The last episode of A&E's Bates Motel built up to an eerie creep crescendo and climaxed with a cliffhanger that made it look as if Norma Bates (Vera Farmiga) died from Norman's deliberate gas poisoning. The final scene showed Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) sobbing as he clutched his wife's lifeless body.
But all is well in White Pine Bay, my fellow Bates Motel fans. Well, not exactly well; Norman just gets more and more batshit crazy, and he freaked out and attempted a murder-suicide soon after returning home from the mental hospital. Jealousy consumed the oedipal Norman as he observed her relationship with her new husband. As far as Norman is concerned, Norman is the man in Mother's life and she has no room for another one — hence, the enmeshed relationship that triggered Norman's split personality. His jealousy culminates in the sinister manipulation of the gas stove, while a spooky Mr. Sandman — Jamie Lee Curtis' theme song about bogeyman Michael Myers in some Halloween movies — plays in the background.
However, all is about as well as it could be under the circumstances in Bates Motel, in that Norma isn't really dead. She can't be.
Remember, A&E officials have confirmed that a fifth season is coming. And I cannot see a Bates Motel without a living Norma. We know that, sadly, her death at the hands of her son is inevitable, but that should be the series finale. Perhaps they could get away with an imaginary Norma — where she lives just in Norman's demented imagination, thus keeping Farmiga on the show — but only for a few episodes at most.
I believe that, though Bates Motel's premise is showing the development of Norman's insanity, Norma really is the true heart of this story. She is the more likable and sympathetic character of the two. To kill her off at this point would cause an epic shark-jumping mess, and the show would lose a lot of appeal. I would still watch it, as true fans always do, but Norma's premature death would abase this show significantly.
A dead Norma works in the Psycho movie for which Bates Motel is a prequel. In the movies, Mother is a cartoonish mummified corpse. But in the television series, Farmiga's Norma is a beautiful, deep, complex character we viewers love, even in all her dysfunction and woundedness. We care about Norma, and we root for her. So often, I want to reach into the screen and just give her a comforting hug.
I can't wait to see what happens in tonight's season finale, teased ominously as an ending no one could see coming. It is anyone's guess. But I feel certain that Norma is not dead, and if the season ends with that impression, then she will revive in the fifth season's premiere. Perhaps Norman will go back to the hospital, and Norma, ever blind about her son's violent side, will believe that the gas leak was an accident.
But somehow, Norma is and will remain alive, at least until well into next season. For when Norma dies, so will, to a large degree, the show itself. And the lights will go out permanently at Bates Motel.
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