Dexter star Jennifer Carpenter is developing a TV show based on non-fiction book The Death Class: A True Story About Life. Death Class will revolve around Kean University professor Dr. Norma Bowe's class, which explores end-of-life issues and helps students at the New Jersey college cope with loss.
She says, "Norma is such a dynamic force. Her world is rich and textured, and the results of her work are inexplicably redemptive and life-affirming."
Carpenter is currently seeking a writer for the drama series, according to Variety.com.
The news comes weeks after the actress wrapped filming the pilot for her new show Sea of Fire, in which she plays a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent looking into the disappearance of a young girl.
The third episode is always the real test of a new series. Sure, the pilot establishes the concept, but there’s usually a long production hiatus between the shoot for the pilot and that for episode two. The second episode of a show can almost come across like a second pilot, in a sense. So the third episode is the real indicator of whether a series can transcend the novelty of its concept and immerse you in its story and characters on a long-term basis. These third installments are usually easy on the shocks and plot twists but dive a little deeper into the characters and their relationships.
That was what happened in the third episode of Bates Motel, titled “What’s Wrong With Norman.” (A title that excluded a question mark.) But damn, if it still didn’t end on a hell of a reveal. Our friendly neighborhood Sheriff’s deputy, Shelby, keeps a Chinese sex slave in his dungeon of a basement! I’m surprised by how quickly the sordid details of Norma and Norman’s town have floated to the surface: the human trafficking issue certainly reared its ugly head once again, as did the potfield. And it would be the Bates boys, doing a capable Hardy Boys impression, who would discover all this. Dylan took the job to work for Bradlee’s father—who, amazingly, had not died but was in an induced coma with a very poor life expectancy. That meant guarding the potfield, a task he prepared for by doing a whole “You talkin’ to me?” routine in his mirror. He’d make $300 a day protecting $5 million worth of weed. Dylan wanted to guard it and smoke it. But he learned the two families from town that own it would not be too pleased about that. Apparently, this potfield is responsible for much of the local economy.
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Little did Norman know that his brother was now guarding the potfield from which he and Emma had barely escaped with their lives last week. Emma was particularly shaken. She felt guilty because she never really believed that there was human trafficking going on. She just used that as an excuse to bond with Norman. But once she saw that shed for real, she knew a dead Chinese sex slave really had been buried there. Norman wanted to have nothing to do with it. He called that diary “pornographic” and denied being obsessed with it. And yet he collapsed in the middle of class after imagining his teacher and Emma as the girl tied up. Was he aroused or horrified by that flight of fancy? Or was he horrified because he was aroused? The attraction and repulsion to sex that will one day make him take up a butcher knife are already firmly in place.
Norman recuperated in the hospital, an expense he and his mom sorely didn’t need. And we saw once again what a big TCM fan he is. It looked like he was watching a Ronald Reagan movie, but I couldn’t tell which one. More eagle-eyed classic Hollywood fans, please render an assist to this cinephile in the comments if you know what movie that is. While there, Bradlee stopped by to give him flowers. Norman is somehow a babe magnet when it comes to both girls with oxygen tanks and girls who are the prom-queen type.
Officer Guyliner, I mean Romero, showed up at the Bates’ house with a search warrant to look for Keith, the previous owner who raped Norma and who got a butcher knife stuck between his ribs. They scoured the place, and Norman knew immediately he had been given away because he had kept Keith’s belt as a souvenir. Moron.
Emma used her oxygen tank to force her way in to Bates House. She told Norman that if they forgot that poor dead girl it will be like she never existed. They had to uncover the circumstances of her death and expose this human trafficking ring. They searched the bathroom and found a Chinese character under the bathroom sink, a character that Yahoo Answers later revealed translates as “beautiful.” That made them even sadder. With that character and the diary hidden in Norman’s room, she must have been kept captive there. The motel itself was probably used as a brothel. In just the span of 30 minutes of screen time Norman had gone from wanting to deny this girl’s existence to doubling down on the search to unravel the mystery of her death. It’s also remarkable to see how one of the most awkward characters in pop culture history has already found himself in the middle of his own love triangle: with hottie Bradlee and sickly Emma, who cut in to his conversation with Bradlee with more than a glint of jealousy.
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So Norma went on a date with Officer Shelby, involving wine consumption by a warm, cozy fire…and a little subtle blackmail. He told her that he found Keith’s belt under Norman’s bed. He wondered, did Norman kill Keith? He knew the former owner of the house was a bully, and he indicated that he might be willing to suspend the investigation. If Norma let him “take care of her.”
