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You Should Be Watching: 'Bates Motel'

If you've seen Alfred Hitchcock's classic 1960 horror film “Psycho,” you probably think you know Norman Bates. But every deranged killer has his own story.

Bates Motel” takes you inside the mind of Norman Bates and how he arrived at all that depravity. The fifth and final 10-episode season premieres Feb. 20.

Title: “Bates Motel”

Year it began: 2013

Where it can be seen: A&E, Amazon, iTunes

Who's in it: Vera Farmiga, Freddie Highmore, Max Thieriot, Nestor Carbonell, Olivia Cooke

Typical episode length: 45 minutes

Number of episodes to date: 40

Brief plot description: A contemporary prequel to the classic horror tale “Psycho,” exploring the teenage years of Norman Bates while set in the modern-day Pacific Northwest.

Why it's worth watching: “Bates Motel” brims with death and sex. Some characters are compelling and a few subplots are a little unorthodox. But it's the complicated relationship between Norman Bates (Highmore) and his mother, Norma Bates (Farmiga), that's at the fascinating center of the story.

Even though viewers know what Norman becomes, the show doesn't take the easy, I-could-have-guessed-this-is-where-it's-going road to get there. There's depth to the journey. The family's got troubles – chief among them abuse, violence and mental illness. Still this unbalanced boy and his over-protective parent strive to have a normal family.

White Pine Bay, Ore., seems like a quiet little town, but everybody has a secret. Norma and Norman sometimes find themselves in trouble through no fault of their own, but also often can't escape their own baggage.

Highmore, who has appeared in films including “Finding Neverland” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (2005), and who wrote one of the episodes in the show's fourth season, depicts Norman in a way that's both ominous and sympathetic. Yes, he will eventually become the psychotic killer made infamous on film, but he also attends school dances, has a pet dog and wants to fit in among his peers.

Farmiga, whose films include “The Conjuring” and “The Departed” and who was nominated for an Emmy for best actress in a drama series in 2013 for this role, is brilliant throughout the series. As the fourth season draws to a close – when the story hits a major plot point and gets even a bit more disturbing – Farmiga continues to shine. Hurry up, you've got two weeks to catch up.


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