Telling the dark origin of one of the most infamous killers in the history of film, it's the quality of the performances that makes Bates Motel truly noteworthy.
Vera Farmiga is Norma Bates, a woman of both great strength and weakness, full of flaws and virtue. Freddie Highmore’s Norman is her beloved son, so disturbingly devoted and so mentally flawed. As the show begins, the cracks in the Bates family have already began forming and it’s just a matter of time before those cracks split the foundation completley.
Farmiga’s Norma takes her son, Norman, to a costal Oregon town from Arizona, where her husband has died in a freak accident, in order to build a new life at the hotel she has just purchased. It is hinted at that her husband was abusive and Norma has a history of abuse in her family, so the pattern has been established. She is definitely damaged, though she struggles to come across as normal.
Norman is a quiet, smart and quirky young man. Where most teenage boys pull away from their mothers at that age, Norman seems too into his mom. His devotion starts out a little odd, but considering the death of his father, it may be excusable. As the series goes on, however, it becomes more and more evident that Norman is having splits with reality. He has blackouts and blanks in his memory and it is from these fugue states that another personality finally emerges. All the while, Highmore pulls off the entire performance seamlessly. His Norman is as disturbing over five seasons as the electric performance of Anthony Perkins in Hitchcock’s original.
Bates Motel lasted 50 episodes over five seasons, garnering critical praise for both Farmiga and Highmore and earning the former an Emmy and Saturn award, while earning the series three People’s Choice Awards.
But really, what do we expect from a family so full of love. These two not only love each other enough to kill for one another, they love each other enough to kill the other. Mother knows best, after all.