Like Norman Bates of Alfred Hitchcock's classic thriller Psycho, the producers behind A&E's new drama series Bates Motel seem to be of two minds.
A&E's prequel, which premieres Monday at 10/9c and stars Finding Neverland's Freddie Highmore as a teenage Norman Bates, seeks to tell audiences how a young man grows up to be a taxidermy-loving killer. The answer posited by Hitchcock's film is that Norman was driven insane by his overprotective mother Norma, played here by Vera Farmiga.
First Look: Norman Bates gets creepy in Bates Motel
But Norman's relationship with Emma opens up portions of the story that are wholly original. After Norman discovers a hand-drawn manga book in one of the hotel rooms, he and Emma begin investigating the possibility that a sex slavery ring exists in White Pine Bay. (Their detective work also uncovers huge marijuana fields in the woods, which seem to provide the town's true economy.)
As the drama mounts, Norman begins to crack and shows the first hints of the killer the audience knows he's destined to become. Or is he? "The film is not really a reference point that we really want to be dwelling on too much," Cuse says. "This is not a study in comparative literature. We're really trying to design this show to be watched completely on its own merits. If you're a fan of the original movie, you'll appreciate certain references and homages. ... [But] we're trying to avoid re-telling Hitchcock's story."
In fact, Norman 's first kill may not even come in the first season. "Our goal for this first season was to really establish a mythology for Norma and Norman ... and it's a lot different than what you might imagine," Cuse says. "Our goal is to make you really love and care about Norma and Norman. The show is built for a number of seasons. It is a show that we see having a beginning, a middle and an end, and we're really just telling the beginning in the first season."
Bates Motel premieres Monday at 10/9c on A&E.