We all go a little mad sometimes.
~~ Norman Bates
After five seasons, the series finale of “Bates Motel” aired tonight. It’s been a wild ride and I feel the need to write a bit about it. (If you haven’t watched it and plan to, please note that there are major spoilers ahead.)
Some of you know that my favorite movie of all time is “Psycho.” Don’t read anything into that! There is just something about the movie that appeals to me on so many levels. The lighting, the way Hitchcock framed his shots, the perfect soundtrack, the masterful performance of Anthony Perkins, and of course, the classic shower scene.
In other words, those were some big shoes to fill.
What a pleasure to watch the show live up to its source material and see it develop into a genuinely interesting backstory of the movie and the characters. There were many twists and turns along the way, with the biggest coming at the very end of tonight’s episode. What I didn’t expect was that they would move past the ending of the movie and show the ultimate fate of Norman. I think it was a stroke of genius, because I watched thinking that I knew where everything ended up, and it was a genuine surprise to see where it went.
One of the best things about the Norman Bates character is that despite his murderous nature, Anthony Perkins played him as a sympathetic, even likable character. His boyish charm, his nervousness, his smile...you want him to be okay and it’s heartbreaking when you realize just how damaged he is. Freddie Highmore as Norman in the TV show understood that and played it perfectly. In tonight’s finale, Norman (with his poor bloodied face) drives Norma’s corpse home and relives the good times of the past. He is lost in his memories and has obviously had a very serious break with reality. It made me cry to see his battered face and his bewildered smile.
Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates was also incredible. Of course, Mrs. Bates never got a genuine word in the movie, but Farmiga created this amazing, destructive, enabling force of nature that was Norma Bates. She was funny, she was loving, she was messed up, she was irresistible. She was Mother.
A character who wasn’t in the movie was Sheriff Alex Romero, played by Nestor Carbonell (he of the dreamy eyes). He was a perfect addition who became a surprise love interest for Norma when Norman was off getting some much-needed mental health attention. It was a beautiful thing to see their love blossom and grow (Christ, that sounds sappy...but that scene at the Winter Carnival when they first realized that they had real chemistry was magical!) and when Norma died, Romero’s grief and fury was palpable. His vow of revenge upon Norman wasn’t consummated, and we had to say goodbye to Alex tonight. But damn, that final scene with him and Norman was intense!
Other characters not from the movie were Norman’s brother Dylan (Max Thieriot) and Norman’s friend Emma (Olivia Cooke). Dylan and Emma end up together and their story arc was rich and interesting. I feared for Dylan tonight but the ending to the brothers’ story was fitting. Dylan did his best to help Norman and I believe he truly loved him. His face when he walked into the dining room and saw Norma...what a perfect reaction of horror and sorrow and some major nausea! I think it broke Dylan’s heart to do what he had to do but there really was no other way, was there?
I don’t mean to rehash the entire episode but those were some salient moments for me. The entire series was inventive and intelligent, fleshing out the story of Norman and his mother, providing so many interesting subplots that all came together perfectly in tonight’s finale. I really wasn’t sure they could pull it off, but they did, and in a very satisfying way. Would I have liked to see at least a couple more seasons with these characters? Of course! But you can’t always get what you want, and in this case, I think it was the right decision. The story played out in a perfect way, giving us so much backstory in the previous seasons, and then things really coming to a crisis point in the last few episodes of this season. We were rushing to the inevitable end, and it was the right time to finish the series.
Obviously, they won’t read this, but I want to put this out there: thank you to the entire cast and crew for a job well done. I was skeptical of a show premised on my favorite movie, but you allayed my fears. It was brilliant.
Farewell, Norman. Forever in my heart.