Norman Bates is about to become Norman Bates—and if you don’t feel the gravity of those italics, you haven’t been keeping up with the Bateses.
This season of A&E’s Bates Motel—which ends tonight—has heavily focused on Norman’s inner turmoil as his feelings for his mother escalate beyond their standard level of creepy, becoming more amorous and conflicted. It didn’t help that Norman’s frequent and vivid hallucinations (Juno’s alive! So is a dead pigeon!) include a psychosexual apparition of Norma, seducing her son with the magnetism of Marilyn Monroe and the terrible advice of a disbarred lawyer. To top it all off, there’s Norman’s occasional transformation into Norma, which is its own can of off-putting worms.
So what does the season finale have in store for Norman’s steady decline into crazy?
Based on what Freddie Highmore told EW a few weeks ago—back when Norman first donned his mother’s clothing—the season finale (titled “Unconscious,” not “The Psycho” as previously reported) will irrevocably bring Norman closer to the man we know from Psycho than the boy we met on Bates Motel.
Executive producer Kerry Ehrin agrees that with the end of season 3, we’re officially starting the crazy spiral downwards through the end of the five-season roller coaster. “I feel like this episode is really the birth of the character as we know it in Psycho,” Ehrin told EW. But does that mean that Norman is now more villainous than pleasant? “I think it depends on the situation. He’s been pushed to an extreme that, in certain situations, could be unleashed in him. I don’t think he wakes up in the morning calculating, ‘I would like to kill that person.’ He’s not that guy. He’s in many ways a victim of himself and he’s terrified of himself.”
Ehrin continued, “The goal [of Bates Motel] has been to get people on this ride with Norman, because he’s terrified of things he’s capable of doing that he doesn’t even know for sure he’s doing! But it’s such a terrifying situation to be in, and we’ve always wanted the audience to be with him on that ride, rather than running away from him.”
So who’s going to make it through the end of that ride? This season has been building to a bloody finale, so you know that not everyone makes it out alive. Tonight’s ender will tie up at least three major storylines that have been playing out this season, including one romantic moment that ship-happy fans should be particularly excited about. But despite the body count, given Norman’s penchant for taxidermy, is anyone ever really gone at the Bates Motel?