At first Norma took him at his word. She told Norman she thought they were safe. But as she continued to think about, she knew her son was right: Shelby could blackmail her to do anything. This was Norman’s mistake. And Norman would have to correct it. “You know what you have to do, don’t you?” asked Norma, indicating that Norman may have placed them in situations like this before and been forced to mop up after himself.
So Norman went to Officer Shelby’s house, presumably to steal back the belt and maybe also to kill Shelby. But what he found was a veritable haunted house. No. Scarier. The kind of place a serial killer would live. All flickering lights, peeling paint, and dark shadows. And whimpers. Oh, the whimpers. Behind a door where Norman maybe thought Shelby was sleeping was…a Chinese sex slave! So he’s in on the ring! And maybe even worked with Keith to keep it going, despite his saying that he didn’t like the guy. The final shot? Shelby pulling up to his house and about to enter the door. Get out, Norman! Terrifying.
What will Norman do to get out of this? Will he have to slash his way out? Or will he somehow escape with the belt and without Shelby noticing? Maybe he can use the existence of this sex slave as a type of blackmail over Shelby?
What do you guys think? And at this point, are you now officially hooked on Bates Motel?
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
[Photo Credit: A+E]
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Bates Motel is showing more and more signs that it’s capable of sustaining a story that’s more than just slavingly referential to Psycho. It has the potential to be a thoughtful character study about the roots of evil that actually shows tremendous compassion for its subjects. That said, there was one tantalizing Hitchcock callback, though, near the beginning of Bates’ second episode: leafing through that creepy notebook with sketches of scantily clad girls that he found under the floorboards in the pilot, Norman Bates saw an image of a woman in a shower. So it begins!
The pairing of sex and violence was at the forefront of Bates Motel’s second installment. Namely, Norman got involved with a girl named Emma, who’s suffering from cystic fibrosis, and together they uncovered what may be a human trafficking ring in town. In fact, this little Oregon burg seems to be rife with all kinds of illicit pursuits—industrial-scale marijuana farming, public assassinations, and other augurs of a massive organized crime operation. All we need now is a little of the supernatural, and we’ll practically have ourselves another Twin Peaks. I was wondering exactly how much the town would be explored on the show. It barely factored into Psycho, but it seems like it’s going to be a central focus.
The big twist that fundamentally altered the set-up of Episode 2, as opposed to the pilot, was the arrival of Dylan, Norma’s first-born son. She’s been avoiding him and even moved all the way from Arizona to Oregon just to lose him. But he found her and Norman anyway. And though he seems to have nothing but hatred for them, he insists upon living with them as he’s run out of money. Norma had better welcome him into the fold, or he may very well expose what really happened to Norman’s father. So she did, and in traditional Bates fashion showed that he’d be a part of their daily routine by having him change the motel cabins’ bed linens.
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On his first night in town, Dylan went to the local strip club and found a man sitting by the stage, crying into his tumbler of Scotch. Earlier in the day, Norman had seen a man who’d been burned alive in a warehouse fire driving like a bat out of hell. Turns out, that was the father of Bradlee, the cute blonde who took him to the party in the premiere. The man, horribly burned, died soon thereafter. This was obviously a well-orchestrated mob hit. The guy sitting at the strip club near Dylan worked for Bradlee’s father and was devastated by his death. So Dylan, the bad son who wants to get involved in anything shady, immediately signed up to help the guy get payback. Maybe he’s just sublimating his frustration toward Norma and Norman by wanting to become a gangbanger, because he couldn’t leave well enough alone when he got back to the motel. He stirred the pot by saying just how resentful he was of Norma leaving his own father and putting all her attention on Norman. “I hate you,” she said to her own son in reply. Dysfunction! She said she liked Norman better because Norman likes her. And yet which son will eventually keep her embalmed corpse in a fruit cellar? Which son, I ask you?
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For now, though, Norman was all about defending his mom. After he saw that Dylan had Norma listed on speed-dial simply as “The Whore,” he lunged at him with a hammer but was quickly subdued by his older brother’s superior strength. Dylan said he thought Norma had already ruined Norman.
No doubt about it, though, Norma is a terrible mother: manipulative, over-controlling, desperately insecure. When Emma, the girl with cystic fibrosis, first showed up at the Motel to work with Norman on their language arts assignment, Norma immediately asked about the respirator in her nose that helps with her breathing. Even worse, she asked the girl what her life expectancy is. It’s 27, which maybe means she’ll deem Emma a suitable conquest for Norman (or Norman Conquest!).
