the infamous psychopathic killer, but a re imagining of the character from the ground up, taking old familiar characters and putting a new spin on them. Filled with spectacular writing, and a great cast, "Bates Motel" has stood out as one of the better broadcast television shows of the last decade. Being renewed for a 4th and 5th season shows that Universal and AMC has a lot of faith in the fledgling series and I can't wait for the next season. The video and audio for the DVD set is good to fantastic, with the only weak set being only two real special features. Definitely watch it.
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Freddie Highmore, Max Thierot
Created by: Anthony Cipriano
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: English: Dolby Digital 5.1,
Runtime: 468 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: October 13th, 2015
Buy Bates Motel: Season 3 DVD on Amazon
Buy Bates Motel: Season 3 Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Must Watch
More about Mike