Bates Motel: Season One showers its episodes onto Blu-ray with this 2-Disc set. The blissfully odd series gets a solid presentation in the picture and sound department, with a small group of bonus features included to garnish the package. This is an undeniably well-made series, but it’s difficult to think of who this will appeal to as a long-term proposition.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 7 Hrs. 14 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, UltraViolet
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 09/17/2013
Bates Motel: Season One brings the new A&E series to disc with a collection that includes all 10 episodes of the opening season. This is a great-looking series, full of interesting levels of detail and elements of multiple periods. And yet, it’s difficult to think of who the target audience is. The story is fairly macabre material, digging once again into the demons haunting Norman Bates and showing us how they got there. The short version, for people who shamefully have never seen the Alfred Hitchcock movie, is that this is odd territory. The series concerns itself with Norma Bates (Farmiga) and her son Norman (Highmore) and their interaction with the town where they’ve relocated. The Bates mother and son are strange enough to see, but the series ups the ante by making the town even stranger than the heroes. There is a notion that only in an insane world could a crazy man seem sane. So it follows that in the insane world of White Pine Bay, perhaps even characters as touched as these might seem almost normal by comparison. Almost.
The Production Rating: 3/5
SPOILERS: For those who are familiar with Psycho or its sequels, this series will play as a kind of prequel. It’s not a true prequel in that it’s more of a reboot. The story of the series, with Norman and Norma relocating to Oregon to run the iconic Bates Motel, takes place a good 20 years before the events that will eventually happen in Psycho. But the story of the series also takes place in modern day, with characters using iPhones and speaking nothing like what we heard in Robert Bloch’s book or Alfred Hitchcock’s movie. The trick here is that anyone who has seen Psycho already knows how this story must play out. Just as the Star Wars prequels told the story of how Darth Vader came to be a villain, Bates Motel is ostensibly telling us how Norman Bates came to be a schizophrenic killer. And we can really see the seeds being laid here. Norma Bates is a study in a variety of issues, including wild mood swings and a violent streak – not to mention her control over her son. Norman himself is already awash with problems, including an unfortunate tendency to black out and then not remember the bad things he does in a fugue state. It’s fairly clear how this picture will wind up turning out, with these as the main puzzle pieces.
MORE SPOILERS: But Carlton Cuse and Kelly Ehrin, the showrunners of the series, are not satisfied for this series to just be about Norman’s descent into madness and mayhem. So they’ve located the Bates Motel in this universe near the town of White Pine Bay, a coastal community that bears some striking similarities to Twin Peaks. There are all kinds of unhappy secrets hiding behind every picket fence here, or so it seems. And the series makes the most out of them, including plugging in an estranged older brother for Norman, Dylan (Max Thieriot), who winds up getting in plenty of trouble on his own. With these as the ingredients to the stew, the stage is set for a truly odd series – with elements of horror and rich character being thrown alongside each other in ways that are blissfully strange to see. The showrunners are essentially trying to combine the elements of a David Lynch movie and a Hitchcock suspense thriller. At times this works, at other times, it’s just unsettling. There is a deliberate sense of timelessness to the show – with the story taking place in the present day but multiple elements evoking a strong feeling of earlier times – from Norma’s older Mercedes to a teacher’s retro hairstyle to costumes that range in period but usually settle in an ND area a couple of decades before now. The setting evokes The Birds at times, and many of the shots have compositions that are quite reminiscent of Hitchcock’s style. And at the same time, there’s that Lynchian eccentricity running through many of the characters. So the viewer will have to decide for themselves if this cocktail really works. For myself, the jury’s still out. But whatever the overall verdict is, the cast and creative team have made a solid effort to paint a picture of a world here.
The Blu-ray set includes all 10 episodes of the second season in 1080p HD picture and DTS-HD MA 5.1 sound, along with a few deleted scenes and a panel discussion of the series from the Paley Center for the Arts.
The home video release of this set came on September 17, giving viewers plenty of time to pick up this show before the Halloween weekend hits.
DISC BY DISC:
As I regularly do with TV series sets, I will describe what can be found on each disc, in order. The deleted scenes are all presented in high definition picture (VC-1 encoding) and 2.0 sound.
There are chapters to each episode, but they are not in any menu, so you wind up needing to jump through the episode blindly to get back to a specific point.
First You Dream, Then You Die, with deleted scenes (5:21)
Nice Town You Picked, Norma…, with deleted scenes (2:11)
What’s Wrong With Norman
Trust Me, with a deleted scene (0:24)
Ocean View, with deleted scenes (2:35)
The Man in #9, with a deleted scene (1:13)
A Boy and His Dog, with a deleted scene (0:57)
Underwater, with deleted scenes (3:38)
Midnight, with deleted scenes (3:33)
Bates Motel: Season One is presented in a 1080p AVC transfer that shows off a lot of detail, from the fabric of the wardrobe and the set dressing inside the Bates House to the Canadian locations seen in the series.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
Bates Motel: Season One is presented in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix (at an average 4.0 mbps) that is actually a bit more aggressive and directional than one would normally expect from a television series. Given that this is a genre show and given its eccentricity, it’s appropriate that the mix is this immersive.
Audio Rating: 4/5
As noted above, both discs contain deleted scenes from various episodes. The scenes can be accessed per individual episode or via a "Play All" option for the deleted scenes on each disc.
Special Features Rating: 2.5/5
In addition, Disc 2 also contains:
Paley Center Panel Discussion with the Cast and Creative Team (45:39, 480p, 4x3) – This is a standard definition recording of a panel discussion held earlier this year at the Paley Center to discuss the series. It’s an interesting Q&A which leads off with Carlton Cuse saying, with tongue in cheek, “We pretty much ripped off Twin Peaks…”
Ultraviolet – An insert in the packaging offers an authorization code for downloading and streaming Ultraviolet copies of the episodes.
Collector Cards – Also included in the packaging are four collector cards featuring sketch artwork from the character Jiao’s notebook.
Bates Motel: Season One is a good collection of the initial season of the A&E suspense drama. On a technical level, this is a fine Blu-ray, with solid picture and sound and a nice Q&A included along with some deleted scenes. On a creative level, it’s hard to know what to think of the series. It’s a hybrid of Hitchcockian staging and Lynchian characters. When it works, the result is blissfully strange and even hypnotic. When it doesn’t quite catch fire, the show seems a bit eccentric. How viewers react to the series may depend on their familiarity with Psycho and Twin Peaks. The show is certainly well made. The question now is whether the story is bearing satisfying results.
Overall Rating: 3/5
Reviewed By: Kevin EK
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