After five seasons on air, BATES MOTEL has finally checked out. What began as an alternate timeline of events where Norman and his mother are alive in modern times led to an unexpectedly emotional couple final seasons. The idea of Norma being a central character was curious as she was never living in the films (unless you count PSYCHO 4: THE BEGINNING which is mainly told via flashbacks). Vera Farmiga has utilized the television format to explore a blank slate over several episodes and has come out with one of the most beloved characters to grace the TV screen. Even though Norma died in season four, her presence, both physically and spiritually, was heavy throughout this final season as her passing has left a huge mark on everyone, even if they weren’t aware of her death.
I sometimes had to remind myself that Chick was the only person who knew that Norman had dug up his mother’s body and kept it frozen. Even after Norman was arrested, there were some secrets the audience knew, but no one else did. Norman had only confessed to one crime and the bodies started showing up that he didn’t even know where they went.
We left off last time with Alex kidnapping Norman from jail in order to find Norma’s body. This leads to the woods where Alex gets one final look at her body when Norman attacks and ultimately shoots him dead. While upsetting to have Alex get killed, this fan favorite passes away with the dignity he deserves as he truly loved Norma and was always looking out for her best interests. There was never going to be a happy ending for many of these characters and Alex was one of them as soon as he escaped from prison.
It’s Alex’s death when Norman comes face to face with Mother and she gives him her goodbye. She no longer can protect him and he realizes he is on his own for the first time. This sparks an emotional wreck of sequences where Norman relives moments from the pilot episode and makes himself believe he is moving to White Pine Bay for the first time and starting up the Bates Motel. We are reminded of a time where this relationship felt pure. This is before Norma is forced to confront the truth about her son just like Norman is now avoiding facing his reality. Their relationship at their happiest was when they were in their own bubble without anyone around trying to burst. It’s when this bubble popped that they felt everything went wrong.
So, in DONNIE DARKO fashion, Norman picks up his mother’s body and drives it back home in order to go back to a time where he is reminded of how beautiful the world can be. He calls up Dylan and invites him over to dinner. Dylan is completely confused and scared as all he knows is that Alex took Norman and also has no idea about Norma’s frozen corpse. He gets a gun from a local friend and calls Emma knowing this may well be the last time he ever speaks to her. What results is quite possibly the best performance we have been gifted from Max Thieriot as not only does he see his brother for the last time, but is confronted with the worst truth: Norman is not only sick, but has been conversing with his mother’s corpse as if she never died. This is when Norman breaks character and begs Dylan to play along, for him to not force Norman to admit to seeing what’s actually in front of him. Dylan ends up shooting Norman, who dies in his arms, visualizing himself once again as a child running into his mother’s arms.
Seriously, no series finale has gotten to me or felt as perfect since the SIX FEET UNDER finale and those are some huge shoes. As a fan, I am grateful that BATES MOTEL got to go out on top and not face the grave of sudden cancellation. We got to watch the last seasons unfold onto a path chosen by the creators that allowed us to grieve at an appropriate pace. From the sudden death of Norma in a surprising fashion to the new twist of a different ending for Marion Crane. The only survivors are Dylan and Emma, but they are also the only ones who stayed away and rightfully so. Norman and Norma belong together and now they get what they want forever in death.