Another season of Bates Motel has come to a close and things are closer to Psycho than they have ever been. Things have changed fundamentally in this finale. The relationship between Norman and Norma has been put through the ringer this year, it has been challenged at every turn. Instead of growing apart, they’ve begun to discover how damaging their closeness is and that they probably should be growing apart, but they have both fought it. Norma in particular has been forced to realize things about Norman she would rather not admit, things she wishes she could unhear because they are things she has always known to be true. There’s so much that she has kept from him, every step of the way. For her to finally admit she needs to get him help is a huge step for her character, but as we can see it pretty much proves to be too little too late.
Where Bates Motel ultimately succeeds is in the tragic self-awareness of its characters. They know that they’re doomed, even if they don’t, they can still somehow feel what’s coming. These are all characters who have a clear ending to their story. Romero and Dylan both have an incredibly high risk line of work that could kill them at any time. Emma has it even worse. Any moment, she could be dead. She has a life-expectancy that is getting shorter by the second. At this point, we don’t even know if she survived the transplant. Norma has, ironically, always been the most oblivious. And now all of that has changed. Now she knows what Norman is capable of. She knows, and has vocalized, her fear that he could kill her. And the sad fact always remains that he will; it’s only a matter of when.All season I’ve been saying that Norman was clearly going to kill someone else. Now he has. I said I didn’t want it to be Bradley because she was brought in close to the end of the season and it felt a little cheap. While I still agree with part of that, I think it was handled very effectively. Norman has not only made a transition in this episode, but has made the transition. Bradley was always the girl who had to carry him over that threshold. She has always been this TV show’s Marion Crane. She’s the troubled girl in over her head, but one who can feel somewhat comfortable with Norman, a girl who tries to insist that he gain control over his life. And, ultimately, she’s a girl who really pisses off Mother.
Bradley’s death is a huge turning point for Norman. In fact, the Norman we’ve known for three seasons is in many ways dead. He’s been dying throughout the year. He’s been seeing this Other Mother more and more. This version that is a part of his own psyche and has been slowly taking over has now cemented her place in his consciousness. It’s possible that she may never leave him again, but we’ll just have to wait and see how that develops. This is Norman we know from Psycho, the one lost beyond much of any hope of recovery. The Norman who kills without even knowing he is doing it. This is the Norman Bates who will never, can never be free from his mother, even after she’s dead.
With that in mind, now that Norman has evolved to that place, how does the series develop and how does his character continue to grow? There are no clear answers. Instead, we’ll all simply have to wait and see.