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Kara’s TV Goodness All-Stars 2013: Bates Motel’s Vera Farmiga

Photo Credit: Kevin Parry / The Paley Center for Media

Photo Credit: Kevin Parry / The Paley Center for Media

I watch a lot of television. A LOT of television. And there’s so much good stuff on TV these days. One performance that really stayed with me this year was Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates. She (more than) deserved the Emmy nomination she received for her work on this show. Now, when I first heard about Bates Motel I was a bit skeptical. Sometimes a re-imagining or a retelling of a classic movie or TV show can go terribly, horribly wrong. But I trust Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin and they haven’t let me down with this show. All of the cast is strong, but Vera Farmiga is a standout.

Now don’t get me wrong. This is not a perfect show, but there’s a lot to like. First and foremost amongst the positives are the performances of the actors and the cast chemistry. I’ve been to a few panels for this show and I’m always struck by how the cast interacts and the way Vera Farmiga talks about her character. I think because she tries to see the humanity in Norma, the audience can connect with her despite what a strange and twisted relationship she has with her son. And it’s strange. So, so strange. But Vera Farmiga makes it real, she makes us buy into it. She makes us root for Norma, no matter what.

And she’s got interesting relationships with the other characters on the show as well. Her romance with Mike Vogel’s Deputy Shelby was a bit strange at first, but ultimately very interesting. Her relationship with her other son, Max Thieriot‘s Dylan,  is tense and fascinating and so different from her relationship with Freddie Highmore‘s Norman. I like how her interactions with Nestor Carbonell‘s Sheriff Romero have evolved and I’d love to see them become true allies in the upcoming season – especially if we’re going to see more villains like Jere Burns‘ Jake Abernathy. He was creepy good. I mean, I’m not sure Norma will ever truly trust and care for anyone the way she does with Norman, but she definitely needs someone else to rely on who isn’t a romantic interest. There’s a lot of crime and many nefarious characters for such a small town. She needs someone other than Norman to be on her side.

But back to Vera Farmiga. Other than her smart and nuanced portrayal of this character, what makes Norma Bates so memorable? She’s a complicated single mother who is trying to do right by her child – a child she knows has a ‘problem.’ She’s a business woman struggling to keep her head above water. She’s an extremely damaged person trying to make a life for herself. And it’s all portrayed with a kind of vulnerability and honesty that you never mistake for weakness. I can’t wait to see what season 2 has in store for Norma and the citizens of this creepy little town.

Season 2 of Bates Motel returns in 2014 on A&E.

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