The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - FEATURE - Emma Cox

I t’s one of the scari­est scenes in the his­tory of cinema – a beau­ti­ful blonde mo­tel guest tak­ing a shower screams in ter­ror as she’s stabbed to death by an un­seen killer. The film, of course, was Al­fred Hitch­cock’s clas­sic 1960 nerve-jan­gler Psy­cho, and the killer turned out to be Nor­man Bates, the po­lite but odd owner of the mo­tel that the vic­tim, Marion Crane, had made the mis­take of check­ing in to. Nor­man, in spite of his bon­homie, was suf­fer­ing se­ri­ous men­tal ill­ness and kept his mother’s corpse in his eerie house on the hill.

But what caused Nor­man’s de­scent into mad­ness and was his mother re­ally to blame, as he claimed? These are the ques­tions at the heart of a new TV pre­quel, Bates Mo­tel, which in­tro­duces us to a 17-year-old Nor­man years be­fore Marion – played by Janet Leigh – met her end. Fas­ci­nat­ingly, we also see his mother Norma alive and well and get to meet his half-brother.

Young Nor­man is played by English ac­tor Fred­die Highmore, 21, best known for Char­lie And The Cho­co­late Fac­tory, who says, ‘The show ex­plores what made Nor­man psy­cho. Was he des­tined to be­come a se­rial killer, was it his mother, was it mov­ing to a dodgy lit­tle town full of strange char­ac­ters?

‘Norma and Nor­man neg­a­tively im­pact on each other, but can’t live without each other. They’re soul part­ners. Per­haps part­ners in crime, too.’

At the start of the Emmy-nom­i­nated se­ries, mother and son are seen ar­riv­ing in a new town af­ter Nor­man finds his fa­ther dead. Hop­ing for a fresh start, Nor­man throws him­self into school and is pop­u­lar with his fe­male class­mates. But his jeal­ous mother – played by Vera Farmiga, who was Os­car-nom­i­nated for her role in Up In The Air – gets ever more con­trol­ling, bar­ring Nor­man from go­ing out and emo­tion­ally black­mail­ing him into help­ing dec­o­rate their new guest house. When tragedy strikes and deputy sher­iff Zack Shelby comes knock­ing, the re­la­tion­ship takes a wor­ry­ing turn. Even­tu­ally, charm­ing and em­pa­thetic Nor­man will de­velop the split per­son­al­ity, so chill­ingly por­trayed by An­thony Perkins in Psy­cho.

The film of­fered Fred­die lots of re­search ma­te­rial but Norma was a blank can­vas for Vera. She says, ‘I ac­tu­ally think she’s an amaz­ing mother. I’d have han­dled things very dif­fer­ently, but she’s just do­ing what she thinks is right as a pro­tec­tor. So it’s a love story, ex­plor­ing that dy­namic kind of love be­tween a mother and a son.’

With the se­ries al­ready a hit in the US and se­ries two in pro­duc­tion, Bates Mo­tel is def­i­nitely worth a visit. Bates Mo­tel is on Thurs­days at 9pm on Universal Chan­nel

NOR­MAN BATES (Fred­die Highmore) Quiet, hand­some and sweet-na­tured, Nor­man is a hit with the lo­cal girls and en­joys set­tling into his new home town. But is he re­ally all he ap­pears to be? NORMA BATES (Vera Farmiga) A griev­ing widow de­voted to her son, Norma’s not ready to let Nor­man have the free­dom he craves – and a shock­ing in­ci­dent makes her even less keen to cut the apron strings.

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