If you watch #BatesMotel on A&E, you're no doubt aware of how impressive the acting and storytelling has been. Bates just started its fifth and final season, so we are all getting ready to say goodbye to White Pine Bay.
In the beginning, Bates Motel was an uncomfortable subject for many fans. After the rather terrible 1998 remake of Psycho, a horror fans (and TV viewers in general) were skeptical about the concept of a modern-day version of the Norman Bates story. I shared that doubt, but the overall reception has been quite positive since the show's debut back in 2013. Bates Motel currently holds a 91 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. And Freddie Highmore deserves much of the credit for the show's improbable success.
How Freddie Highmore Exceeded Expectations
In addition to people being nervous about the show's premise in general, the casting was confusing at first. Sure, everyone seemed open to the idea of Vera Farmiga playing Norman Bates' mother, but the casting of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory star Freddie Highmore was a more difficult sell. Especially after the lackluster performance of Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates, the chances that anyone would ever match Anthony Perkins' classic performance seemed slim.
To the surprise of many, the pairing of Freddie Highmore and Vera Farmiga has been pretty much perfect since the first season. The two have great chemistry. Their on-screen relationship has been a treat to watch as the show has grown. Highmore has proven to be a powerhouse on his own, especially now that Farmiga's character has taken a backseat to the psyche of his main character, Norman Bates.
Throughout the existing four seasons, Norman transformed from a seemingly sweet, soft-spoken teenager to the nerve-wracking image of a dangerously split psyche. As a viewer, we can scream at the television screen all we want and tell these characters to stay away from Norman, but the actual character still has no idea what the real problem is.
That's the real challenge of this role. It's difficult enough to play a mentally ill character. It's even more of a challenge to play a character with a split personality who doesn't even know he's mentally ill.
Highmore's portrayal of Norman Bates is utterly convincing. He has more than exceeded any expectations that were set for the portrayal of Norman Bates, and brought a lot of things to the show that I don't think any of us expected to see.
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Should 'Bates Motel' Earn Freddie Highmore An Emmy?
The horror show has yet to receive significant awards recognition. Bates Motel has just three #Emmy nominations, three People's Choice Awards and four Critics Choice Awards. The lack of recognition is somewhat frustrating.
The way Highmore has portrayed this character, pushing himself to playing two characters at the same time is unforgettable. Not only is Norman himself, but he is now the incarnation of his mother — just like in the 1960 film Psycho. We're only a few episodes into Season 5, but it's clear Highmore has not taken the character's evolution lightly.
I was blown away by this week's episode, "Bad Blood," as it showed just how much work Highmore has put into creating his own version of Norman's mother, Norma. Actually seeing him in the dress and blonde wig was jarring (and exciting) enough, but it all came down to the way Highmore portrays each of his characters. He literally walks and talks just like his costar, Vera Farmiga. He channeled her mannerisms and her tone, basically becoming the character that she's portrayed for the past four seasons.
Seeing how Sarah Paulson finally got an Emmy this past year for her portrayal of Marcia Clark in The People v. O.J. Simpson, I don't see why the Television Academy wouldn't recognize Highmore for an equally impressive performance.
We are seeing Norma and Norman Bates being portrayed in the same show by the same actor. Paulson's Emmy was a long deserved achievement, and I feel that it should serve as an example of how a lot of hard work can pay off — even if it takes awhile.
What Freddie Highmore has brought to the table has upped the ante. With this final season of Bates Motel, we are basically watching Highmore act against himself in every episode. Along with the fantastic editing to splice what he is doing as Norma with what Farmiga is doing, sometimes it is hard to keep a grasp on exactly which version of Highmore we are watching. He's absolutely killing it, and has been doing just as good of a job since the show debuted in 2013.
I hope that the hard work finally is recognized, because not only does the show in general deserve it, but I would hate to see Freddie Highmore walk away from this show with no Emmy to show for it.