'Bates Motel' Recap: 'Psycho' Prequel Series Premieres On A&E
Bates Motel’s premiere episode begins with Norman (Freddie Highmore) sprawled out on his bed with His Girl Friday playing on the TV in the background. When he awakes, he groggily ambles from room to room until he arrives at the basement. There he finds his father, dead under the weight of a fallen shelf. He then runs in a panic to retrieve his mother, Norma Bates (Vera Farmiga), who calmly follows him to the basement and simply wraps her arms around her son when she encounters her dead husband.
Six months later, Norma buys a rundown motel with her late husband’s insurance money and relocates with her teenage son. The same gothic revival house etched into the memories of Psycho viewers emerges and becomes their new home. When Norman makes his first appearance at the local high school, he’s lavished with attention from the girls. One of them, Bradley Martin (Nicola Peltz), puts her number into his iPhone (yes, the series takes place in present day). Meanwhile, Norma is at home talking with her elder son, Dylan (Max Thieriot), who complains that she didn’t inform him that they were moving before petitioning her for money.
When Norman returns home from school that day, the relationship between the young man and his mother begins to take shape. Norma, who has prepared a candlelit dinner for her son, reproaches him for arriving home so late. Despite explaining that he was trying out for the track team, she finds fault and neglect with his tardiness. After Norman reassures her that he won’t pursue joining the team, Norma’s well-honed passive aggressiveness flourishes as she tells him not to worry about her, and that she’ll take care of the hotel all on her own.
As his frustration grows at being emotionally held captive by his mother, Norman sneaks out of the house one night and goes to a party with Bradley. When he returns home, his mother, who had been shouting out his name unwitting to his absence, is being raped by the hotel’s enraged prior owner. Norman knocks out his mother’s assailant and shackles him – but not well enough. While Norman goes to retrieve a first aid kit, Norma once again comes under attack by the home’s original owner – who dies by Norma’s hand now armed with a knife.
Norma quickly decides that it will be best for both them and for the business if they opt to hide the body rather than call the police. Yet, as they’re pulling up the carpets at 2 a.m., they’re paid a visit by Sheriff Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) who had not known that the motel had gotten new owners. His suspicions mount tenfold when he discovers their late night carpet removal. Even though he used their toilet, mere feet from the dead body lying in the bathtub, Romero leaves without a solid clue.
The final scenes of the episode reveal a few important points that will surely be fleshed out in episodes ahead. One is that Norman already has an unhealthy affection for his mother, telling her, “We belong to each other,” after Norma tells him about the horrors of people in the world. Another is that in these formative years, Norman is in no way comfortable with death, throwing up in school the next day at the recollection of disposing the body of his mother’s rapist under her guidance.
The next episode of Bates Motel will air on Monday, Mar. 25 on A&E at 10/9c. Watch a promo for "Nice Town You Picked, Norma" below: