Best of 2016 (Behind the Scenes): Bates Motel composer on scoring that major death scene
Bates Motel managed to shock viewers in spite of its inevitability when they killed off Norma Bates (Vera Farmiga) in the penultimate episode of season 4, “Forever.” We talked with Bates’ musical composer Chris Bacon about scoring the most impactful death of the series so far.
Norma’s death has been in the back of Chris Bacon’s mind ever since he started composing for A&E’s Bates Motel in season 1. “I had given it some thought,” he tells EW, “but mostly kind of in fear. We knew it was going to come, but I had no idea how it was going to happen, and I knew it was probably going to be a big musical moment.”
That big musical moment — and moment in general — happened after Norman (Freddie Highmore) turned on the furnace in the house and then shut all the vents and windows (except for in Norma’s room, where he soon joined her), leaving carbon monoxide to kill both he and his mother. But his murder-suicide didn’t go as planned, and instead became just a murder — something we learn when Norma’s husband, Sheriff Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) comes in and tries to wake his dead wife as Norman coughs awake nearby.
Initially, when Bacon watched Norma’s death scene, test music played in the background, but he decided to take things in a different direction. “I think when I first watched it, they had music in there that was a bit darker and played it more like most of the other deaths and dark scenes on the show, and I didn’t think that was the right approach, so I tried to go at it more melodically and emotionally.”
The end result, titled “Goodnight Norma,” is a haunting piece of music that highlights the importance of Norma’s death – both for her own character, and for her husband. “You see Romero, who is kind of this steely, unmovable object who is breaking down, so that was important because I thought it captured the fact that he really was in love with this woman,” Bacon says. The composer balanced that with recognizing what’s to come with “the mythology of the overall Psycho universe where this is the death of Norma Bates who sets in motion what we come to know in Psycho.”