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Bates Motel Premiere Recap: Dark Paradise


Season 5, Episode 1

Jodi Walker writes: When it comes to a force of nature like Norma Bates… you just knew she couldn’t stay dead for long. Though often controlling, needy, and ripping people out of cars, the Norma Bates of Bates Motel was always a charmer: an eccentric woman who loved too much and spread that love around too little. Even at her worst, she was a far cry from the degrading shrew of a Mother in Pyscho who showed up for butcher knife shower sessions anytime her son so much as shared a sandwich with a woman.

Season 5 of Bates Motel is likely where we bridge that gap. Because if the final two episodes of season 4 made one thing clear, it’s that Norma Bates — superglued eyelids be damned — is quite dead. And what we know from Psycho is that her Mother persona lives on in her tragic son, Norman Bates. The first four seasons of Bates Motelmade a meal (a rich, delicious, kitchen-wrecking, home-cooked meal) of laying out how that transition could have happened to a sweet co-sleeping mother/son pair like Norman and Norma Bates. What Monday’s excellent season 5 premiere seeks to explain is why. 

To quote the totally credible psychologist from Psycho, “Matricide is probably the most unbearable crime of all — most unbearable to the son who commits it.” Indeed, if you killed your mother and then resurrected her in your mind only to keep her trapped in a Queen Anne prison of your own making, you’d probably need a pretty good explanation as to why you might have done such a thing. And Bates Motel wastes no time explaining how Norman can explain that his Mother is dead to outside world but very much alive to him: She faked her own death to protect her son: “So I could get away from everyone and everything that could distract me from you.”

That’s right: Norman Bates is now living for two. And, shockingly, being together-alone-forever (a Batesian term if ever there was one) isn’t always the paradise Mother and Son predicted…

Season 5 opens with Norman waking up to Bing Cosby’s “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby” playing on the record player: “Does your mother realize / The stork delivered quite a prize.” She must! Because she’s right there in the kitchen cooking Norman a beautiful breakfast. And you know who else is running around? Juno the Dead Dog, that furry little harbinger of CrazyTown. Because you know and I know and everyone but Norman knows that Norma is dead. The woman cooking him breakfast is a psychological split: Mother only exists in Norman’s mind, and there, she can coexist with him, or, when driven to, she can take over him completely.

But typically, when Norman leaves the house to go manage the Bates Motel with his big boy “Manager” pin, he heads outside of this reality of his own making, out to a world where Norma Bates is still dead. The shots of Norman walking away from a beautiful meal cooked by Mother, only to reveal a wrecked kitchen left behind by Norman-acting-as-Norma are chilling, not just because of the mess, but because they’re a visual description of just how deep and false a world Norman has created for himself — er, themselves —  within the confines of the Bates property.

Out in the village of White Pine Bay, however, Norman Bates seems just your average small business owner with an affinity for sports jackets. At the new hardware store, locals greet him by name, and shop owners are charmed by him. Unfortunately, said shop owner Madeline Loomis (Loomis!) bears a striking resemblance to Norma from behind, is a Very Nice Girl, and is therefore likely doomed to meet a gruesome end.

But for now, she’s very helpful to Norman in picking out paint samples that his mother would have liked — she passed about a year and a half back, you see — until Norman pulls out his wallet to discover that it’s not his wallet at all. … (read more)


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