TV review: The craziness of “Bates Motel” is at least entertaining

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From the February 27, 2014 edition

A rash of serial killer-centric series cropped up on television last year. “Bates Motel,” a modern-day prequel to the events of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” wasn’t the worst of these shows — hello “The Following” — but it took some time to find its footing.

Early episodes were mostly just, “Hey look, it’s Norman Bates and his mother” — only younger for the former and not dead for the latter. But as “Bates Motel” evolved and incorporated the town and townspeople where the infamous hotel was located, the series improved.

“Bates Motel” is still flawed to some extent, but worthwhile aspects of the series exist. The best part of “Bates Motel” is Vera Farmiga’s performance as Norma Bates. Farmiga manages to make Norma creepy, but caring in her relationship with Norman (Freddie Highmore, who’s also doing solid work here).

“Bates Motel” works best if you don’t take it too seriously because there’s a fairly huge suspension of disbelief required to accept all the machinations (countless murders, human trafficking and drug dealers) happening in the tranquil town of White Pine Bay. There were plenty of ridiculous plot movements in Season 1, but it worked out to create a zany (and amusing) atmosphere.

And even more craziness is happening in the Season 2 premiere. Last season ended with the cliffhanger death of Miss Watson, who may or may not have been murdered by Norman. The fallout is about as crazy as the original murder, even if it’s never made clear if Norman actually did the deed. He’s obsessed with Miss Watson’s murder, and is repeatedly visiting her grave.

While Norman’s creepiness is beginning to bubble over, some other townspeople — most notably Bradley (Nicola Peltz) — are getting in to some effed-up shenanigans. It’s kind of tough to swallow, but at least “Bates Motel” has proved it can rip through storylines (and characters) at a rapid pace.

“Bates Motel” will probably never be a great series due to its out-there nature, but it has shown the ability to be entertaining through its outrageousness.

Photo courtesy A&E