Tag Archives: Vera Farmiga

Those Who Kill joins Bates Motel on A&E

'Those Who Kill' premieres tonight on A&E.

James D’Arcy and Chloe Sevigny star in ‘Those Who Kill’ premiering tonight on A&E.


Just when I think the increasingly threadbare serial-killer crime genre is in the process of fading, along comes another show like Those Who Kill, which premieres tonight on A&E Network following the Season 2 premiere of Bates Motel.
Set in Pittsburgh but based on a successful Danish TV series, Those Who Kill stars Golden Globe winner Chloe Sevigny (Big Love) as recently promoted homicide detective Catherine Jensen. Jensen is a prickly type who frequently ticks off her colleagues with her boundary-crossing style, especially after she insists on teaming up with forensic psychologist Thomas Shaeffer (James D’Arcy). Schaeffer, we soon learn, has an unfortunate history with Catherine’s boss, Frank Bisgaard (James Morrison), who holds Schaeffer responsible for botching one of his own cases in the past.
Still, after Schaeffer leads Catherine (with almost comical speed) to the burial ground her latest quarry is using for his victims, she’s confident he’s the man for the job – even though he has an unsettling knack for connecting a little too deeply with the killer’s psyche.
If Schaeffer is a bit strange, though, Catherine is a pretty odd duck herself. She keeps pictures of the homes of serial killers John Wayne Gacy and Jeffrey Dahmer on her living room wall, and is convinced that a member of her own family is behind the unsolved disappearance of her older brother, who vanished several years ago.
This is the kind of back story that gives an actress several interesting notes to play. I just wish Sevigny didn’t feel compelled to play all of them at once. Sevigny always has been a very … well, let’s say “generous” actress, but her performance in tonight’s premiere is just all over the place, with far too many shrill notes verging on hysteria. Since series pilots often feature broad performances as the cast tries to fill in the rough outlines of their characters, I’m hoping she will dial it back in coming weeks, because frankly I’d hate to live in any large city where this high-strung loose cannon was packing heat.
On the plus side, D’Arcy – a British actor who copes with an American accent reasonably well – is very interesting in his role, and veteran actors Bruce Davison and multiple Emmy winner Kathy Baker will appear in future episodes. Also, the guy running Those Who Kill behind the scenes is Glen Morgan, whose past work on The X-Files leaves me cautiously optimistic for this new show’s prospects.
Fun fact: D’Arcy played Anthony Perkins in Hitchcock, the 2012 theatrical biopic starring Anthony Hopkins in the title role. Which leads us, not a moment too soon, to the welcome return of A&E’s hit thriller Bates Motel, in the time slot immediately preceding Those Who Kill.
As fans may remember, Season 1 faded out on the image of Blair Watson, the high school advisor of Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore), lying dead on the floor of her home, her throat cut. Earlier in the episode, we had seen Miss Watson giving Norman a ride in her car during a torrential downpour. As Norman waited for her to drive him back to the Bates Motel, Miss Watson adjourned to her bedroom to change clothes. Her door slipped ajar, giving Norman a provocative glimpse of the teacher partially undressed. Cut to Norman running home, hellbent for leather, and into his mother’s arms.
Season 2 opens with Norma (Vera Farmiga) getting a robo-call from the school principal informing her of Miss Watson’s death. She asks Norman again about what happened the night before, but all Norman is able to recall are disjointed fragments, none of them particularly stabby.
Flash forward four months, and business is booming at the Bates Motel. Norma is almost – dare I say it? – happy, although she worries that Norman is becoming morbid, practicing taxidermy in the basement when he isn’t making regular trips to Miss Watson’s graveside. (Before you think Norma finally has sharpened her parenting skills, think again: She’s worried Norman’s behavior will make people think she’s a bad mother).
Soon, however, Norma has another distraction to fret about: Work is about to begin on the dreaded highway bypass, long delayed for lack of funding, which would re-route tourists away from the motel. She is not pleased.
That’s only scratching the surface of tonight’s season premiere of Bates Motel, but suffice it to say that, among other things, by the time the hour is up we have reason to wonder whether Norman really did kill Miss Watson. More to the point, Farmiga and Highmore slip back into their mother-son roles effortlessly, picking up one of the most amazing double acts you’ll find anywhere in prime time.
'Bates Motel' returns tonight on A&E.

