And so goodbye…
There’s a beautiful monologue at the end of The Glass Menagerie where Tom, a young man with a crippled sister and an abusive mother, has left home because his mother is unwilling to change and he cannot help his sister in that environment. So he leaves and tries to live his life: He travels all over trying to forget his sister, trying to put her out of his mind…
“Laura, Laura, I tried so hard to leave you behind me but I am more faithful than I intended to be. I reach for a cigarette. I cross a street. I run to the movies or to a bar. I buy a drink. I speak to the nearest stranger. Anything that will blow your candles out. For nowadays the world is lit by lightning. Blow out your candles, Laura. And so goodbye.”
This is basically how I feel about Bates Motel. About the fictional inhabitants of White Pine Bay. About my Norma and Norman. I have no idea how I will escape them living in my head and in my heart. They are going to haunt me.
As the finale circles back to the pilot, I find myself circling back to the beginning of this whole journey. I remember walking to Carlton Cuse’s office on the Disney lot, wondering what in the hell I was doing working on a show about killing people. But I was excited to work with Carlton, of whom I had heard such good things, and it was a challenging opportunity but wholly new territory for me. I was scared. And I remember thinking about Norma and Norman and trying to get inside them as I walked up to that first day of work. I had some version of their hearts beating in me, even though I knew nothing about them yet. But I felt the presence of them, and there they were, already looking after me.
Writers are crazy.
Carlton and I went to work, and I soon found we were both on the same page, wanting to tell a real story of a real mother and son who loved each other but couldn’t overcome their own past and issues, valiantly though they would try. A love story told with humor and heart and heartache. (And may I take this moment to thank Carlton Cuse, my partner and dear friend, for everything he has given and that I have learned from him. Carlton, I loved creating this world with you.) Being with Norma and Norman on that journey, I fell in love with them. I spent the next six years with them. Like, full time, intimately, spent it with them. I know them as well as I know any real people in my life, and much better than some. I know what they would do or feel in any situation. I know them like the back of my hand. How do you say goodbye to people you know like the back of your hand?
Looking back, Norma was the most exciting character I have ever had a hand in bringing to life, made even more exciting by Vera Farmiga’s mind-blowing performance. Norma was a kind of every woman. She wanted love. She wanted to have value. She wanted to be left alone by men who didn’t treat her with the respect she deserved. She never wanted to lose her son who was this miracle human — and miraculously, a man — who loved her unconditionally. Who needed her as much as she needed him, who would never leave her. That need to not be abandoned was her weakness but also part of her vulnerable beauty and her ability to be so present with him. She appreciated him. She appreciated the love they shared because she had not experienced a lot of love in her life.
Norma was damaged, but she never wallowed in it. She rarely felt sorry for herself. She always put one foot in front of the other and kept going. She kicked ass when she had to. She kept trying to find happiness, find peace, take care of her son. Have value in a world that did not value her. And she did find it. And although it was cut short by her death, she did get to find her heart’s desire in her lifetime, which is something you cannot say for everyone, even some people who live to be 90.
I realize now that Norma was a conduit wherein I could quietly express my own insecurities and chart my own growth; as a writer and a showrunner, but mostly as a human being. So much of what I was experiencing taking on a job I had never done before wound up subconsciously threading itself into Norma’s story: a woman who didn’t know what she was doing taking on a new life, finding out it wasn’t what she expected, taking it by the balls regardless and giving it her all, come hell or high water. When Norma died, it felt like the Phoenix: like my old self was gone and a new, stronger and more confident self had emerged.
Like I said, writers are crazy.
Norman, also, has been one of the loves of my life and a joy to help create. Crazy Norman with his loving heart and his fragile brain. Never was there so much joy in any psycho, homicidal maniac. The happiness and true contentment he felt in his mother’s love always just melted me like a pat of butter on a hot pancake. Writing the scenes where he and Norma were in co-dependent bliss was true happiness for me. (I think the longing I have for connection, forged at an early age, will never be completely quelled. Being able to live inside Norma and Norman, when they were together and happy. was always a beautiful dream.)
I also loved Norman’s idiosyncrasies. His “oopsy daisy’s” and his “well I reckons.” (Freddie reveled in those and contributed most of them.) I loved Norman when his eyes were big like a puppy and his pupils would get all dilated, and I loved Norman when he was pissy and strident and really thought he had put someone in their place (but really hadn’t actually done it so very well: “The great thing about taxidermy is it goes with everything”). I loved Norman when he was happy and affectionate, and I loved Norman when he was lost and sad and I wanted to save him.
I always wanted to save him. And Norma. I always wanted to save them.
I loved Dylan with his wounded heart and his clarity and his selflessness. His beautiful love for his family that never really totally gave him back the love he deserved. He strove to see the truth in the dark. Even though it hurt him. Even though it knocked him down. He kept getting up. He kept going forward. He is a hero of truth in my opinion. And he is the success story of Bates because he dared to look at the truth, full on in the face. And that’s why he survived along with Emma — Emma the old soul, the truth-seeker, the beating and true heart under all the madness of the world she was in. Emma, the last person who should have outlived everyone else. And yet she did.
Getting to spend these years with Alex Romero was another joy. Watching him go from completely guarded tough guy to the most vulnerable open heart in the universe was an amazing experience. Being able to write a scene with him and Norma was always so exciting and fun because they always pressed all of each other’s buttons. Their hearts were trying, very, very carefully, to get out in the sun. And they finally did, for a short time.
It’s hard to say goodbye. But goodbye must be said to all the inhabitants of crazy White Pine Bay! The broken and heartbreaking Caleb who could never escape himself. The one man Comedia del Arte that is Chick Hogan. The sacrificial lamb, Bradley Martin. The enigmatic Miss Watson. The totally f—ed up Shelby. The hilariously evil Abernathy. The tragically fabulous Bob Paris. The only woman who could fill the Sheriff shoes left by Romero, Jane Greene.
I hear the clock ticking. Time is moving forward. Things have their time on this earth.
Time to wrap this up. And yet I can’t. I feel like Norman and Norma are sitting here with me, laughing as I try to. At the illusion that I can.
“Blow out your candles, Laura…”
Thank you for going on this ride with me. For being by my side. For never leaving me alone. There’s a bonfire burning in my heart and always will be.
Good luck blowing that f—er out, my friends.
And so, goodbye.
The last time I was at my house ❤️
Side by side
Love how Tucker Gates framed this amazing shot. Damn I’m going to miss working with these old cars. The actors aren’t bad either.
On the set acting out Dylan’s blocking. Vera says I should get this Pphotoshopped so it looks like a portrait of me on the wall — haha.
Chilling in the living room with Freddie and J Paul, our on-set costumer and a lovely human being. Freddie’s okay too.
Backstage as Donna fixes dead Norma’s hair
Goodbye little kitchen 😢💔
From Norma’s kitchen. A wish for you all. ❤️
Last day in the house
No comment. Just tears.
The last night the set existed before it disappeared like Brigadoon into the mist
The universe is a Fata Morgana. Life is a dream. ❤️
Watching this on the monitor and crying while Max kills it in all respects.
Tucker Gates, I will miss breathing down your neck at the monitor, haha. Thank you for your artistry, my friend.
What to do in between killing your brother and playing dead at the dining table.
An amazing day in the woods
Me and the Psycho ❤️
“There’s a time for departure even when there’s no certain place to go.” —Tennessee Williams