Grace Amsden, Editor-in-Chief
Those who checked into the Bates Motel season four finale, which aired May 16, probably didn’t want to check out.
This episode was the darkest episode on the show out of all seasons, as Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) reacts after the death of his closest companion, his mother: Norma Bates (Vera Farmiga).
For those who haven’t seen Bates Motel, it’s about a mother and son who manage a motel in White Pine Bay, Oreg. They live in an old-fashioned home on the hill above the hotel. But it’s not all sunshine for this pair. Norma has a dark history and something’s very wrong with Norman. As revealed in Bates Motel, Norman has episodes of blackouts. During these, he can become violent and start to act like his mother.
Even when conscious, Norman deeply cherishes his mother and has an unusually close relationship with her to the point of sharing a bed with her on various nights.
The episode prior to this finale was chilling. After developing such anger about his mother’s recent marriage with the town’s sheriff Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell), his mother saw how upset her jealous son was and decided to end the marriage.
It’s pretty clear that Norma was actually in love with Romero, which is ironic. She’d casually asked Romero to marry her for insurance purposes so that Norman could go to Pineview Institute for mental help.
Leaving Romero triggered emotion in Norma, which made Norman go to bed with her to comfort her on this evening, suggesting that it’d be a good idea to move to another place. They’d been through all too much in White Pine Bay.
Once his mother was asleep, Norman caused carbon monoxide gases to overtake them. If it hadn’t been for Romero, who came by to check on Norma (as he knew that Norman shouldn’t have left Pineview), Norman would be dead. But Norma didn’t survive, as revealed in the finale.
The death of Norma came with sadness, yet her death had to happen at some point. In Psycho, Norman keeps his dead mother’s body in the basement.
Farmiga plays the role beautifully. She’s glamorous, mysterious but perhaps most of all, defensive when it comes to her son—even if it means hiding the evidence from her son’s murder victims.
And even though Norman killed his mother, it’d be difficult not to feel sorry for him as he realizes that she’s gone.
The extent of Highmore’s emotion toward his character is phenomenal. Anthony Perkins, who played Norman in Psycho, would be proud. Highmore portrays Norman – the charming, innocent, polite young man with a genuine smile – as a loving person who, well, couldn’t even hurt a fly. Yet, this side of Norman was shown more toward the beginning of Bates Motel.
The contrast between Norman’s softer, sweet side to his angry, jealous side, is drastic. It’s interesting to compare Highmore in this role to when he was much younger and played Charlie in Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
The most distinct scene in the finale is after Norman goes to the graveyard to bring his dead mother home. He lies her on the couch, tells her to open her eyes and look at him. She doesn’t, so he takes glue and paints it onto the creases of her eye to open them, which shows just how desperate Norman is. She still doesn’t ‘look’ at him, and he’s on the verge of committing suicide.
But then, he hears the piano playing. It’s his mother, who assures him that she’ll never leave him. Norman is relieved and happily joins her on the piano bench, returning to his sweet, innocent side. The house is somehow magically decorated with Christmas decorations. This whole episode ends on a happy—yet dissonant—note.
Even though the season four finale is strong, it’s questionable as to how easily Norman was let out of the hospital. The nurse informed him that his mother was dead and asked if he had a ride home. In a situation like this, one would think that it’d be treated with more care and compassion.
It’s not that Norman wasn’t questioned about the situation, as a detective came to his home. But the detective wasn’t trying hard enough to see that this was an unusual situation.
Now that Norman will be managing the hotel himself, he’ll have an interesting time meeting new customers and other community members and seeing if his ‘mother’ approves of them. Season five of Bates Motel is set to premiere in 2017, thankfully. The show can’t just stop here.
Viewers will be able to make another reservation and see what happens as Norman treks through the new chapter of his life without his mother – or perhaps quite the contrary.
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