Previously on Bates Motel, “Visiting Hours”
Norman Bates wasn’t evil; he was extremely ill. With little to no professional treatment, his illness created a version of his mother who would handle everything that Norman couldn’t, including his complicated feelings for women, which also included his mother. In its last hour, Bates Motel showed that though Norman’s mind was sick, it was still extremely powerful.
At gunpoint, Norman takes Romero to Norma’s body. Romero is overcome by grief and turns his back on Norman, and it proves to be a fatal mistake. Norman overpowers him and shoots him twice. Romero’s last words remind Norman that he killed his own mother and that’s something he’ll have to live with. Romero had to know that no matter what, this wasn’t going to end well for him. I like to think his carelessness was indicative of what he truly wanted at the end: not revenge on Norman, but to see Norma again and tell her, as he did, that he loved her and would always love her.
With Romero out of the picture, and with Mother disappearing into the woods because there’s nothing else she can do for him, Norman retreats into his memories. He goes back to the day Norma told him about their move, then their drive to Oregon, and finally the first time he laid eyes on the motel. In reality, he’s driving back to the motel with Norma’s corpse in the backseat. He tears down the crime scene tape, dresses his wounds, and checks in a mother and her two boys. Seeing the brothers play reminds him of his own brother so he calls Dylan.
In Norman’s mind, this is early days at the motel and Norma is still alive. He invites Dylan to come over for dinner so they can be a complete family. Dylan has already obtained a gun and realizes that Sheriff Greene’s first priority isn’t bringing Norman in alive so he can get the help he needs. He calls Emma and tells her his plan to try, once again, to save his brother. When she warns that Norman is dangerous, he replies, “Not to me.”
This is put to the test when Dylan arrives and finds Norman fully immersed his fantasy world, complete with Norma sitting at the head of the table. He takes tentative steps into the dining room, staring at the back of Norma’s head. His face conveyed fear, but also hope; heartbreaking hope.
Dylan refuses to play along and pleads with Norman to turn himself in. Norman knows it can only end one way for him; there’s only one way he can be with Norma again. He charges at Dylan with a butcher knife, and Dylan takes on the massive responsibility of ending his brother’s life. As Dylan cradles him on the floor, Norman thanks him and sees himself running into Norma’s waiting arms.
Bates Motel was an unexpected surprise. It brought depth to a character most notable for that iconic shower scene, and also managed to be terrifying in its own right. And, thanks in large part to Vera Farmiga’s portrayal of Norma Bates, sometimes it was laugh-out-loud funny. Even though their fates were sealed, you couldn’t help but root for Norma to find happiness, to have a healthy relationship with both of her sons, and to find Norman the help he desperately needed.
Freddie Highmore literally grew up before our eyes in this role. His transition to awkward kid, to creepy stalker, to petulant man-child felt effortless, and when he behaved as Mother he was downright terrifying.
This honestly felt like an appropriate end and new beginning for what remains of the Bates family (Dylan) and White Pine Bay itself. Over the course of five seasons the town was always a hotbed of illegal operations and corruption. It made for appropriate backdrop to Norman’s unraveling and the crimes he committed. With a new sheriff, Romero dead, and the Bates motel and its ghosts buried, maybe White Pine Bay can finally live up to its idyllic image.
I’d long held out hope that Dylan and Emma would get a happy ending, and they did. The series ends a few years after Norman’s death, and the motel and house have found new buyers. Despite the trauma of Emma’s mother’s death, she and Dylan and Katie are thriving in Seattle. Norman is buried next to his mother for eternity.
This show will be missed. Greatly.
Bates Motel S5E10
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Freddie Highmore, Max Thieriot, Olivia Cooke, Nestor Carbonell, Kenny Johnson, Isabelle McNally, Austin Nichols