Norman and Emma’s project was to link up a poem—in this case, William Blake’s The Tyger—with some aspect of contemporary culture. Emma thought it was primarily an inquiry into why God would create such ugliness and terror (as embodied by a tiger) in a world that also features such beauty. She thought maybe they could connect the poem to contemporary murderers “like O.J. or Charles Manson.” Then she found Norman’s notebook—the one he got from under the floorboards. And suddenly a whole new view of the world’s underlying ugliness came forward. Emma wasn’t put off, though. She reads a lot of Manga! So these images were hardly too steamy for her.
Shortly thereafter, she invited Norman to her father’s taxidermy shop, where presumably Norman will learn all his skills. She says that she thinks this notebook was the diary of a girl from China forced into sex slavery and smuggled into the United States as part of a big human trafficking scheme. She thought that the drawings indicated one of her fellow sex slave companions had been killed and buried out in the woods, and she knew exactly the spot. So she and Norman headed out on an expedition to find the grave. And that’s when they discovered a massive marijuana field being patrolled by armed guards. Last we saw they were being chased through the woods with the gun-toting guards hot on their heels.
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All this had been set up earlier in the episode when Norma went on a quasi date with Officer Shelby to the Woodchuck, an annual event celebrating the town’s history of logging. That industry had died out, and yet, oddly enough, many of the people in town have million-dollar homes and foreign cars. Like Bradlee and her family. Her father had been targeted for assassination, so it’s safe to assume that much of his—and, by extension, the town’s— wealth is owed to organized crime. The final image of the episode was of a burning corpse hanging upside down from a flagpole, presumably the retaliation for Bradlee’s father’s murder.
When I say Twin Peaks seemed the reference point for this episode—it’s not just that Bates Motel is set in the Pacific Northwest or has a general sense of eeriness. It’s that there’s an underlying sense of darkness beneath the tranquility of the town’s façade, that evil and death can suddenly erupt into a world we think is ordered and harmonious. It is what Blake was getting at in “The Tyger,” what Lynch was getting at in Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet—with the insects mauling each other at the roots of a picture-perfect picket fence—and what Hitchcock also expressed in Psycho.
If it keeps on like this, we may not want to check out of Bates Motel anytime soon.
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
[Photo Credit: A+E]
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The veteran actor passed away on Tuesday (17Jul12). Details of his death have not been released, but Paull was diagnosed with stomach cancer earlier this year (12).
The actor, who also appeared in film classics Patton and Norma Rae, played Holden in Ridley Scott's sci-fi hit and became the director's sidekick on set after suggesting he hire Daryl Hannah to play replicant Pris in the film and fire Sean Young.
Scott agreed with Paull on the former and famously ignored him on the Young advice, casting the actress as Harrison Ford's love interest in the movie.
Paull became a serious theatre actor first on Broadway and then in California, where he was spotted by Franklin J. Schaffner and cast in his 1970 epic Patton, alongside George C. Scott.
Paull was with the movie great in Spain, where the film was shot, when Scott allegedly claimed the eye of a drunk American tourist in a bar brawl.
Paull also appeared in Fools' Parade and John Wayne movie Cahill U.S. Marshal.
He also enjoyed success on TV with roles in Gunsmoke, The Waltons, McCloud and Ironside, and he was a long-time union official in Hollywood, serving on the Screen Actors Guild board of directors and co-founding Actors Working for an Actors' Guild with close friend Charlton Heston.
He also made his mark in Hollywood as a talent agent.
The veteran funnyman penned skits for stars including Tony Hancock, Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan, and worked on the groundbreaking radio comedy programme The Goon Show in the 1950s.
In the 1960s he shot to fame with his own TV comedy series on the BBC and enjoyed huge success on British TV throughout the 1970s.
He also landed roles in movies including Absolute Beginners, Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, but is best remembered for his 1967 film The Plank, about two hapless workmen delivering timber to a building site.
In later years, Sykes had sporadic cameo roles in British shows and continued working until as recently as 2010, when he appeared in an episode of U.K. drama series Agatha Christie: Poirot.
Sykes passed away on Wednesday (04Jul12) after a short illness.
His manager, Norma Farnes, tells the BBC, "Eric Sykes, star of TV, stage and films, died peacefully this morning after a short illness. His family were with him."