“Maybe we don’t get to start over.” So said Norman way back in the series premiere. Norma didn’t want to believe it, it was pretty clear Norman was on to something. After all, if you’re in a prequel (of sorts) to Psycho, and your name is “Norman Bates,” there’s a reasonably good chance your fate is sealed. But just how prophetic was Norman? As Bates Motel prepares for its Monday night checkout, what will happen to the surviving members of the Bates family?
After all, Bates Motel may rely heavily on its source material, but that has proven to be mostly for mood and inspiration. These characters are as close to living and breathing originals as you can get. Season 5 finally took us into Psycho territory, running headlong into the Marion Crane subplot, but that turned out to be a bait and switch, a mere blip in a much more complex story that, as it turns out, barely factors in Marion Crane at all. (Though, for what it’s worth, I really hope she’s made it to Mexico and is living a fancy fugitive life.)
With one episode left, Romero, Norman, Dylan, and Emma are all in impossible positions, with fairly unhappy outlooks. Are they, as Norma once said, “all doomed in the end”? Let’s take a closer look, one by one.
Aside from Norman, who is Norman Bates after all, Romero is the character whose fate seems mostly sealed, because he has nothing left to lose. His motivation is a straightforward revenge fantasy and Romero’s on a one-man mission to kill Norman or die trying—an uncomplicated plot point, though nonetheless compelling. Literally, the only way Romero doesn’t kill Norman is if he dies first. Because I feel that Norman’s fate is more tangled up in his relationship with “Mother,” he won’t meet his end at the hands of a stepfather. Will there be a showdown? Yes. Will Romero walk away avenged? Probably not (Sorry, Romero). But he definitely is not someone willing to go back to prison. So what then? I have pointed out all season that Romero’s hidden Bob Paris money is still in that basement. I think the most we can hope for is that he makes it out alive and flees to Mexico to join Rihanna on the beach for frozen margaritas.
Last week we watched Dylan scroll through pictures of his family. Well, both families. The happy normal one he created with Emma—the one waiting for him far away from White Pine Bay. And, well… the other one. The one with Norma and Norman, that didn’t include him, but still calls to him. Will Dylan want to belong so badly, that it literally kills him? Because Bates Motel, despite its darkness, isn’t really a cynical show, I truly believe Dylan will make it out as the one glimmer of hope. Norman might be a hallucinatory hot mess that Norma allowed to manifest on her watch—but not for lack of love. Weirdly, Bates Motel is about the love you have for your family, even if it kills you. I think Dylan will be spared to live another, happier day.
First of all, no matter what horror Bates Motel subjects us to, killing off Emma, would be a step too far. Logistically, it makes no sense—she’s well on her way home, far away from crazy town. I wish we had seen more of Olivia Cooke this season, though the moments we got were just enough to see just how much Emma has grown. She left White Pine Bay and can literally and figuratively breathe for the first time. Norman has only loved two women his whole life. Norma, whom he loved to death, and Emma, who gets to have the life Norma couldn’t. Last week she said goodbye to Audrey, made her peace with Norman, and left town. She’s headed back to her bright future, which I’d like to think still includes Dylan. Either way, Emma, as the only truly innocent character, is guaranteed some happiness.
Minor character, you say? I beg to disagree. First of all, as one Green to another, I’m Team Green(e) all the way. Also, what a refreshing change to have somebody levelheaded in that kooky town, who’s not a mess and not corrupt. She’s not a character who’s going to go down without a fight. Not that it isn’t possible; surely she’s the most expendable than anyone else. But if Sheriff Greene dies, who’s going to discover and publish the book Chick was writing?
What good can come of Norman? He’s killed a lot of people and left a path of misery in his wake. The fact that we can still feel sympathy towards him is a testament to the writing and Freddie Highmore’s performance. Though he only consciously and intentionally killed one person, that’s still a pretty big deal. Going free isn’t an option. Saying he’s sorry and moving on, isn’t realistic. The fact that he was unaware of how sick he was and what “Mother” did on his behalf, doesn’t quite cut it as a defense.
Should Norman make it back into custody (though I doubt it. Why have a dramatic jailbreak if he’s just going to end up back in jail 40 minutes later), I don’t think we’ll end up seeing a call back to the end of Psycho, with Norman in a cell, smirking and channeling “Mother”. Bates Motel hasn’t spent 5 seasons carefully weaving an intricate story only to end on a been-there-done-that callback to something less compelling. Nor would “Mother” be allowed to still exist. Surely she’d be medicated right out of Norman’s subconscious. Even after all he’s done, seeing Norman confined to a life sentence without Norma somehow seems too cruel.
Sadly, or not so sadly, depending on your sense of justice, Norman has to die. It’s the only way he can be reunited with Norma—and not “Mother”. It’s just a matter of how and at whose hands. As I predicted, likely not Romero. And probably not Dylan. Though the Cain and Able symbolism would be interesting, that’s not really here nor there. This is a story about Norma and Norman—and the chord between their hearts, etc. etc. Both are flawed, but neither are villains. The only true villain is “Mother,” who has to go. Norman’s still deep down a sweet and damaged kid. So here it is…
To avenge his own crimes, Norman will have to destroy “Mother,” thereby sacrificing himself. Oh, Norman. You never stood a chance.