Bates Motel (S05E01) “Dark Paradise”

 

Photo Credit(s): A&E

It would be all too easy to start talking about the fifth season premiere of A&E’s Bates Motel by comparing it to other prequels. Some of have been successful, but more often than not building backwards does not always work with preexisting source material. However, in the case of Bates Motel it has already had to trudge through these huddles in its first four seasons. The fact that it has been able to make to its fifth season is quite the crowning achievement considering how many shows fight for viewer’s eyes in this Peak TV-era. As one might have guessed, these four seasons have led to the point know where the show is in full-on Psycho territory. Bates Motel does here in the premiere what is always been able to do, honor the Psycho lore while forging its own path. This show has always been terrific at allowing seeds to be planted for the future, and now beginning with this fifth and final season, it appears those seeds are beginning to sprout.

 

Our first shot in the episode comes via a record player and so begins the sound of Bing Crosby’s You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby echoing throughout the house. The house has never looked more ethereal than it does now, as Norman gets to see his dead dog and Mother greet him on what is just another ordinary day. Norma walks him to the door and wishes him good luck down at the village, where Norma cannot go because she is supposed to dead. As Norman Bates, once an innocuous child, shuts the door Mother ceases to be as she fades away. The house returns to its usual lighting, but what is most striking is the fact that the plentiful breakfast the audience just witnessed with Norma and Norman is huge mess of different objects lying on the table. The whole house is a mess and even the refrigerator door is ajar. Norman Bates is splitting at the seams and it appears living with Mother is only pulling the thread.

Norman heads downtown to a hardware shop, and after eating a cookie while simultaneously staring creepily, he meets a new face. Her name is Madeline Loomis, and she has a husband. Those familiar with the name movie Psycho may remember a character by the name of Sam Loomis, also a hardware store owner. It should be noted that Madeline Loomis herself is an entirely new creation to the Bates Motel canon. The implications of what Madeline Loomis might mean to this season of Bates Motel is not entirely clear, although the promo that dropped shortly after the episode aired may provide a hint.

Meanwhile, somewhere in Seattle, it looks like life is quite nice for the Massett family. Dylan and Emma have a nice house, lots of friends, and even a baby. The baby reveal is quite jarring by the way, and hopefully gets to serve mainly as a contrast to what is going with Norman. All is well in their lives until Caleb shows up and reminds them about the Bates. This sends a wave of emotions, and begins to make Dylan wonder if he can ever escape his past. Dylan and Emma, from a narrative standpoint, have the problem of saying what they feel so that it can be told to the audience. This has been something that has plagued Bates Motel since its inception. That is, the side plots in which characters simply say their motivations and any character development that needs to happen.

Romero is the third faction of the episode and appears very little except to show that Romero is still in jail and wants Norman dead. Granted, this is something the audience already knew, but in the medium of television a friendly reminder never hurts. Romero has been denied parole, although it isn’t explained why (Perhaps, because there are still nine episodes left to go?) but again it’s pure set-up. So, it should come as a shock when Romero, away in prison, is actually part of a very clever one-episode subplot.

Throughout the episode we see Norman discover a wallet of man, discuss with Mother, and eventually come face-to-face with said man in the freezer in the basement. In between these moments, we see Romero trying to reach someone on the phone. The two seemed unconnected until in the show’s final moment. In that final moment as Mother and Norman plan to dump yet another body in the river, a cell phone begins to ring. Romero is calling on the other end and it appears that Romero hired a hit-man.

Oh, and the scene of Norman/Mother attacking said hit-man is absolutely thrilling in its execution, camera direction, and editing. The camera seems to flicker and cut between the dueling personalities as the music flares up and makes for quite the Psycho homage.

Real Norma is being kept in the freezer (a walk-in one), and we see her briefly as Norman goes downstairs for comfort in the night. Here, we see that deep-down Norman does know Mother is truly dead, but refuses to let his vision of her go. Head Norma, as we’ll call her from here on, has emotions and is not just a one-dimensional character. Head Norma has feelings and after all as she says, she gave up her life for Norman.

We also meet a David Davidson  *cough* Sam Loomis *cough* who checks into the motel, another example of planting something to be harvested later . Norman greets him in an agitated manner, as we all do when we are charged for Luminol we did not buy. Norman gives David Davidson the key to room number one, because its clear that Norman, who does not approve of David Davidson’s plans, would like a peek.

The episode ends with brand new plot points that are sure to have Romero and Dylan making their way back to White Pine Bay as well as resulting in many more bodies piling up.

Psycho, indeed.

 

 

After-Thoughts

  • The Bates Motel costs $120/a night to stay at.  Just how expensive were those new shower curtains?
  • Shortly after watching Davidson and Mystery Girl engage in sexual behavior, Norman answers the phone with “Mother, I was just coming.” I see what you did there Kerry Ehrin 😉
  • Norman’s slip as he says “we” to Madeline is a nice touch.
  • Mother can spontaneously show up behind a moving car.
  • Madeline compares the look of the Bates Motel to that Edward Hopper painting . Full circle.
  •  Norman eating candy is another nice nod to Psycho.
  • It is looking likely the Rihanna was the mystery lady in tonight’s episode. So her first appearance was behind an umbrella. Yes, I know.
  • Etta James FTW with that closing sequence, another great music choice.
  • Well there it is, the first episode of the final season of Bates Motel! I’m looking forward to the next nine episodes to see how this all turns out! Join me next week when hopefully I will be a little quicker at getting this posted.
  • Feel free to leave comments, and contact me via my Twitter to discuss this week’s episode.