[Images courtesy A&E/Cate Cameron/Sergei Bachlakov]
Season 5, Episode 1 “Dark Paradise”
Written by Kerry Ehrin
Directed by Tucker Gates
In my preview of the fifth and (sadly) final season of Bates Motel, I noted how this A&E series has created a unique path to the destination every Psycho fan is waiting for: the events of the landmark 1960 Alfred Hitchock movie. “Dark Paradise” managed to both fulfill my expectations and leave me guessing — an excellent combination!
“Dark Paradise” opens idyllically. Through a haze of golden sunshine, Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) is awakened by Juno, the adorable pup who died a few seasons back. “You Must’ve Been a Beautiful Baby” warbles through the spotless Bates home. Norman dresses for work. In the kitchen, his beaming mother Norma (Vera Farmiga) has a full breakfast ready for her adoring son.
Norman and Norma agree that while it’s too bad she can’t leave the house, it’s really all for the best; as Norman puts it, “it’s Paradise here, right?”
Former White Pine Bay Sheriff Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) deals with not getting paroled by beating the life out of a literal punching bag and making mysterious unanswered phone calls. Romero can’t accept the fact that being the only corrupt official in White Pine Bay to actually get caught by the Feds makes you pretty unpopular!
Norman’s perfect day continues; he visits White Pine Bay’s newest small business, a hardware store owned by Madeline Loomis (Isabelle McNally) and her husband Sam. “Hardware store” is a bit of a misnomer; this high-tone Restoration Hardware boutique is miles beyond the cramped and cluttered place Sam Loomis ran in the original Psycho.
Norman wants to buy some paint samples (helpfully selected by Madeline), but unfortunately his wallet has no money — and a driver’s license belonging to a Mr. Jim Blackwell (John Hainsworth). He hurries home, but Norma has no idea where that wallet came from. She helpfully advises her son “just do what I’m telling you” and lock it in the motel safe.
Before tucking it away from prying eyes, Norman goes through the wallet. Along with Mr. Blackwell’s license is a receipt from a local gas station dated October 16th. Thanks to his meticulously kept datebook Norman discovers his October 16 featured (in an all-caps note written by Norman or Norma?) — A BLACKOUT! Not even the candy corn dish on the motel counter helps him deal with something else he can’t remember from that day — an online purchase of Luminol from Northwest Science Supply.
A “David Davidson” barges into the office, wanting a room for a few hours. The Bates Motel may have free Wi-Fi, but apparently still allows guests to check in without a credit card or identification. It must be the Room One Special – complimentary unauthorized peephole supervision by the Manager! Norman’s spy session on “Mr. Davidson” and an unknown woman is rudely interrupted by a call from Mother. Dinner is ready.
It is as awkward as only a dinner with a hallucination of your dead mother can be, descending into bickering over Madeline Loomis before winding up with Norma’s main complaint — “for starters, I am dead.” Like everything else, faking her death is for Norman’s benefit. Norma has to protect Norman, as she always has, but from what or whom?
The cost of this deception is imprisonment in their home, doing endless chores and making elaborate dinners that in their own homey way rival anything seen on Hannibal.
Norma and Norman are sleeping in the same bed, but the next morning we see the bed is empty when Norman leaves the room. He goes down to the basement and unlocks a door — and lays his head the lap of his mothers’ corpse. He asks Norma, “what dream am I in, Mother?”
Norman prepares to attend a small business owners meeting in town. Norman declares he’ll drive himself despite his blackouts and Norma’s warnings. Norman is stopped by Norma physically blocking the car. She drags him back to the house by his ear, warning him “I know you better than you know yourself.”
Turns out there’s an actual body in the basement chest freezer and (surprise surprise) it’s the missing Mr. Blackwell! He made the mistake of threatening Norman with a gun while the young man was innocently installing shower curtains. Norma had no choice but to repeatedly stab him with a box cutter, as is Bates family tradition.
A mother-son body disposal montage set to the soothing tones of “At Last” by Etta James caps of the premiere. Just as they’re about to dump the body in a remote lake, the late Mr. Blackwell gets a call. Being the polite young man Norma raised him to be, Norman takes the call. At least somebody finally took a call from Ex-Sheriff Romero! Too bad Norman now knows who arranged for a hitman to visit the motel.
Thankfully far away from the craziness in White Pine Bay, Dylan Masset (Max Theriot) and Emma Decody (Olivia Cooke) live a blissful drama-free existence in Seattle with their adorable infant daughter Kate. Dylan has a legal and (by the looks of it) lucrative job in advertising. In the middle of Emma’s birthday party, his Dunkle (Dad + Uncle) Caleb Calhoun (Kenny Johnson) arrives, broke and needing a place to stay.
He is allowed to stay overnight but over leftover birthday cake Emma tells him he has to leave. She doesn’t know what the issue between the Caleb and Dylan is (thank God), but he cannot stay.
~ Not only is “Mr. David Davidson” a LYING LIAR WHO LIES, he’s also (based on the credit listing) actually Sam Loomis (Austin Nichols). No wonder Madeline has to do all the work at the hardware store.
Based on the snippet of dialogue of the next episode, I bet Rihanna is the unseen woman with “Mr. Davidson” in Room One. Marion says “I was here before with my boyfriend” to Norman.
This is a very clever tie-in with the original Psycho. In which Marion and Sam were lovers who couldn’t marry because of money. Now it’s because he’s married. So my “Madeline is Lila” theory is probably shot. Hope this means we can look forward to meeting Lila when she comes looking for her sister?
~ Norman munching on candy was an idea of Anthony Perkins for his portrayal of Norman Bates in the original Psycho movie.
~ The “real” condition of the Bates home – dark, dirty, filthy and cluttered beyond belief – is very similar to the condition the Plainfield, Wisconsin police discovered in Ed Gein’s home after his arrest for the murder of Bernice Worden. Harold Schecter’s Deranged contains a vivid (if gruesome) depiction of the Gein homestead.
~ Hope we find out why Norma ordered Luminol.
~ As Madeline Loomis notes, the Bates home looks very much like a famous Edward Hopper painting (The House by the Railroad); it’s a shame the Hopper estate couldn’t get a slice of Psycho royalties from Hitchock.
Bates Motel airs Monday night at 10/9 Central on A&E.