My binge of the last two weeks has been a combo of Gotham and Bates Motel (with a sprinkle of the new season of Outlander thrown in). Watching these has made me think about prequels and why they are having a surge of popularity. Comic book-wise we have always liked origin stories. But the prequel series, perhaps most popularized by Smallville, has its own appeal. So let’s talk about the popularity of the murder prequel.Gotham is really strange. It is kind of all over the place, with moments of really entertaining craziness and other moments of just what are you doing please stop craziness. Jada Pinkett Smith, for instance, is amazing. She is over the top and sexy in a kind of predatory insect kind of way. I love her. Selina Kyle, the girl who will become Catwoman, is suitably cat-like and quirky and her budding relationship with Bruce Wayne is really interesting if you know anything about their relationship in the comics. In general, the show is full of easter eggs and cute nudges to comic book fans, but also full of plenty of action for those who are not as well-versed comic wise. Bates Motel follows the same idea- let’s take a look at how these characters became who we famously know them to be. Bates Motel shows us Norman Bates as a seventeen year old who has just moved to the town where he will famously murder a blonde in a shower. We get to explore his relationship with his mother, played by the incomparable Vera Farmiga, and see how a sweet but unbalanced teenager could become the murderer we know he will someday be. What’s great about the show is that you can see every episode moving all of the characters towards the events of Psycho. Norman becomes more and more disturbed, Norma becomes more and more possessive and odd, and everyone else tries to understand what exactly it is that is wrong with them both. One of the strengths of the show is that it isn’t afraid to introduce characters to the show that are not in Psycho. Gotham, on the other hand, makes you feel like every single character you see is going to one day become somebody in the DC universe. It makes it a bit hard to believe that any permanent harm can come to anyone, as you know that they all have to be around in fifteen years. On Bates Motel, pretty much everyone is fair game for murder.So why prequels? Why are we interested to see the minutia of famous character’s past lives? For Bates Motel and Gotham, I think it makes total sense to want to create stories like these. The whole payoff of Psycho is finding out that Norman Bates has (spoiler alert here but you really should have already seen this movie) his taxidermied mother in the house. Is taxidermied a word? So how exactly did he get there? I certainly understand the desire to know. And as for Gotham, every Batman movie starts with and heavily references the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne. It is the event that shapes everything else. I will say I think Bates Motel does a better job because they have chosen to make the protagonist old enough that one can imagine getting to the events of Psycho by the end of the show. Gotham’s Bruce Wayne is so young that it is hard to believe we will ever get to see the payoff of all this leadup. Will we ever see any of these people actually become who they are supposed to be? It seems like the answer will likely be no, which feels like too much of a tease. Check them both out. Quick binges, my friends.