All season I’ve been saying that the end was coming. It’s here and I can honestly say I wasn’t ready.
Firstly, let’s take a moment to acknowledge that Norma Louise Bates is actually gone. Norman has finally succeeded in what we all knew he would do. And in that success is a darkness that this show can never come back from.
For me, the grief set in right away. Despite her problematic and manipulative nature, Norma truly was a light in the narrative of this story that Mother could never and will never provide.
On some level, Norman senses this. While at first he is reluctant to grieve and acknowledge that his mother is gone, there are a few scattered moments when he appears to come to terms with it.
For Norman, the finality of Norma’s existence sets in briefly in moments at home, at the funeral parlor, and during Norma’s funeral service. He attends Norma’s services alone, nary a guest in sight. Not even Dylan is made aware of the arrangements or of Norma’s death for that matter. In his delusion that Norma is merely pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes, Norman denies Dylan a final chance to bid his mother goodbye. And he does much the same to Alex.
In keeping these men away, Norman asserts his claim over Norma under the guise of love. Throughout the episode, Norman and Alex paint each other as the villain in this twisted story. I think the real trouble is that Norma was too big an enigma for their egos to comprehend and without her they’re no longer sure of their footing. Alex is lost and heartbroken. Norman is just broken.
For Norman, a world without Norma is a world without light, love, or compassion. Through Norman’s own selfish actions, his worst nightmare has become his reality.
But, as always, that reality is a deluded one. Even in those moments alone, he calls out for Norma expecting an answer. He becomes frantic in his need and desire for her, leading him to do drastic and terrifying things.
The eulogy Norman delivers at Norma’s funeral is both beautiful and unnerving. He waxes poetic about the beauty and innocence of his mother while also becoming enraged at Norma and God for not letting him in on their master plan. In the middle of the service, Norman flies off the handle because he isn’t sure what to do next. He’s so used to following Norma’s lead that he isn’t sure how to lead himself.
In the final scenes, we see Norman’s desperation reach a tipping point. He cannot fathom a life without Norma and commits to bringing her home–no matter her condition. He exhumes her body, brings her home, and carries her over the threshold as if she’s his bride.
“You can wake up now, Mother,” he says as he pokes and prods her face. Unwilling to face the truth, he glues her eyelids open and forcefully tells her to look at him…only to be interrupted by a grieving Chick who senses something just isn’t right.
“You do what you have to do. But you understand she’s dead, right?” Chick asks Norman.
It’s these words that makes Norman question his perception and finally grieve for his predicament. And in so doing, he charges upstairs, retrieves a gun, and readies himself for death. But he is interrupted by the melodious sound of his mother’s piano and, sitting at it, he finds Norma (or Mother) and all is well again.
This is the world now without Norma. It’s a world where Norman gets to keep his mother to himself without opposition.
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.