Bates Motel
First You Dream, Then You Die

Episode Report Card
Jacob Clifton: A+ | 14 USERS: A+
The Cord of Communion
In a hurry? Read the recaplet for a nutshell description!


So the pilot's title refers to Cornell Woolrich, a writer whose life mirrored Norman Bates's in some oddly key ways and whose biographer (whose book bore the same title) has said, "He did in prose what Hitchcock did in film." He was gay, alcoholic, lived on and off with his mother, did well in the movie-option department and seemed like an all-around total genius I would never have otherwise heard of or enjoyed so much as I have in the past few weeks since first googling this phrase.

I think it's more than a wink at the extensive and multivalent connections between Cornell, Norman and Alfred H (and Anthony P), though. As the show itself drifts in its various layers of reference, reversion, reverence and retelling, picking and choosing from things on every layer in order to tell the story it wants to tell, it makes total sense to quote a man whose work influenced Hitchcock and yet who seemed to himself be a Hitchcock character. In fact Rear Window was based on a story of his which -- layer-violating once again -- was a remake of an H.G. Wells short story and so on.

All of which is to say: This is the world we are looking at, a world that pulls equally from all time and cinematic history, from disparate levels of mimesis and simulacrum, biography to fantasy to all and sundry refilmed-remade-rebooted-retellings, equally. The ultimate postmodern (in the actual sense of the term) spin-out and remix of a story that has proven widely and wildly remixable. Over the past week, I've learned that any review of this show that opens with bitching about iPhones is not going to be worth reading, because it has no idea what it's looking at.

This is not even the first Norman Bates story with iPods, for chrissake. A thing I can't remember anybody bringing up all week long. But while Gus van Sant was practicing creative restraint and this is a show is about externalizing the duality of self, one must wonder - why is this the story, why are we continually returning to this particular thing to work out our zeitgeisty-artsy obsessions? When in ten years they develop, I don't know, Smell-O-Vision or four-dimensional timespace dramas or liquid downloadable drinkable movies, there will be a Norman Bates story within the first six months. I guarantee it. Do I really need to tell you why?

It's the soup of culture surrounding the oldest story in history and the oldest fear at the heart of humans. Does the mother overtake the son? Does the son overtake the mother? Male privilege will tell you that the world is about son overtaking father, becoming father, displacing father -- until he's old enough to become one. But that's a story with a beginning and middle and end: This is a story that surrounds you so much you can't even talk about it. You can talk about "legitimate rape" and birth control rights and bake sexism right into the cake, but you can't talk about it. Unless you do it like this: Horribly, horrifically, sadly and deliriously.

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Bates Motel




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