Bates Motel Series Finale
With the recent completion of the Bates Motel series, the finale left me feeling...unfulfilled.
Being realistic, what did I think was going to happen? Assuming you've seen Alfred Hitchcock's original film, there was such intrigue in the way the film ended. Admittedly, the psychiatrist helpfully explained Norman's disorder to the audience, but still, we did not really know why he was the way he was. This is why I was so excited to follow the reboot: the production was able to really delve into Norman and Norma's relationship.
From the beginning of the series it was clear to me just how overbearing Norma was, and I felt extreme pity for Norman. He had trouble fitting in, making friends, and perhaps the most important element to note: the only "woman" in his life was his mother. As the seasons continued, my contempt for Norma began to shift to Norman. There were episodes where I was so emotionally confused that I nearly stopped watching the show. Then I realized that if this is how I was feeling as a viewer, the emotional strain, stress, and trauma for these characters must have been astronomically greater. Norman and Norma fed off of each others insecurity and distrust, this unhealthy cycle caused Norman's psychosis to get so out of hand, he racked up quite the body count.
The true shift in character development occurred to me during Norman's stay at Pineview. When Norma was finally free of worrying about protecting Norman--which was a round the clock job in her mind--she was able to simply be.
To back track really quick, the show did a great job of showing how attached Norma was to Norman, and why she treated him the way she did. She had so much pent of anger from being abused as a child, and in her marriage, and so in her mind, Norman was the only "good" thing she had done. And she was never going to put that at risk. She spent so much time hovering around Norman, making sure she knew everything he did, and was involved in every part of his life, she began to smother him. Choking him with her extreme love, and need for his love in return. I understand that there is no relationship like a mother and her child, but Norman and Norma's definitely crossed certain boundaries. Most importantly, the sexual boundary. And it seems really strange to acknowledge this kind of relationship between mother and son; as the show runners, Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin refer to it as a warped romance.
So when Norma was finally able to be a grown, single, woman, she fell in love with Alex Romero. I was just waiting for them to get together after their relationship evolved, I was rooting for them! And this was, in great part, because Norma seemed truly happy. It seemed her emotions were positive as opposed to her constant state of frantic panic while living with Norman. It was only when her attention returned to Norman that she returned to her role of protective Mother.
As a side note, did anyone else just want to MURDER Norman everytime he yelled, "MOTHER!"? It was so abnormal for a young man to continuously refer to his mother as "mother".
For a brief moment, Norma was happily married, and had actually shown her true self to Romero (meaning she revealed that Dylan's father was her brother), but she gave that up for her child; her son that was everything to her. The most unfortunate part of that decision was that Norman, having become so twisted and lost in his mind, manipulated Norma into thinking Romero was trying to pull them apart. Once Norman saw that Norma loved Romero in a way that she could never love him, he killed her. I am not entirely sure if his intention was to die too, but after that point, I had it with him. The most upsetting part, though, is that he felt that desperate to take her life. Up to that point, Norman had killed out of rage, hatred, and disgust. But when he killed Mother he felt...hopeless. He felt that there was no other course of action, and all he wanted was to be with her, because being with her meant safety.
Upon waking up in the hospital, and being told his mother was dead, Norman proceeds to return home and call out for her. At that point, I thought for sure he would realize what he had done, but lo and behold, Mother comes back. But really, it is his mind's coping mechanism; trying to comfort him with what he recognizes as safe. It is all down hill from here ladies and gents.
Norman falls deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole of his projection of what life is like with Mother. It gets to the point where he is functioning as if she is there with him, almost on a daily basis. It is also interesting to me that her identity and persona seemed to be tied to the house at one point--I can discuss that at a different time.
When Sheriff Jane Greene came into the picture, we knew she meant business. Every time she saw through Norman's polite demeanor, and caused him to falter in a lie, it was incredibly gratifying. I was sincerely rooting against Norman--a huge development in his character ark, reflecting back on how I felt about him at the beginning of the series. We were able to see this sad, almost pathetic, young boy morph into this grotesque, hateful killer. Pity plays a very interesting role in this series. Do we still pity Norman as he kills the new Sam Loomis in the iconic shower sequence?
Shout out to Rihanna who I thought absolutely nailed her role!
Alas, we reach the finale, where Romero has seen Norma's body, and is subsequently killed by Norman as Mother. With his last breath he reminds Norman that the responsibility for Norma's death lays solely on him. Mother leaves, and Norman is absolutely alone. In a bid to have things return to "normal", Norman drags mother back to the motel and invites Dylan over for dinner.
Dylan, perhaps the only person left standing to see any good in Norman, chooses not to contact the police, and instead visit his brother one last time. When Norman turns to pick up the knife and we see on his face all of these scenarios playing out in his head, we know all too well what is about to happen. Norman lunging at Dylan with the knife was purely motivated by his need to be reunited with Mother. He gave Dylan no other choice. Cuse and Ehrin have talked about how they always envisioned the series ending with Norman and Norma dead....dead but together forever. It was not until later that they decided it should be Dylan who puts him out of his misery. But that is just it--was it perhaps the most merciful ending for Norman to be killed by his only remaining family member, and the only person that felt any compassion for him?
I believe this is why I was left feeling unfulfilled with the closing of the series. With the last few season, and certainly the last few episodes, I had grown to loath Norman for how twisted his logic had become. I felt so much contempt for this extremely troubled person whom could not get a hold on reality and simply fell further and further into a dilution of his own making. Did I want to see him brought to justice? Hell yeah. Did I want him to suffer in the way that Romero, Emma, or Dylan suffered? Absolutely. Did I want him to see the monster he had become? With out a question, And with Dylan killing him because he had no other choice, and Norman leaving this world in the comfort of the home that was at once his safe haven and prison seemed so merciful that as a viewer I felt none of the juicy satisfaction of justice I longed for.
And then to continue on with the sunny and joyous shots of Emma and Dylan with their baby seemed too satisfying. I am happy for them, but based on the dark tone in the end of Psycho I suppose I had assumed that the series would end with uncertainty. Overall, I loved the series because it dove into this dark background of a character that so many Psycho fans had wondered about for years. In short, I feel that Norman the monster, Norman the killer, never truly and to face the consequences of his actions. Where is the justice in that? But on the other hand, we see that after all that had happened, Norman was still very much a child that just needed his mother to feel safe. We should pity him for the disastrous events that had steered him so far off from normalcy. Knowing the history between Norman and Mother, it is no wonder why he was such a psycho.
You can read the entire article from The Hollywood Reporter on the Bates Motel Series Finale Explained with Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin here.