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'Bates Motel' season 1 recap: Catching up with a killer family

With season 2 at our throats, we wanted to catch up with the teenage Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) in a recap of season 1 of Bates Motel, a modernized TV prequel of 1960 horror classic Psycho. This post is one giant spoiler, so if you haven’t watched the first season, consider yourself warned.

How much can one psycho-in-training endure? Norman is stretched to the limit of his insanity in the first season: Dad dies, momster Norma (Vera Farmiga) butchers someone by the end of episode 1, Norman navigates the treacherous world of high school mean girls and a teacher dies mysteriously after trying to seduce our emo anti-hero.

Creator Carlton Cuse promises no incest, a prime motivator of franchised serial killer Norman Bates — yet. The season 2 trailer would have you think otherwise, though, with lots of creepy mother-and-son intertwining.

Bates Motel: Norman and Norma get cozy

Like this cozy moment in the photo to the right — what’s happening there? Never mind. As Cuse told EW’s James Hibberd, “There’s creepy and then there’s too creepy.”

Season 1 rehash:
Episode 1, season 1 kicks off the introductions with Norman discovering his dad dead in the garage. Mother and son then move to seemingly quiet town of White Pine Bay to take up management of a motel, which comes with an unnerving — but fully furnished! — California Gothic home. The sleazy former owner of the house and motel, Keith Summers (W. Earl Brown), enraged over losing the family property in foreclosure, comes calling one too many times; a violent rape scene ends with Mama Bates knifing the perpetrator — repeatedly and emphatically. Norma convinces her son to help cover up the scene to avoid negative publicity, saying, “Who is going to book a room in the rape-slash-murder motel?” Right. Onward.

Bates Motel: Norma butchers her rapistNosy Sheriff Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) complicates the family’s existence throughout the season, starting with his near-discovery of the series premiere’s bloody-corpse-behind-the-shower-curtain ode to Hitchcock’s 1960 film. He later finds a hand, the tenacious bastard.

Dylan (Max Thieriot), Norma’s slacker son from a previous marriage, shows up, much to mom’s chagrin. Meantime, Norma gets hot and heavy with young Deputy Sheriff Zack Shelby (Mike Vogel), who — according to Norman — hides an Asian sex slave in his basement. Norma has admitted her son’s tendency to see things that aren’t there, but this time the tale is true! Between this, a very likely case of PTSD and her arrest for the rapist’s murder — despite an elaborate effort to dispose of the body — Norma’s head explodes.

Throughout the season, Norman has been dancing around the affections of his cute gal pal Emma (Olivia Cooke) and the attentions of pretty, popular girl Bradley (Nicola Peltz). When Bradley’s dad dies, Norman comforts her — overnight. Norman faces the next day with a skip in his step, and promptly finds out his mom has been arrested. Buzz kill. Mom lays on the guilt trip, while Norman bets the house to secure her release.

Bates Motel: Norman's taxidermy lesson from Emma's dadSeveral shady characters, a couple of broken hearts, the death of the slaver deputy and a drug ring later, Norman is jumping out of his skin and finds solace in practicing some amateur taxidermy. “Once you get past the blood and the guts of it all, it’s really quite beautiful work,” says Emma’s taxidermist dad Will (Ian Hart), “if you’re at all artistic, which I have a feeling you might be.” That’s our Norman: the burgeoning artist. Will later chastises skeptical Norma: “What’s the harm in letting a young person follow their passion? What could go wrong with that?” Oh, I don’t know — maybe ask his dog. (R.I.P., Juno.)

We also eventually find out in flashback that Norman smacked his dad upside the head with a blender, killing him, when dad assaulted Norma. Grateful mom covered up the deed as a household accident. Norman had a brain malfunction, blocked out the incident and later “found” his dad dead in the garage.

It’s worth noting some of the other wonderful character actors who turn up in season 1: Jere Burns, who also appears in FX series Justified as mob-tied menace Wynn Duffy, shows up here as sex ring-tied menace Jake Abernathy; Continuum’s Ian Tracey appears as Dylan’s literal partner-in-crime Remo; and Hiro Kanagawa has the pleasure, as therapist Dr. Kurata, of recommending to Norma Bates that she consider therapy. “I’ve noticed you have a strong influence on Norman. Maybe a need to control things?” the astute doctor asks. “People who feel the need to control everything often, in actuality, feel out of control on the inside. Do you ever feel that way?” Norma: “No. I don’t. I feel completely in control of everything in my life.” Mmm-hmm.

Then she finds the mangled corpse of Deputy Shelby in her bed. ‘Splode!

An encounter with some mouthy stoners renting rooms at the motel is the final straw: “We’re moving!” When Norma takes real steps to relocate, however, Norman isn’t ready to give up his new life and friends in White Pine Bay. That’s cool; there’s no market for the property now that a highway bypass plan is moving forward. The real estate agent who sold her the place incurs Norma’s wrath.

Bates Motel: Abernathy threatens NormaI’m trying to decide if I feel sorry for Norma. She can certainly be the architect of her own misery at times, but given her recurring victimhood (child abuse, rape, stalking), her paranoia isn’t always off base — as when Abernathy threatens to kill her and her boys if she doesn’t turn over $150,000 that Shelby owed him from the sex slave ring. Farmiga, Emmy-nominated for this character, plays Norma’s grating hysteria with such panache that, in the end, you can’t help but root for her. Sort of.

Sheriff Romero, at least, has come to an understanding with crazy Norma to cover up his deputy’s criminal activities. The sheriff later kills Abernathy, an act Norma witnesses. “You can go home now, Norma,” he says, calling her out of her hidey-hole. “When I say ‘trust me,’ trust me.”

Meanwhile, teacher Miss Watson closes in on Norman, heaping on the flattery, suggesting after-school meetups and generally thrusting her empathy at him. This proves to be a mistake. She later picks him up as he walks home after a disastrous school dance, in which his date ditches him and Bradley’s boyfriend lays him out, and takes him back to her place to “clean up that eye.” Huge mistake. Massive. She ministers to the eye, then slips into something more comfortable — to drive him home, she says. Norman watches her change through a crack in the door, then hallucinates that his mother sits across from him railing against his teacher for her indecency. He blacks out, and his mother — the real one, not fantasy mom — discovers him running home through the rain. Mom and son decide to build a cozy fire. A shot of Miss Watson, throat slashed, closes the season.

“You have to try to fit in, Norman. You can’t go around being so emotional,” Norma says earlier in the season. When season 2 fires up, we’re sure to see him not take that advice. Repeatedly and emphatically.


Bates Motel, rated TV-14, reopens Monday, March 3 at 9/8C on A&E.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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