Norman Bates time with us has come to an inevitable end. When this show was announced, as a fan of Hitchcock’s Psycho, I was intrigued by the concept of diving into how Norman Bates ultimately ends up the murdering psychopath that created the most iconic scene in horror film history, Marion Crane being slaughtered in her shower. We are a society consumed with understanding why people do the things they do; particularly why someone would or could take the life of another human being.
Once a professional football player murdered his wife one June night in 1994, the audience for crime stories became a national phenomenon. We devour documentaries about OJ Simpson, Jon Benet Ramsey, The Menedez Brothers, Casey Anthony, Lacey Peterson, Charles Manson, and countless others. We crave Netflix shows like Making A Murderer or America’s Most Wanted that aired for 23 seasons. Delving into the psyche of these people is fascinating; and that’s what Bates Motel did for 5 seasons.
***SPOILER WARNING, If you did not watch the final episode of Bates Motel, read at your own risk***
It is important to understand that this was a story about 3 people, not 2; Norma Bates, Norman Bates, and Mother. Norman is a sweet, young boy when we meet him, but there is something dark inside of him that Norma is trying to subdue. Norma isn’t a bad mother, she believes that in time, she can make her son well. If she hides from him the things he has done, perhaps it will just go away. Once you realize that Norman is completely unaware of the things he does when “Mother” takes over his mind, you can’t help but feel sad for him. I feel sad for Norman every step of the way. He is mentally unstable and it’s not his fault. It isn’t even Norma’s fault. She is just trying to be a good mother; she has her own demons in life that she’s coping with and she believes deep down that she is doing right by her child.
There are many different kinds of love stories and Bates Motel is the story of a mother and son’s unconditional love for one another. Norma sacrifices her happiness for Norman and he sacrifices any independence for her. Dylan, Norma’s other son, is the outsider looking in on his mother loving and nurturing his brother in a way she never can for him. The circumstances of his conception, which we learn and are devastating to both Norma and Dylan, prohibit her from ever truly embracing Dylan the way a mother should. Dylan, however, remains the bright light in their dark world. You root for Dylan, you want him to find some peace and happiness outside of this chaos.
The absence of Norma in this final season was felt so strongly. While we still had “Mother”, the Norma who we all grew to love, died at the end of Season 4 and that is felt throughout. There is an incredible amount of praise that needs to be given to Vera Farmiga for creating such a distinction between the two characters. Mother is Norman’s manifestation of her in his mind; she is cunning and ruthless. Norma is sweet and sometimes lost, but she’s a fighter and she’s astonishingly hopeful. You want Norma to have something for herself and for as long as we waited and hoped for her life with Alex Romero, we knew. We knew it would be short lived because at some point she would have to die. She would have to become the corpse in the rocking chair.
Kerry Ehrin and Carlton Cuse did a phenomenal job writing this show, creating the world of White Pine Bay and introducing us to these characters. What could have been a caricature of the Psycho mythos, became something entirely separate.
I had envisioned the ending of the series to be Marion Crane pulling up to the motel and checking in, leading us into Psycho. Then I realized, somewhere in season 3, this was different and it would have but one ending; Norman would have to die. They plowed right through the events of Psycho and put their own touch on the outcome of Marion Crane’s fateful interaction with Norman Bates. It was a nice bait and switch and I appreciated not having a carbon copy of the film play out on my screen.
It was things like that which separated this story from Psycho, while still paying homage to it. In the end, Norman finally understand the truth, that he is responsible for the death of his mother and he retreats further into psychosis than ever before, completely unreachable. Dylan walks into that house, knowing this is the end for Norman. When that gunshot rings out, Norman drifts away in Dylan’s arms, and you know he is finally at peace. Dylan, our only survivor, is free to live his life with his wife and daughter. The burden of these secrets and these horrors, finally lifted off him.
The actors that graced us with their talents for 5 seasons cannot go unnoticed. Vera Farmiga (Norma Bates/Mother) and Freddie Highmore (Norman Bates) deserve recognition for their tremendous talents and I hope the network pushes for them come Emmy season. Max Thierot (Dylan Massett) is a treasure. What he does, particularly in that final scene, is nothing short of breathtaking and I hope he has a wonderful career ahead of him. Olivia Cooke (Emily Decody), Nestor Carbonell (Alex Romero), Kenny Johnson (Caleb Calhoun), and Ryan Hurst (Chick) rounded out a stellar cast that brought every emotion and nuance to these characters for 5 pretty perfect seasons of television.