When long-running television series end, the penultimate episodes are historically the ones I prefer over the actual finales. Sometimes they’re so good that the final episodes disappoint. With Bates Motel, though, I hope this history is reversed. Episode 9, “Visiting Hours,” is more of the same from the last couple of weeks, putting the pieces in place for the conclusion only in its ending scene.
Otherwise, it’s mostly Emma’s (Olivia Cooke) episode, demonstrating the show’s devotion to concluding the storylines for its supporting characters. She joins Dylan (Max Thieriot) in White Pine Bay for moral support, but is devastated to learn that her brother-in-law, Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) killed her mother. This creates conflict for the couple, with Emma incredulous that her husband would have anything to do with a murderer, even if it’s his brother.
Dylan is compelled to do “the right thing” and, at Julia’s (Natalia Cordova-Buckley) request, sit behind Norman at his initial public court hearing. He repeats his mantra, “Norman is sweet; he’s just out of his mind.” Emma tells him, “Don’t ever talk to me about sympathy for Norman. If I ever see him again, I’ll probably kill him.” By the time she scatters her mother’s ashes and pays a visit to Norma’s (Vera Farmiga) grave, she may have felt a change of heart…
After staring in shock at the long epitaph on the headstone, she whispers, “I’m so sorry, Norma. I miss you.” Then, on her way out of town, she stops to visit Norman at the “pre-trial detention facility.” Remember that from the beginning of Bates Motel, she and Norman were very good friends. It’s brilliant that she looks at him through the glass and immediately realizes she’s talking to Norma instead of her son.
Well, Norma/Norman may have let it slip by saying, “I wouldn’t kill anyone. You know Norman.” Emma asks, “Where is Norman? Can I talk to him?”
“He’s sleeping,” Norma replies.
“Can you tell him that I miss him?”
More interesting, though, is Norma’s response when Emma says her mother didn’t deserve to die. She says, “Death isn’t about deserving; it’s part of the deal.”
As soon as she leaves the “pre-trial detention facility,” Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell) finally arrives. In a subplot that hasn’t always been consistently plotted, it has taken him nine episodes to get there. He has the opportunity to strangle Norman with his bare hands, and almost does it, but instead tells him to take him to his wife’s body. Of course, he’s speaking with his wife, or Norman’s version of her, so I wonder if he’ll face her “in person” next week.
The most rewarding scene of the episode is one in which the Bates Motel and house is swarmed with crime scene investigators. A deputy searches the gravel parking lot with a metal detector, miniature yellow evidence tents litter the landscape, and an investigator brags about finding the best thing yet when he discovers Chick’s body in the basement. This is a scene we never see in Psycho and adds a little reality to how a case may have been built against Norman.
As for the characters, the most interesting scene is when Norman/Norma tries to convince his lawyer that she’s not crazy. It’s almost like he/she’d prefer the death penalty over being committed for the rest of his/her life. When asked about Dissociative Identity Disorder, Norma says, “Everyone has multiple personalities, Julia. We pull out what we need when we have to.” To the end, Norma will justify bad, even criminal, behavior.
At this point, it’s apparent that the final episode of Bates Motel will revolve around the conflict between Norman and Alex. At one point, I’m not sure that would have satisfied me for a conclusion. Now, though, it’s really the only story left unresolved. I predict a fast, furious finale heavy on action. Does the series have one last twist left in it? I don’t know that it needs it. The show has delivered twists for five years. An unambiguous conclusion might be just fine.