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Major spoilers below for the fantastic Season 5 premiere of Bates Motel. No peeking through the walls if you haven't watched.
Bates Motel spent its first four seasons rising to the top of the heap of TV remakes, continuations, prequels, etc., and it stands similar to the Bates family home looming large above the titular establishment. Its successes came largely from wholly original elements supplied by creator Carlton Cuse, Kerry Ehrin and Anthony Cipriano, but viewers will soon see a convergence between the A&E thriller and its source material, the seminal Psycho. ("Seminal" goes both ways for TV.) Rather than simply replicating overly familiar events, Bates Motel sets up the perfect Psycho spin with its Season 5 premiere, "Dark Paradise."
In the first place, we got to see exactly how Norman and Norma's new relationship works, and it makes me so happy everyone decided to kill Norma a full season ahead of the final episode. Vera Farmiga is impeccable, showing off a very different side of this familiar character,; a winking mischievousness is now imbued within the performance, presumably to add further nuance to Dead Norma being birthed from her live son's severely fractured id. And while the premiere doesn't have Norman in full Mommy Mode, we do know that he visits and embraces his mummified mum in the basement. Which, by the by, has been one of the most fantastic ways for a TV show to visually promote itself.
As well, the Season 5 premiere introduced another major character from the Psycho universe: Sam Loomis, as played by Walking Dead _vet Austin Nichols. Only he isn't exactly introduced as Sam Loomis, and instead of meeting him through the rose-tinted glasses of Janet Leigh's Marion Crane, we see him as a slimy philanderer using a false name to book a room, which is a nice addition to _Bates Motel's underlying theme of unreliable identities. Because the request isn't for a full night's stay, Sam immediately strikes the wrong chord with Norman, and the tension between them is instantly palpable.
Little does either one of them initially realize how the other factors into the life of Madeleine Loomis, played by Isabelle McNally. As a testament to Norman's transition into life as a motherless business owner, Madeleine isn't immediately creeped out by him when they meet, and her interest in his big house or his motel will likely not go well for her. But it also won't go swimmingly for Norman or hubby Sam, and it's too easy to see a rivalry building up between them. Madeleine does look like Norma, after all, and I really hope Sam experiences getting horrified by the implications of that knowledge. Before he gets murdered in whatever horrific fashion, of course.
Then there's the "introduction" of someone we assume will be revealed as Marion Crane, with musician Rhianna taking on that iconic role. Calling directly back to Psycho itself, the scene showed Norman watching Sam and his mystery guest through a hole in the wall between the bedroom and the motel office. It was easily one of the creepiest scenes from the entire series so far, and we watched Norman's hungry eyes settle on Sam just as much as anything else, which was an interesting choice. All in all, I'm loving the refreshing angle Bates Motel is giving the extramarital affair that Psycho relied on so heavily before the big shower scene twist.
Of course, Bates Motel isn't limiting its plot momentum by telling only Psycho-related stories, and everything else happening in Norman's life adds surprisingly unique textures to the character that Anthony Perkins first made a household name. Former sheriff Alex Romero is apparently setting up assassination plots from inside prison, so we know he's beyond the point of moral rehabilitation. Then there's the return of Caleb, who doesn't even know Norma is dead yet, which is also the case for Dylan (and Emma, of course). And from previews, we know Ryan Hurst's Chick is returning, which could go either way for Norman, really, since Chick already isn't the most law-abiding citizen. Add Sam Loomis and Norman's own mental implosions into the mix, and our central Bates-tagonist is facing a seemingly endless line of complications in the series' final nine episodes. Will he survive them all?
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