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Moment of Goodness

A Final Bates Motel Moment of Goodness: Brotherly Love in “The Cord” 

Photo Credit: Cate Cameron/A&E Networks LLC

[Warning: Spoilers for the series finale.]

Bates Motel closed up shop tonight after five seasons, and while Season 5 as a whole was just really, really hard to watch because Norman was self-aware of his insanity, I wanted to at least mark the finale because I did love Season 3 in an off-the-charts sort of way. So, let’s bring it back to Dylan and where he fit in the Bates Family Hour for a final, finale Moment of Goodness.

One of the lingering questions I had after Season 4 was whether Norman was wholly conscious of what he had done in tampering with the furnace in the attempted murder-suicide that only succeeded on the former front. Pretty early into the episode tonight, Romero clarified for us that Norman didn’t know, and he hit Norman with the full weight of murdering his mother as he lay dying in the snow, just feet from Norma’s body, on the receiving end of a gunshot fired by Norman. And this was after he’d nearly beaten Norman to death, which had flipped him from FauxNorma to Norman just as that bomb was dropped.

And then that now-restored, returned Norman realizes it’s terrible and awful and true, and FauxNorma appears before him and says she’s tapping out because that was the last thing she was protecting him from. And then she’s gone…but not. Because Norman breaks even further, resetting back to just before and at the pilot episode, when a chipper, sunny Norma announces she’s bought a motel and they’re going to Oregon.

And it’s within that fantasy that Norman dwells for a day or so, even though the police never come calling, which is entirely plotty, but OK. And Norman still sees that happier version of Norma in his mind as he relives those days, but he’s also fully aware of the fact that he’s toting around her body.

Thankfully, he calls Dylan, who realizes things are very, very bad when he’s invited to dinner and Norman’s apologizing that they moved without telling him. Earlier in the episode, we have a quick scene of Remo (Ian Tracey!) giving Dylan a gun, to protect his family and himself, he tells Remo.

So, Dylan arrives at the house for dinner and scoots the unsuspecting mom and two boys that Norman checked in–one named Dylan, which prompted the phone call–out of the motel before he heads up the stairs. He’s welcomed, quite literally, with open arms by Norman and comes into the bright, well-lit, immaculately restored (post-police forensics) house.

Right out of the gate, he’s trying to reason with his brother, who insists on finishing dinner, telling him Norma isn’t there, and Freddie Highmore does the most perfect “Are you sure?” head nod and smile toward the dining room, so Dylan goes around the door and finds a redressed Norma’s body sitting at the table with glassy frozen eyes and running mascara.

He takes a long look and does what any sane person would do–he vomits all over the floor. Norman rushes in to clean it up and tells him not to fret, that it’s all a lot, the move, and what not. In that moment, Dylan finally sees what Emma has been trying to tell him, and what Madeleine confronted him with, asking how he couldn’t know. His brother is unrecoverable.

Still, Dylan tries to make Norman see that it isn’t real, that Norma is dead. They go back into the kitchen and Dylan begs him to stop. He unloads on him that he needs help. Norman yells back, asking if Dylan wants him to be locked up and drugged up, and Dylan loses it, yelling through tears that he wants something that he can never have. He wants Norman to be happy and well and Norma to be alive and all of them to be a family. He wants them to meet his daughter and have Christmases together, and he wants that all of this before them now had never happened.

Photo Credit: Cate Cameron/A&E Networks LLC

Norman tells him if he believes hard enough, he can make it that way, and Dylan says he can’t. Norman turns away from him and processes all of that. He gets very calm, making up his mind, and then, sweeping a mega knife off the counter with his right hand, turns back to face Dylan. When Dylan sees it, he pulls his gun out of his waistband and asks Norman over and over to drop it, backing away as Norman moves toward him.

Norman is resolute. “I can’t let you take me away from her…This is how it ends, isn’t it? I just want to be with her, Dylan.” Norman knows it’s in Dylan’s hands to release him, and finally, Dylan sees it, too, but it’s too much. “Norman, no. Don’t ask me to do this.”

Norman lunges at him and a shot rings out as the knife jams into the wall by Dylan’s head and Norman falls into Dylan’s arms. Dylan drops to the floor cradling his brother and sobbing about how sorry he is, but Norman is already somewhere else, imagining Norma waiting in the woods, bathed in light.

He runs toward her, and when he reaches her, he’s a child again, before that first long-ago break in his mind, and she scoops him up and spins him round and round. And then we’re back, and Norman says “thank you” as he slips wholly out of one embrace and into another. Dylan cries and holds him, two brothers on the floor beside their dead mother sitting in a chair at an immaculately set dining table.

Later, “Dream a Little Dream” plays and Dylan watches as the bodies are wheeled out. In a montage, we see the police find Romero’s body, the motel change hands (I’d love to see those seller disclosures), and Norman is buried next to Norma, his half of their joint headstone a blank slate beside the loving ode he wrote for her.

And then we flash forward to Dylan back together with Emma and Katie–which was a real question mark when Emma wouldn’t tell him she loved him before he went into the house–a few years down the line. In freeing Norman, and doing the one thing for him that Norma could never bring herself to do, he also freed himself from living under the shadow of a mother and brother whose love for each other never quite extended all the way to him. He freed himself to finally have a full life without the specter of where he came from, for himself and his own sweet family.

I completely respect the storytelling, but I felt like we could have easily gotten here in a few episodes last year after Norma’s death vs. taking another 10, but I’m not sorry at all for spending more time with this cast and this writing and having Rihanna come play.

I think if we’d had this episode last year, I’d have been an emotional mess, but I was more resolute this evening. It was time. And it really ended the only way it could. There was no scenario where Norman could live on the outside, and I didn’t see this story ending with him incarcerated. So I was especially glad that it looks like Dylan will be OK with the hand he was dealt.

I hope to hell A&E goes full-court press in pursuing Emmy nominations for everyone. Vera Farmiga killed it all season, as did Freddie on camera as Norman and behind the scenes writing and directing. And oh my God, y’all. For anyone who just didn’t understand what Max Thieriot could do, watch that last scene a few times. And then go back and watch his scenes with Olivia Cooke last week.

Thanks so much for reading. If you missed an episode, all of Season 5 will be online tomorrow.

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