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‘Bates Motel’ Series Finale Recap: ‘The Cord’

A&E | Photo by Cate Cameron

Last night’s series finale was a strange yet beautiful reminder that sometimes life truly does come full circle. In one way or another–whether by divine fate, human error, or heartbreaking tragedy—the cast of characters on Bates Motel did find their way back to where it all began: love.

Alex Romero was the first of our tragic heroes to meet his fate. After leaving office clerk Regina in the woods alone, Alex urges Norman to take him to Norma’s resting place. He’s more desperate than ever to see Norma and to be the one to steal Norman’s last breaths.

But when he finally does come face to face with Norma’s snow-covered corpse, Alex flies into a rage against Norman that ends in a scuffle. Once he beats Norman down, Alex takes a moment to collapse in tears over Norma’s body. What he doesn’t anticipate is that this gives Norman the opportunity to smash him over the head with a rock. The two fight some more, but this time Norman overpowers Alex. Norman eventually grabs hold of Alex’s which he uses to murder him in cold blood. And there, next to the love of his life, Alex meets his final end.

A&E | Photo by Cate Cameron

The adrenaline rush of this moment sends Norman into a stupor and then a blackout. As he sleeps, he dreams of happier times with Norma when life was simpler, sunnier, and full of love. Sometime later, Norman wakes still with glorious visions of Norma guiding his way. He retraces every footstep he took with Norma at the beginning of this story: he drives down the parkway, arrives at the motel, enters the house—all as if he’s doing this for the very first time. What’s more is that he’s brought Norma’s body along for the ride.

A disheveled and disconnected Norman repeats conversations he remembers having with Norma. We remember them, too. They’re some of the most iconic moments of this series and ones that we, like Norman, have never quite forgotten.

But unlike Norman, we know the truth of the tragedy at play here. Things can never go back to the way they were and as a viewer, one gets the sense that Norman simply wants to start over. He wants another chance to make things right.

So, he reopens the motel, makes dinner, and invites Dylan back into the Bates home for a family gathering.

A&E | Photo by Cate Cameron

Dylan, afraid of what fate he might meet inside the house, gives Emma one last call just in case. Despite Emma’s concerns and hesitations, Dylan is dead-set on following this through. He wants to confront Norman; he wants to get Norman the help he needs. And so, Dylan charges forth not knowing that what he’d ultimately find inside is a mentally ill brother trying desperately to cling to some sense of normalcy.

As Norman calmly serves dinner, Dylan makes his plea. He needs Norman to understand that the life he’s living isn’t real and there’s a whole world he’s missing outside.

“I want you to be happy. I want you to be well. I want mom to be alive again,” a tearful Dylan explains.

But Norman simply won’t concede. “Please, don’t ruin it,” he says. Norman insists that Dylan go and see Norma who sits stiff and very dead at the dining room table. At this, Dylan is at once sickened, angered, and saddened, and he realizes now more than ever that he must do what should have been done long ago.

Emotions high, Dylan forcefully explains his stance which prompts Norman to wield a knife.

“I just want to be with her,” Norman says before lunging forward at Dylan.

Dylan shoots Norman and catches him in his arms. I have to admit that this moment had me in tears—we see Dylan grieving the loss of his family and Norman finding his way back to into the loving arms of his mother in the afterlife.

It’s interesting that Dylan turns out to be the hero when he started out as the enemy. So, he, too, comes full circle. Dylan kills his brother out of love and mercy, and this gives him a chance to survive and live out the life that he was meant to: with the loves of his life, Emma and Katie, at his side.

I’ve watched this show since day one, and I’m terribly sad to see it go.  As I look back over the course of the show’s five seasons, I’m struck by how emotionally invested I was in these characters and their story lines. I know many Bates fans feel the same. One thing that really strikes me about Bates Motel is that every episode was a testament to the talent, dedication, and care the team behind the show put into it. As a viewer, you could really feel how much love there was behind this show and I, for one, am glad I had the opportunity to see all that love play out on screen.

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Tara Martinez
Tara Martinez is a New York-based writer with a passion for pop culture and a penchant for analysis. She frequently covers film, television, and representations of women in the media.