Max Thieriot (as Dylan), Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore return tonight in ‘Bates Motel’ on A&E.

You’ll want to check out ‘Bates Motel’

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In the opening scene of Bates Motel, the compelling new “contemporary prequel” to Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic 1960 horror film Psycho that premieres tonight on A&E Network, 17-year-old Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) jerks awake in his bed as, behind him, a 1940-ish black-and-white Rosalind Russell movie plays on an old-model TV set. Norman seems disoriented, even drugged, as he hauls himself from his bed and staggers unsteadily down the hall. In the kitchen, an unattended steam iron hisses in disuse, while a meal on the stove simmers messily on the brink of burning. He makes his way into the next room, a garage/work space, to find the bloody and lifeless body of his father lying on the floor.
As a freaked-out Norman races down the hallway to the bathroom where his mother, Norma (Vera Farmiga), is taking a suspiciously leisurely shower, we share his disorientation. Where are we? No, more to the point: WHEN are we?
Flash forward six months from wherever the heck we are. Norma is driving Norman from their former home near Scottsdale, Ariz., to the coastal town of White Pine Bay, Ore., where Norma has bought a ramshackle motel for the two of them to manage. The property, as well as the adjacent house looming above, are virtual clones of the buildings from the Hitchcock film, so it’s only as Norman sits waiting for the bus to take him to school on his first day and we see him listening to music on his smartphone that we realize we’re really in the present day.
It’s an interesting creative decision and one that some critics already have jumped on as a flaw in an otherwise provocative series, but that sense of time being out of joint seems to be very much by design. How else to explain why that distinctly non-digital TV set in the original Bates home in Arizona is tuned to a classic movie channel or, even more striking, there are vinyl LPs playing on a ’60s-style hi-fi console in Norma and Norman’s sinister abode adjacent to the motel?
Given that the show’s two executive producers – Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin – hail from such Emmy-winning shows as, respectively, Lost and Friday Night Lights, I’m inclined to cut them some slack for now, especially since Bates Motel is anchored by two absolutely spellbinding performances by Highmore and Farmiga.
In terms of degree of difficulty, I have to award points to Highmore, the former British child actor who tore your heart out as the little son of doomed Kate Winslet in 2004’s Finding Neverland and took the title role in Tim Burton’s uneven 2005 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Now lean and lanky at 21 in real life and managing a credible American accent, Highmore is inspired casting in a role that previously has been inextricably associated with Anthony Perkins. The show’s creators have indicated in interviews that they hope viewers will grow attached to Norman and his mom in a way that de-emphasizes the grisly events that will, eventually and inevitably, follow and Highmore does a splendid job of playing a younger Norman Bates who is both already seriously damaged yet heartbreakingly salvageable at the time the events in this series play out.
The reason his sad fate is sealed is spelled out by Farmiga’s uncompromising and multifaceted portrayal as a woman who wants to be all things to her son: protector, companion, confidante, even surrogate lover. Watching her scenes, you get a sense that this actress, who has been plugging away for so many years without the appreciation she deserves, recognized a career-changing role when she saw it, because she delivers an utterly fearless performance. Her Norma is determined to keep Norman bound to her in a you-and-me-against-the-world dynamic, and what she does to assure that is one of the creepiest things about Bates Motel.
By the end of the premiere episode, we’ve seen (probably) two murders, a violent attempted rape, plus evidence of a sex slave ring, with hints to follow that this Pacific Northwestern community is so kinky that somewhere there’s a diner that serves a damn good cherry pie (Cuse has freely acknowledged that Twin Peaks is an integral part of the show’s DNA).
This early 2013 TV season includes such other serial killer projects as the popular but probability-stretching The Following on Fox and NBC’s upcoming and very bleak Hannibal, but it’s Farmiga and Highmore’s dazzling double act that will keep me checking into Bates Motel week after week. It’s wonderful to see A&E, once a front-runner in terms of original dramatic programming, raise itself out of the muck of low-budget reality shows to deliver such an audacious new original. Bravo.