Category Archives: Writing

Bates Motel

I was fairly skeptical about Bates Motel when I first heard it had been optioned. I loved the original Psycho, but I didn’t really see a series out of it. A prequel even less. A prequel set in modern times… let’s just say I was doubtful to the point I forgot about it after the initial production news came out.

I kept hearing good buzz about it and then I discovered Vera Farmiga (national treasure) was headlining it and the sell was much easier. I loved her since she was on a little show called Roar with Heath Ledger in the 1990s. Bates Motel was available by episode on Amazon and my sister willingly was talked into buying some episodes.

I have a particularly warped sense of humor so I find this unsettling and tense show delicious. It is particularly delicious because like the movie the villain is the “hero” in that you related to them at times and are terrified of them at times. Norma and Norman move into a weird town, buy the motel, and even with all of their family glitches manage to be compelling, witty, sympathetic, scary, unnerving, and badass. It is an accomplishment that even during a heartwarming scene between two characters you hope no one turns their back because the mood can flip on a dime and there are lots of objects around that are good for bludgeoning

It was brilliant to have them move into a town with its own set of oddities. They have outside adversity as well as inside just in the dynamic between Norma and Norman and you watch them struggle to be even their version of normal and good. I mentioned Vera is fantastic as Norma with her freak outs and flustered determination to make her family work and her dry wit. If she doesn’t get nominations and/or all the awards this year I don’t know what’s wrong with the world.

With such a strong Norma they had to get someone strong for Norman or he’d be overshadowed. As personality dominance is a Psycho thing this couldn’t be ignored. The kid they got, Freddie Highmore, has the chin acting down for the role and his “Mother” is perfect. There is not a whiff of CW about him even though he does have his own high school storyline going on. There are other teens in this show but it isn’t annoying in other words. In fact I look at their scenes and wish more actual Teen Shows would be like this.

Bates Motel manages to open up the Psycho universe to a scope I would have never expected and does it very well. This is my favorite new show this year.

Vikings

This is a show that I think slipped through the cracks for many people. I came into Vikings late through social media. After it was about six episodes in. Between people tweeting their love and pretty tumblr pictures it was hard to ignore for long. Pretty? That was unquestionable. Good though?

The History Channel was putting it on so I was worried it was going to be some kind of history-ish half drama half teachy thing. Hey, I love The Men Who Built America as much as the next person (ok, more than the next person…I’m weird), but I didn’t have time for a Vikings version of that. I wanted an all out scripted drama and that’s what I got.

If you have Game of Thrones burn out this is the show for you. It has every bit as much character goodness and grittiness without the bloated mess that a book translated to television unfortunately has. Instead of having a cast of  thousands it has a small cast but very clear story goals. All I ask of my shows is that they do what they set out to do and Vikings succeeds at the scope it was targeting.

It is an explorers narrative. It is a family story. Brother against brother. It’s a story about a bamf shield maiden. It’s a power struggle between houses. It manages to pull off making two religions feel like living religions. That last doesn’t always translate on tv well. I think the only other show I’ve seen do similar is HBOs Rome.

The scope of the show is both micro and macro in that it revolves around one family, but the context is within the framework of viking expansion and growing influence as explorers. It also does a great job at showing early egalitarianism in Viking culture that shows the early seeds of a superior egalitarian society in the region today. Shield maidens FTW!

Forbrydelsen Series 3

(warning: includes spoilers through series 3)

Forbrydelsen as a show has always played around with the idea of civic responsibility and personal honor. It was almost fitting that the series would come to an end with Sarah Lund once again faced with the impossible task of seeking justice in an indifferent world. A world where even the best of people would be tempted by their own self interest.

In the case of series three we got to meet a lot of people who were tested and ultimately failed at avoiding that temptation. Ironically it was the kidnapper in the active case that made the most sense to to Lund. He understood the weight of his own actions completely and while he strayed into violence he never thought higher of himself than others. He could empathize with the parents of his kidnapping victim, with Lund as she searched for justice in a world indifferent to it, and desperately wanted someone, anyone to empathize with his murdered daughter. A victim inconvenient to so many people. Empathy was his main weapon but no one but Lund was open to feeling it.

