ByCourtney Dial, writer at
Scientist by day. Horror film aficionado by night.
Courtney Dial

Most fans are hesitant when it comes to backstories not written by the original creator. This is no different with Bates Motel. Alfred Hitchcock created such an intense and iconic universe in Psycho that any attempt to recreate it failed. However, Bates Motel took an entirely different approach, making this endeavor completely effective. Not only did it win over fans of Psycho, but it also gained new fans along the way. The elements that made this series victorious in its quest to expand Hitchcock's universe are unraveled below.

1. Filling In The Time Before Psycho: The Backstory Of Norman And Norma

This sequence of the series spanned a grand total of four seasons, and a couple episodes in Season 5. Although so much was covered, in the interest of trying to keep the spoilers to a minimum, we'll only discuss one major theme: Bates Motel created sympathy for Norman in an unanticipated way.

The creators of the series expanded on an idea that Hitchcock set in place: making Norman lovable. During the first sequences of , where Norman (Anthony Perkins in Hitchcock's version) is in the forefront, he seems sweet, quirky and generally a "good guy." The creators of expanded on this idea, explaining why viewers feel a certain way about Norman. We see this interesting dynamic between Norman (Freddie Highmore) and Norma (Vera Farmiga) and, of course, the Oedipus complex front and center.

However, Norman’s psychosis is also abundantly clear throughout the course of the show, explaining some of Norman's odd behavior towards his mother. We grow close to Norman and genuinely want him to make it through this difficult situation and defeat his mental illness.

'Bates Motel' [Credit: A&E Networks / NBC Universal TV]
'Bates Motel' [Credit: A&E Networks / NBC Universal TV]

The addition of characters such as Dylan (Max Thieriot) and Emma (Olivia Cooke) also helps establish this sense of sympathy for Norman, as we are allowed to look inside his personal life and see that all of these people care for him and are trying to help him. With that being said, we also have the incorporation of characters like Romero (Nestor Carbonell), who was enjoyable at first introduction, but towards the end of the show he only serves to heighten Norman's psychosis.

2. Paying Homage To A Classic

Once the elements of the film start materializing in Bates Motel, everything begins to fall into its place for the events of Psycho to play out. There is even a reboot of the iconic scene were Norman and Marion (Rihanna) are talking in the back office, with the predator birds looming overhead, as well as traditional characters such as Sam Loomis (Austin Nichols) making a reemergence. However, instead of making the mistake that the remake of Psycho (1998) starring Vince Vaughn made, Bates Motel adds a twist from the original storyline and dives into a completely new series of events.

Characters who were seen as good guys throughout the course of Psycho (1960) are shown in quite a different landscape. In short, Bates Motel paid homage to Hitchcock while still serving the audience something new. This tactic keeps the audience interested in the show's storyline and, in turn, show what would happen to Norman in the end.

3. Successfully Closing A New Storyline

If you didn’t cry at the end of Bates Motel then you’re either lying or probably dead inside (who hurt you?). By the show's closing, Norman has committed several horrendous acts of violence, arguably worse than what is originally portrayed in Psycho. However, with his psychosis being presented with such believable verisimilitude, it is hard not to feel bad for Norman.

His mother, or other personality rather, has been wreaking havoc on his body (and others) without his control. Norman doesn’t need to be locked up for the rest of his life — he needs help. As the last two episodes began to wind down, the audience had to wonder how the showrunners were going to tie up so many loose ends. They completed this tie-up brilliantly through the use of our empathy for Dylan, which was a complete and total tear jerker moment. It left the audience thinking about the show long after it was over, which is a mark of any successful film or television show.

'Bates Motel' [Credit: A&E Networks / NBC Universal TV]
'Bates Motel' [Credit: A&E Networks / NBC Universal TV]

Its difficult to expand on a universe that has already been cemented in people's minds for so many years. Not only did Bates Motel do this extremely successfully, but this television series also created a universe distinct from Psycho. Viewers who were not originally fans of Psycho could be fans of Bates Motel and become enticed by the story nonetheless. From now on, people will see Norman Bates in a different light, signifying that Bates Motel was triumphant in their attempt at developing this iconic universe.

What other elements of Hitchcock's work did you pick up on in Bates Motel?


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