Freddie Highmore as Norman and Vera Farmiga as Bates in a scene from A&E's… (Assosicated Press /A&E…)
"Bates Motel": It is impossible for me to overstate how truly fabulous Vera Farmiga's performance is in the crazy, creepy yet emotionally resonant prequel to "Psycho." The setting is "Twin Peaks"-evocative and the writing is terrific, if a bit overly concerned with making every person in the mythical White Pine Bay, Ore., (which is really Canada) Not Quite What They Seem. All the actors are solid, especially Freddie Highmore as a young sweater-tugging, fugue-state-experiencing Norman and Max Thieriot as his older black-sheep brother Dylan.
But it would all come to naught without Farmiga, who makes Norma Bates an ever-shifting kaleidoscope of a character. Clear-eyed yet crazy, multitasking yet manic, Norma is like Tennessee Williams' Amanda Wingfield crossed with Mama Rose, jacked up on sugar-free Red Bull and channeling "Oprah."
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They may have to invent a new award to give her; I'm not sure "Emmy" quite covers it. A&E, Monday, 10 p.m.
"The Following": Monday is the season finale of the serial killer drama that brought Kevin Bacon to TV. Its brutal violence drew some initial criticism and though the carnage has continued, the show's tone took an interesting twist. James Purefoy's mad-twinkle performance as criminal mastermind Joe Carroll and the absurdest concept of an army of sociopaths lent moments of hilarity to the gory proceedings. Intentional or not, creator Kevin Williamson's satiric "Scream" roots are showing. Who will be left when the season ends, and what note will the show leave us on? Fox, Monday, 9 p.m.
"Parks and Recreation": It's a Leslie (Amy Poehler) and Ron (Nick Offerman) smack-down, as the two lock horns over the fate of a miniature golf course. Oh, how I love this show. NBC, Thursday, 9:30 p.m.
"Vikings": Plague hits the village and Ragnar (Travis Fimmel) continues to expand his influence and legend on History's fast-paced, fun and occasionally educational first dramatic series.
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