Throughout the first four seasons of “Bates Motel,” we’ve watched the relationship between Norma (Vera Farmiga) and Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) slowly and steadily evolve, from slightly dysfunctional to suffocating and dangerous.
It’s been an intriguing journey — each of the story’s diversions from the original Hitchcock film have enhanced the tale in unexpected ways. And now, in Monday’s (Feb. 20) Season 5 premiere “Dark Paradise,” we find the series syncing back up with the plot of its big screen predecessor as it begins its final frightening run.
Jumping ahead 18 months, Norman’s still recognizable as Norman, but the wheels have definitely come off. As seemed clearly by the end of last season, his delusions have grown substantially: To him, Norma is very much alive, having faked her own death for some unexplained reason.
Norman’s just fine — all you have to do is ask him. But as we watch him interact with his alter ego — Mother makes him the best-looking breakfasts! — it quickly becomes apparent that without Norma, he’d most certainly cease to function. It’s already pretty plain to see Mother is the one running the show in this “Dark Paradise” — and that ultimately, Norman killed his mother so that she can live forever with, and for, only him.
A lot can happen in a year and a half — Dylan (Max Thieriot) and Emma (Olivia Cooke) are now not only married, they’re parents of a cute 9-month-old baby to boot! What’ll be interesting to see is the inevitable reunion when Dylan finally learns of his mother’s death — although White Pine Bay is familiar with the story, the Seattle-based Dylan and Emma don’t yet know.
As for Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell), he’s been spending his days punching the bag in the prison yard, plotting his next move to avenge Norma’s death… And doing whatever he can to take out the monster he knows is lurking in his hometown, including hiring a hitman Norman doesn’t quite remember killing.
As much as Norman strives to maintain a functional existence normalcy, those pesky blackouts have persisted. And it doesn’t take long before he links these missing memory moments with some dastardly deeds. Of course, that’s Mother’s doing: She’s always out to keep Norman safe. Yet, as much as she continues to assert her good intentions, Mother has efficiently put some roadblocks in place to protect Norman from what she perceives as threats — including one very married young Norma-lookalike, Madeline Loomis (Isabelle McNally).
While we await the arrival of Marion Crane (Rihanna), Loomis is the one who grabs Norman’s attention in that Hitchcockian manner that drives us wild: Her shop, Loomis Hardware — as appeared in “Psycho” — is where they first meet. And not only does she look like Norma, the infatuation hearkens back to the original Marion Crane story in the film.
Everyone is excited for Crane’s arrival, to be sure — but Loomis seems poised for a bigger impact on Norman, for now. We suspect it’s her inattentive husband (Austin Nichols) who gave Norman the heebie-jeebies when he was checking in — and if the mystery woman with him was Marion Crane, it’s definitely a twist on the original triangle.
It’s not the first time, and probably won’t be the last, that Norman and his mother venture out to the lake to dump a body? This particular body, though, teases a bigger conflict waiting to take shape: Crooked cop Romero wants Norman dead. Will he end up escaping prison to do it in person? Probably.
And we expect Mother will be waiting to reunite with her tortured lover, knife firmly in hand.
“Bates Motel” airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on A&aE.