Norman Bates’ Story Ends As ‘Bates Motel’ Closes For Business

Bates Motel has ended. A review of the series finale coming up just as soon as I give your sons permission to run around…

“I just want to be with her, Dylan.” –Norman

The post-“Marion” episodes of this final season seemed to be pointing us towards an ending similar to the movie, with Norman locked up for his crimes while the law-enforcement and psychological communities slowly came to terms with his condition. Romero busting him out of jail at the end of last week’s installment, though, left the field wide open for Kerry Ehrin to do whatever she wanted to wrap up the story, from Romero getting his revenge to Norman escaping and assuming a new identity elsewhere (though hopefully not as a lumberjack).

What Ehrin ultimately chose was for Norman to belatedly complete the murder-suicide he attempted with Norma at the end of season four, only now roping in poor Dylan as the instrument to deliver him to Mother once and for all. It’s an approach that fits everything we know about Norman — down to the way that Dylan was, sadly, right about his brother not actually being dangerous to him, since Norman was aiming the carving knife at the wall — and one that oddly allows the show to give Norman closest thing he can get to a happy ending without absolving him of his many crimes. Norman wanted to be with Norma, and after a day’s play-acting around the unsecured house and motel (a spectacular piece of police incompetence even by White Pine Bay standards) is disrupted by Dylan’s usual insistence on calling out his brother’s pathology, Norman goads him into a suicide-by-cop.

It’s, weirdly, a happy ending for both brothers: in his dying moments, Norman imagines himself running through the woods to find Norma waiting for him, and when we flash forward a few years during the “Dream a Little Dream” montage, Emma and Dylan seem to have gotten past this bump in their marriage — and whatever emotional trauma Dylan would have suffered from being the one to put his brother down. In that way, the finale wasn’t as ugly as it could, or maybe should, have been. But the series always took pity on both Norman and Dylan (and Emma), and Norman dying young — and remembered as such a monster that his half of the shared tombstone with Norma is blank save for his name and the years he was born and died — certainly isn’t what he could have had, or what Norma would have hoped for. As rough as the Norman/Dylan scene was, the epilogue dilutes some of its power in a way that the show didn’t with Norman killing Norma, or Norman’s kitchen confrontation with “Mother” a few weeks ago in “Marion.”

Continuing the story past Norman’s arrest was Ehrin and Carlton Cuse’s way to give their story its own ending, rather than simply copying from Robert Bloch and/or Hitchcock, and this conclusion felt appropriate to what we’d seen across these five beautifully acted (if narratively uneven) seasons.

Some other thoughts from these concluding episodes:

* RIP, Chick. Such a fascinatingly peculiar character who wasn’t strictly necessary plot-wise, but made the series as a whole more memorable for his presence. Shame he had to get popped simply for mouthing off to Romero. And speaking of Alex…

* Dumber move by a White Pine Bay sheriff, past or present, in the finale: Romero waiting to put a bullet in Norman’s head, as promised, immediately after finding Norma’s body; or Greene failing to post a single cop at the motel in case Norman returned there, or even have one of her officers do periodic drive-bys to see if there was any activity there? I have to go with Greene, since Romero wasn’t really in his right mind through this quest to find Norma’s body and get revenge on Norman. Greene just made a horrible rookie mistake. (For that matter, I’m surprised Emma didn’t call the cops herself the second she hung up with Dylan, given her concern about their daughter growing up fatherless.)

* As a nod to Norman’s infamous penchant for dressing in his mother’s clothes, it was a nice touch that in the episodes where “Mother” was in control of Norman’s body, we saw her wearing whatever he had on in the scene. Like mother, like son.

* Dylan’s misadventures in the high-stakes marijuana trade didn’t exactly need to be revisited, but I appreciated that Remo has gone straight now that pot is legalized in Orgeon. I wonder what kind of criminal enterprise the writers would have involved Dylan in had the series debuted even a few years later.

What did everybody else think?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at