‘Bates Motel’ recap: ‘Dark Paradise’ is the beginning of the end of A&E thriller

The Bates Motel will no longer be taking guests after this season. The acclaimed series launched its premiere Monday night with star Vera Farmiga explaining that yes this indeed will be the final season for the A&E thriller. Having Farmiga do the explaining seemed to be a reassurance to viewers that the Emmy-nominated star will still be a part of the series even after her character’s death last season. Read our recap of “Bates Motel” Season 5, Episode 1 below, titled “Dark Paradise.”

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The season opener started peacefully enough with Norma Bates cooking a seemingly complete breakfast for her treasured son Norman (Freddie Highmore). As Norman awoke to what looked like a Norman Rockwell-type perfect family setting, viewers were left to wonder if Norma’s death had really happened at all. (The appearance of Norman’s deceased dog Juno cleverly gave away that this picture-perfect scene may not be all wonderful.)

As Norman seemingly proceeds with his job of running the Bates Motel it is revealed that Nestor Carbonell‘s Sheriff Romero (who wed Norma last season) is in prison. Romero had emerged last year as Norman’s chief nemesis and he clearly seemed to believe Norman intentionally murdered his beloved wife. In the next scene, Norman meets a shop owner named Madeline Loomis who bears a striking resemblance to Norman’s dead mother and also carries the surname of Loomis which Alfred Hitchcock fans will remember from the original film as the name of the doomed Marion Crane’s (Janet Leigh) boyfriend Sam Loomis. All indications point to Ms. Loomis having a pivotal role in the show.

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Norma’s other son Dylan (Max Thieriot) is revealed to have married former Bates Motel office clerk Emma (Olivia Cooke) and the two now live in Seattle with their baby daughter seemingly unaware of Norma’s death. Their domestic bliss is interrupted by Dylan’s father Caleb (Kenny Johnson) who arrives looking for a place to stay. Caleb also seems to be unaware of Norma’s passing. Could it be Norma really didn’t die after all? As Norma and Norman have dinner that night and discuss how they faked her death it did seem as if they show was going to renege on Norma’s passing a la Bobby Ewing on “Dallas” but later in the evening Norman takes us on a journey deep into the famed basement fruit cellar where Norma’s embalmed body is lovingly enshrined.

Norma is alive though in Norman’s mind and is still intruding on his sexual interests. As Norman watches the guests of the famed Cabin #1 (which Norman hesitatingly gives them in a nice Hitchcock/”Psycho” homage) in an elicit afternoon he is interrupted in his enjoyment by a demanding Norma who wants him to not engage with other people and stay alone at home with her. Mother is gone, but her demands still haunt Norman.

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Also haunting Norman is a guest who seemingly arrived at the motel to kill him. Norma reveals that she killed the man to protect Norman and the two go out on the lake to dump the body as they had done in the first episode of the series with another intruder who did them wrong. Norman’s bafflement as to who the murder victim’s identity is cleared up by a particularly well-timed cell phone call emanating from the dead body. As Norma screams for Norman to throw the phone away Norman takes the call only to recognize the caller as the imprisoned Sheriff Romero.

And that was all just the first episode! The Bates Motel is back in fine form and it looks to be a killer season coming up, especially with future guest star Rihanna as Marion Crane.

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