“Bates Motel” Returns for the Final Season and It’s a “Dark Paradise”

There’s been a time jump at the beginning of the first episode of the final season of Bates Motel. It’s not initially apparent as Norman’s (Freddie Highmore) state of being is a natural extension of last season’s finale. However, the bypass is now complete, any efforts to prevent its construction apparently failed. When we see Dylan (Max Thieriot) and Emma (Olivia Cooke) in Portland, he’s a successful beer salesman and the couple now has a baby. Alex (Nestor Carbonell) is in prison, ending speculation about what would happen to him since the last time we saw him.

Norman wakes up in a colorful fantasy world where his mother, Norma (Vera Farmiga) brings him flowers in the morning and calls him downstairs for breakfast. As she serves him in her green apron with a big bow in back, he tells her about the improvements he’s made to the motel. Both characters acknowledge the fact that Norma is dead; she’s a ghost confined to stay inside the house forever. That’s part of “the deal.” When he says he’ll see her later, she replies, “I imagine you will.”

In reality, the kitchen is dark and dirty, with dishes piled everywhere.   Norman is aware of his blackouts, tracking them on a calendar. They coincide with mysterious events that he can’t remember. He’s suddenly carrying another man’s wallet. He asks his mother if she ever feels like she’s had the same nightmare over and over, but can’t remember it. While running the vacuum cleaner, she concisely replies, “Nope.”As mentioned, Dylan and Emma are living in domestic bliss, hosting neighborhood parties, when Caleb (Kenny Johnson) comes knocking on their door. He’s Facebook friends with Emma and couldn’t resist paying a visit to meet his granddaughter/great niece. There’s more to the story, though, as (surprise!) he’s fallen on hard times and needs a place to stay. At this point, it appears that he’s being sincere, but you never know with Caleb.

Also as mentioned, Alex is incarcerated, with a picture of him and Norma hanging on the wall of his cell. He still hasn’t seemed to report Norman’s criminal acts to the authorities, preferring to take what limited action he can by himself. This action consists mainly of revenge/vigilante justice, as he apparently hired a man to act for him outside the prison. He can’t get hold of this man, though. I have a feeling, if alive, he would be missing his wallet.

When Norman goes paint shopping at the new hardware story, he meets pretty young blonde Madeleine Loomis (Isabelle McNally). We don’t know much about her, yet, but we do know there’s a “Sam Loomis” in the movie Psycho. Right now, Madeleine is a catalyst for Norman’s sexual stirring, which always leads to confrontations with Norma. During a heated one, he asks her, “What is wrong with you?” She replies, “For one thing, I’m dead.”Their relationship is confusing right now. Even in death, Norma says she wants only to want to protect Norman. “You just can’t have other people in your life. Especially women. You’re just making my job harder.” That’s Norman’s version of his mother. On the other hand, he knows she’s dead, going down into the basement late at night to rest his head on her seated body’s lap. There’s no mention of him “becoming” his mother, save for some women’s underwear strewn around the bathroom.

This is one thing that’s intriguing about Bates Motel in its fifth and final season. The other is, of course, that we know some version of Psycho is going to play out. We don’t see Rihanna as Marion Crane in this episode, at least not directly. A handsome young man checks into Room 1 with an unseen woman that could be her. They’re having an affair, as Norman overhears while he’s watching them through a peephole and, yes, masturbating.

The final scenes of the episode, entitled “Dark Paradise,” contain a couple twists, at least one that you don’t see coming, and sets in motion what I assume will be an ongoing subplot outside the Psycho story. It has the potential to resolve at least one original character’s fate before the series concludes. It’s a good episode that distances itself from the past while charting the course for its ultimate destination. I’m saddened that the end is near, but thrilled by the ride that will get us there.

Bates Motel S5 EP 1: Dark Paradise
90%Overall Score
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