Linux on Film: Bates Motel Season 3

Bates Motel doesn't get as much press as other shows on TV, but it's a well-written thriller/drama set in a small town where a perpetually dysfunctional family struggles with emotional and psychological baggage while trying to make ends meet.  Unfortunately, Norma and Norman Bates' history and psychological makeup aren't the only challenges as a thoroughly American lifestyle of secrets, corruption and crime prevent any form of peaceful existence.

Season 3 fast forwards Norman's psychological issues which were only hinted at in season 1 and season 2. Amidst the drama between Norma Bates' incestuous brother, Norman's growing mental illness and the aftermath of the drug bust that crushed the primary industry of the small town, Norma Bates is handed a password-protected USB flash drive by a dying prostitute.


"Take care of this flash drive . . . it's 9.99 at" Norma Bates receives a bloody USB drive. Screen capture from Bates Motel Season 3, episode 3.

Norma later falls into the common misconception that all Asians are computer geniuses and approaches an uninterested computer user at a coffee shop for help in accessing the contents. The perturbed gentleman questions how an ordinary looking housewife/mother can encrypt a flash drive and bluntly says she needs the password.


"Look lady, just because I have a now-obsolete Sony laptop, an expensive headset and I'm really good at FPS games, doesn't mean I can break into that USB stick!" Screen capture from Bates Motel Season 3, episode 4.

An episode later, it was a pretty boy weed addict called Gunner who is able to break into the USB flash drive using an ASUS laptop with a Linux desktop. The camera lingers on the laptop screen and although it's blurred, most Linux users will immediately notice a top Panel looking remarkably like that found on Lubuntu. Although most of the icons and shortcuts are removed, the network symbols are unmistakable, as are the window borders of the PCMANFM file manager.

Lubuntu to the rescue! Screen capture from Bates Motel Season 3, episode 7.

Gunner exclaims that he was able to access the files because he previously downloaded movies and uploaded them to the Internet. Now, I'm not sure why the writers thought it was a good idea associating two very different tasks: movie piracy using torrents or through Usenet isn't the same as cracking a password protected flash drive. Moreover, if the encryption on the USB flash drive was executed using Windows 7/8.1 Pro, it's not exactly rocket science to figure out the limitations of the FAT file table or use a heuristic program to figure out the password. Still, seeing Linux on film is certainly appreciated.

"OMG. When is Vivid releasing the next Avengers XXX parody?" Sheriff Romero discovers the contents of the USB drive. Screen capture from Bates Motel Season 3, episode 4.

Bates Motel is an excellent show and never dissolves into camp or cheap deaths or scares (unlike shallow shows like Walking Dead). When Norman Bates exhibits the signature reveal from the original Psycho (1960) movie in Season 3, it's a disturbing and well-thought out scene that chills the watcher's blood to the core. Unlike other shows, the cast's performance is heartfelt and nuanced. The town is incredibly normal by TV standards despite the handful of deaths and the marijuana farm. Vera Farmiga, who was excellent in Up in the Air (2009) with George Clooney, behaves like everything you would come to expect from a neurotic struggling mother with a difficult upbringing. She's petty, temperamental, selfish and shallow, but also charming, generous, caring and dedicated.


"I'm going to go Miley Cyrus on you any moment now. . . " Vera Farmiga grins in a screen capture from Bates Motel Season 3

Freddie Highmore, who portrays the young Norman Bates, has the most difficult role of all as his character vacillates between calm and kindness to outright chilling madness. Apart from his odd monotone speech, which is not uncommon in teenagers today obsessed with smartphones, social media and tablets, Highmore never uses cheap facial tics to depict the crumbling psyche behind his clean-cut facade.


"I can never portray Spider-Man/Peter Parker after this show! The kids would scream!" Highmore makes for the perfect Norman Bates in this screen capture from Season 3.

TV shows today look like a men's and women's catalog of models. Yes, Max Thieriot and Olivia Cooke are both gorgeous but you hardly notice as they work through their relationships with the main characters. Thieriot played the bad boy very well in the first two seasons but reveals a subtler vulnerable trait that makes him the perfect contrast to his half-brother Norman, who is only superficially in control of his human side. Both of them are devoted to family but express their commitment differently.


"I know I'm adopted. My real mom's Sarah Connor and I'm supposed to save the future." Max Thieriot, who is the spitting image of Thomas Dekker from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008), is the bad boy/nice guy Dylan.

As with old 50s and 60s thriller/detective movies, you can't go without a lovely, innocent girl caught in all the psychotic chaos. Olivia Cooke is criminally underused in Bates Motel, but with good reason. The gorgeous Brit's Emma is too distracting physically and her presence as a character with terminal cystic fibrosis will certainly defuse much of the show's tension if she was constantly on screen. Cooke, however, got to show off her beauty in an intentionally sexy opening early on in season 3.


"How can you not love me? I'm hot, terminally ill and British!"

Last, but certainly not least, is Nestor Carbonell, the somewhat amoral Sheriff Alex Romero. Carbonell provides both security to the cast of characters and hard reality to the sometimes elevated psychological drama of Bates Motel. In many ways, his character arcs further anchor the show to today's America and ensures the show doesn't become too much of a family drama.


Ok, why is it that in movies and TV shows today no one washes their hands before holding a USB flash drive? So maybe cloud storage doesn't make much of a plot twist, but it sure is more practical when someone is chasing you!


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