Bates Motel shut its doors for the final time (until a lovely new family opens them for business and hopefully doesn’t murder anyone) on Monday. The fifth season was a satisfying cap on a show that had me wondering from the very first premiere: how can this end? After all, Alfred Hitchcock had already finished the story in his 1960 film, Psycho. How would a prequel add anything new or exciting to the end of Norman Bates’s tale?
We actually knew going into “The Cord” that A&E’s iteration was taking an entirely different route. The series had already moved past the events of the film, which go down in a different way. (Long story short: Norman doesn’t kill Marion Crane, aka Rihanna, in the shower. Instead, he murders Sam Loomis, the philandering husband of his townie crush, Madeleine.) Norman confesses to the crime, but Norma starts taking over his body, trying to get him out of trouble. At the end of the penultimate episode, Romero breaks him out of jail and forces him at gunpoint to take him to Norma’s body.
And that’s where the finale begins.
Norman does guide Romero to Norma’s body, then he promptly murders Romero in the forest. The trauma causes a psychic break, and Norma “leaves” him. He reverts back to when Norma first tells him they’re moving to Oregon. While flashing back to their happy days traveling up to their new motel, Norman takes her body and brings her home. He checks a mother and her two boys into the motel, and the family triggers his longing for his own brother. He calls Dylan, who recognizes that something is very wrong when Norman starts talking about how he and Mother would love to have him over for dinner.
Dylan goes over – after shooing the family away, for their own safety – and confronts Norman. He doesn’t tell the police, because he knows they’ll just kill fugitive Norman. Heaven knows why Dylan thinks he’s equipped to deal with his mentally disturbed brother, who he fully knows is a murderer. Dylan sees Corpse Norma propped up at the table, promptly throws up, and tells Norman that he has to face the facts that Norma is gone. You can see Norman grappling with the truth – Freddie Highmore deserves an Emmy for this season – and he picks up a knife. Dylan is forced to shoot his brother, holding him as he dies. In death, Norman is reunited with Norma.
The show flashes forward, and we see that a new family moves into the Bates Motel; hopefully they’ll bulldoze the place. Dylan is still with Emma, and their daughter is adorable. The final shot is of Norma and Norman’s shared gravestone. Her side is filled with praise, and his is blank except for his name and the years of his birth and death. Their story has finally been put to rest, and Dylan is free to move on with his life.