Spoiler alert: Do not read until you’ve watched Season 4, Episode 10 of “Bates Motel,” titled “Norman.”
And now we know: Norma’s dead. As executive producer Carlton Cuse promised in last week’s post-mortem interview, all of our questions from last week’s cliffhanger episode have been answered. Norman survived, his mother didn’t — and Romero is out for revenge. Heartbroken over his wife’s death, Romero (Nestor Carbonell) doesn’t buy the suicide theory for one second — and (rightly) suspects that his stepson played a role.
Norman (Freddie Highmore), meanwhile, is in complete denial from the moment he regains consciousness. In shock over losing Norma, he pushes everyone away — even his brother, Dylan, whom he doesn’t even tell about her death. He gets so desperate to see her again, he digs up her body — and brings Mother (Vera Farmiga) back home.
Here, executive producer Kerry Ehrin breaks down the finale and offers a sneak peek at what’s ahead in the show’s fifth and final season:
Norma’s dead! Was it a tough decision to make that move?
The decision was made for us when we took on the project. But implementing it was really hard. I’ve spent more time with Norma than I’ve spent with any of my friends. Going down that road and having to see the tragedy of how it fell apart for her was really hard because Carlton and I have spent four years believing that things could work out for them. We had to believe that to write it. In the back of our heads, of course, we knew this is where we were going but when we finally had to put down our own denial, and say “we have to do it now,” it was extremely hard. Tears were shed.
Why make the move this season rather than in the fifth and final season?
This all sprouted obviously from “Psycho,” which is such a rich universe. The Norman Bates of “Psycho” is a very different person than the Norman that was tracked. And we felt that we wanted to have room to tell the story in the universe of the psychology of “Psycho” where he believes that he is living with his mother. He is in fact delusional. He is functioning, though. He’s a functioning mentally ill person. It seemed like such a rich arena, we wanted to have time to tell that story. And then secondary, I think that we have always worked very hard to keep Norma grounded, believable, sympathetic and every time you peel away a little bit of insight and knowledge from her about the possibility that her son is dangerous, you totter on tipping over into her becoming unsympathetic. Because then she’s just covering up for his crimes. She’s turning him in. It becomes a completely different story. Part of what is thrilling about this story is staying in that gray area, where people don’t know for sure if he has done things. They suspect it but they can live in enough denial to come up with reasons why it hasn’t happened. I think she was right up at the edge where you couldn’t do that with her anymore. It felt organically like the right place to do it.
The people who know how dangerous he is have been pushed aside: Dylan has moved away; Romero gets arrested. But we haven’t seen the last of them, have we?
Oh no! The line I have is that dysfunctional families don’t die. Because Norma is dead doesn’t mean that all the longing and desire and frustration that existed in the family is gone. It isn’t. It lives on. The story will continue very much to be the story of Norman’s obsessive love for his mother and what that looks like in different ways. Dylan trying to deal with the fact that he has cut himself off from his family, but can you ever really do that? Romero will carry a torch for Norma to his grave. He has huge issues with Norman, so all that is going to come into play in the last season.
Surely Dylan will learn at some point that his mother has died. That broke my heart!
At some point you would think so, yes. These things happen when family members cut themselves off. People get left out of huge events that take place in families.
And Romero is clearly suspicious about the circumstances of her death.
He’s also become a target for the DEA. They finally have him on something even if it’s perjury, and they’re not going to let go of it lightly. He has a whole other hurdle of problems to cross at the same time that he desperately wants to get revenge on Norman.
Norman seemingly has no awareness of what he’s done. Is that the effects of the carbon monoxide or his mental illness, or a combination of both?
The thing that was challenging and interesting about writing 410 is Norman’s mental state. You cannot underestimate how completely terrified he would be at his mother being dead. It’s so huge a concept and so terrifying to him that he cannot let it in. So he immediately goes into his denial. And carbon monoxide does definitely mess with your head and your memory, which aids in him forgetting in the moment.
And then he throws out his meds, exacerbating the problem.
He’s terrified. He wants her back. He wants to believe that she’s coming back. He’ll take her in any form. Throwing the meds out was a Hail Mary pass. Maybe if I’ll do this, she’ll show up. It’s all going to be good. It’s going to get into some darker, psychological territory. Someone who is at the mercy of their own mental illness. How they struggle with that. How they fight back. And how they sink into it.
Carlton Cuse said last week that the series was going to “cross through” the movie. What did he mean by that?
We want to visit the world of “Psycho” without redoing “Psycho.” The season has elements of it but it’s our own version of it. It’s things that would have been off-screen in “Psycho” and it’s complications of things that you did see on screen. But it is a part of the season that we play with.
Freddie teased that Norman had never met Chick, which has now finally happened. Is Chick friend or foe?
One never knows if Chick is friend or foe to anyone. I don’t think Chick knows. He’s just this great character who’s emotionally detached and can observe and at the same time, present empathy and be emotionally cut off. I think the great value of Chick in Norman’s life is that he’s not a person who will necessarily judge him. He knew Norma’s body was in the living room. He assessed the situation, and looked at how Norman was grieving and suffering and was like, “I get what this kid is doing and I’m not going to bug him about it. I’m going to leave my casserole, and I’ll check in on him later.” He’s an amazingly fun character.
What can you reveal about what’s ahead for Season 5?
Dylan and Emma are trying very much to start a new life and doing it pretty successfully. Events will happen that he will have to look at his path, his family’s path that will draw him back in. Romero has a world of trouble to deal with and a quest, and that quest is his revenge. But the thing that I personally love about the fifth season is that still at the center of it is everybody’s love for Norma Bates. That obsessive love that people have for her is still what propels them and is at the center of all of their actions, and she still lives on in that sense. She’s very much present in terms of what is motivating everybody. I think that’s actually lovely. That’s a lovely part of the story next year. The people that you love, when they die, they don’t die. You carry them with you for your whole life.
And what does it all mean for Vera?
It’s going to be an incredible opportunity to use her gifts. Mother is going to be a fully fleshed out, dimensional, surprising layered character. I think people will be surprised at how engaged they will be with her, given that she is essentially a hallucination. It’s about being on the ride with Norman and seeing it through his eyes. It’s very real to him. When you have someone of Vera’s caliber, she’s the greatest joy to write for her. Whatever we do for her, it’s going to be good.
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