*Spoilers Ahead, dear friends! Read with caution*
With Bates Motel coming to a close in the new few weeks, I thought it would be as good a time as any to bid farewell our beloved Norman Bates. Fare thee well, my friend! You have been as frustrating to watch as you have been hilarious. The last two season really packed a punch for us and I’ll be sad to leave the Bates house, once and for all. No more of Norman’s smart-ass, smirking, shit-eating grin. No more Norma trying desperately to “clean up” the bloody messes left behind by the town and/or Norman and/or whoever crossed her last. I think I could have watched countless episodes of Norman talking to invisible Norma, living his life and running the Bates Motel. I would have watched THREE SEASONS of Chick and Norman cohabiting! Chick talking to invisible Norma and trying to keep track of all the deceit and pleasantries as he manoeuvred around the increasingly manic Norman. I wanted to see more of Chick writing his book! I wanted to see him make the talk show circuit after the eventual demise of Norman. Or maybe Chick visiting Norman at the mental institution, if this is where the show runners and writers plan on taking the character.
Alas…none of this can be.
The truth is I didn’t take to Bates Motel, initially. I watched the first season and thought it was interesting but it had room for improvement. Freddie Highmore did a fine job playing the young Norman and I fell in love with Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates. I’ll give Norma Bates this much: she may have been a basket case at her worst but boy oh boy, did I ever root for that woman. Norma, you kicked ass, baby. NEVER CHANGE.
The second season aired around the time I moved to BC. Life was hectic in this time. The show came and went and I never blinked an eye. I rediscovered Bates Motel on Netflix last year. I started back at the beginning and became hooked to the bat shit insanity of the town and the Bates family. The show really came into its own during the fourth season and I have been tuning in regularly for season five, the final season. We know it will be a train wreak ending. We’ve all seen the original film ! Norman may just end up at the mental institution, staring into the camera lens a la the original Anthony Perkin performance/final scene of Psycho. But I can also imagine alternative endings. I can see Sheriff Romero sticking a gun into Norman’s mouth and pulling the trigger, then turning the gun on himself while some fun 60’s pop song plays in stark contrast to the end scene, camera slowly zooming out and revealing the Bates’ house in the background, bathed in beautiful yellow sunlight, and Norma standing at the window and smiling. Smiling and staring right at us. I can imagine a standoff between Romero and Norman’s brother Dylan. Norman may end up taking a bullet aimed at Dylan. Norman could get shot but survive, in the same way that he survived his suicide attempt. Maybe he will die and reunite with his mother in some LALA dreamscape fantasy alternative reality scene and we get to see the falsetto, smarmy happy ending which has been playing in Norman’s mind since he killed his mother. Reunited and it feels so good. I don’t know. All of this is possible.
I recall a scene. I recall the scene where Norman suffers a mental breakdown and makes his way to the Kitchen in the middle of the night as Norma Bates. This is in seasons three/episode titled Norma Louise. I think this is the first time we see Norman as Norma. Prior to this scene, we never quite get to see Norman taking on the persona of his mother; it is only ever implied via vague flashbacks or Norman’s unresponsive behavior. In other words; we never get the meet Norma /Norman until this very scene in the kitchen. Norma/Norman is downstairs cooking. S(he) is making breakfast. Dylan comes across Norma/Norman and the bewildered expression on his face says it all.
Dylan: (after waking up to see his brother in the kitchen wearing their mother’s robe) What are you doing?
Norman: (imitating his mother’s mannerisms) Sit down, honey. I’m just making some breakfast. French toast!
Dylan: you feeling better?
Norman: I’m fine. I found some beautiful blackberries yesterday. Can you get them out of the fridge?
Norman: Norman's...sleeping. Give me the blackberries, they’re on the bottom shelf
Dylan: (after a brief pause) Ok. Can I help you?
Norman: oh I’m fine. Just go wake up your brother.
Dylan: My brother?
Norman: Yes, Silly. What’s wrong with you?
Dylan: Nothings wrong with me.
Norman: Then run upstairs! you know Norman, He'll sleep all morning if you don’t wake him up.
There is such beauty to this scene. It is both incomprehensibly hilarious, campy and well staged. It is not quite a caricature. I love that the writers and showrunners took great length to ensure that Freddie Highmore didn’t play Norma in any offensive or over the top fashion. We get that Norman is mentally ill. We know that he is channeling Norma because he is suffering from some sort of split personality delusion, brought on by his childhood trauma. I think the scene could have been staged in a very frightful matter. We could have had a lot of dark shadows falling across faces.. It could have been played like a traditional scene out of a horror film and you know what? It would have worked but I’m glad that the show decided to take the scene in different direction. It’s funny. It plays as funny. We know this is a troubling, psychotic break but it’s okay to laugh! In this moment, with Norman channeling his mother’s careless swipe of the hand and sing song speaking voice, we get the laugh a bit. Dylan horror at witnessing his BROTHER thinking he is his MOTHER is enough for us to understand that this moment isn’t funny for those individuals witnessing the psychotic break live. But God, how I loved that scene. I love how Dylan, despite witnessing this madness in his own kitchen, doesn’t just CALL THE POLICY/HOSPITAL/CAVALRY right way, the way we would if we came across this sort of scene in our own home. He’s got other, more pressing problems. Norman acting crazy is literally put on the backburner while Dylan tries to iron out some other personal, drug related business. Is this not sort of crazy in of itself !? Dude, your brother was making breakfast in your mother’s bathrobe. He thought he was YOUR MOTHER. He asked you to get the BLACKBERRIES OUT OF THE FRIDGE.. Dylan, sweetie, honey, call someone. Call everyone. I cannot imagine how scary this scene would play out in real life. But the show took a chance and it paid off. It’s absolutely magical. It’s fantastic. I wish we could have gotten more moments like that out of the show. Bates Motel was never better than when it pointed a finger back at itself and allowed the audience to chuckle along. I think Peter and I are so naturally drawn back to the gutter of camp and John Water’s style insanity. We just go NUTS – Norman Bates NUTS – for stuff like this, despite the fact that it can become tasteless and repetitive fast. It’s the sort of moment we replay in our kitchen while making breakfast. It’s fun and funny and dark and twisted and just plain crazy. We can't get enough of twisted television. And now, Bates Motel is leaving us. Sad. Rest in Peace, Bates Motel, and NEVER CHANGE.
(Also Rihanna was on it).