The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.
Flannery O’Connor

Choices
In previous seasons Lund was bruised, battered, and brought low by the end of the season. The case would fill her up, but when it was over she was once again empty. Her personal life was a disaster. She was the most alive while acting on behalf of justice. She would fall into obscurity between cases until society would call upon her one more time.

This season started with Lund receiving recognition of a long career. She was moving on to a desk job. She had attempted to start a garden at home even though she had no idea what she was doing and managed to kill all of the plants due to both inattention and trying to grow them in the wrong season. Timing in her personal life was always sadly off. She took in her son’s pregnant girlfriend. Pregnant with a half wanted and half unwanted child. The potential there was not yet realized. Like the plants it was out of season. She ran into her first real love from the academy, and after all those years he had grown into someone almost her equal. He spoke her language of justice and they connected. He was married to someone else though and had a family.

Timing. It was starting to feel like if she was ever going to have a chance at all it would have to be then. The little pieces of a real life were coming together even it was still a dysfunctional one. She could have a half dead garden, a dysfunctional family, and be a home wrecker. For her that was a happy ending and she fought even having that much despite clearly wanting it. She had a chance to live a full life or as close to one as she’d ever get. But she had one last case to get through.

By the end of the show we are at a very familiar situation. Lund knows who the killer in the old case is. The killer that the kidnapper wanted her to catch. The killer no one bothered with for years. The system wanted her to leave him alone though. The evidence was interfered with intentionally and there wasn’t enough left intact to bring him in.

The small bit of evidence she had finally found wasn’t enough to bring him in on it’s own, but it was enough she dared to call him out in private. He confirmed her worst instincts. He killed the girl. He killed girls before. He will kill them again.

The killer recognized her skills, but brushed her off. He was a well connected old man who was more convenient to keep around unpunished than to bring the fabric of the political structure of Denmark down just to bring justice to the death of a nobody. Too much would be disturbed if he and the massive cover up was exposed.

For neither life nor nature cares if justice is ever done or not.
Patricia Highsmith

As the show wound down we found out that all the key players had evidence against this man and all of them were faced with the chance to bring that evidence to the authorities. All of them to a man come up with reasons why they shouldn’t have to though. People who most would consider on the outside to be good people. The progressive politician. The kidnap victim’s father who should feel empathy to the earlier victim who didn’t get a happy ending.

Which left Lund in the car with the killer who would get away and kill more children who live on the fringes of society. She snapped. Got out of the car, opened the back seat door, and shot him in the head without hesitation.

Silent Justice
At the end of series one, Lund and her counterpart Troels, kindred spirits in many ways, were offered two choices. Lund chose the right one which left her as a big inconvenience to those in charge and banished her to lonely barge duty in the middle of no where. Troels chose silence which compromised his personal honor but kept his newly won political position. It was always an interesting question to me as I liked both characters a lot and wanted them to be both happy and right. Not one or the other. I wanted them happy, right and together as they had gone through so much and I’m a romantic at heart, but their different choices would burn that bridge forever.

I find the public passion for justice quite boring and artificial.
Patricia Highsmith

Can you seek justice if society fails to want it? For a person who internalizes the call for justice like Lund does, who exactly was in control when she acted during the time that justice was silent?

Lund seemed so empty at the end. She normally borrows the strength and humanity from the family of the victims who demand justice. That is a welcome burden to her. That is what fills her otherwise listless spirit and is why she seems more alive while deep in a case than at home. In this case, during the final minutes in the car, no one living cared about the long dead girl or was demanding justice for her killer. Lund was cold and empty and searching inside herself for anything. Whatever she found told her what to do and she did it.

I’m not sure what she was thinking after the shooting. During that time her partner was planning out loud on the spot how he’d help her escape with a wad of cash, flimsy documentation, and with a few hours head start. I find it intriguing though.