Series End: “Bates Motel”

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The way one responds to the end of a series is never predictable. It could be the best experience ever, even when really emotional. Or, it could just be okay and achieve enough of what you hope for. Sometimes though, a series finale hits all the right notes, that you not only know it was a good way to end, but that the series itself maintained what made it worth watching in the first place, and that it was worth every minute of invested time.

The NBCUniversal Television Distribution series finale for “Bates Motel”, based on characters created by Robert Bloch, ended in really the only manner it could. It’s because of this, that I’m truly okay. Yes, of course, as one would expect, I’m sad. Sad that the series had to end, but even before season two started, way back when, I knew that this was a drama that couldn’t keep going indefinitely. For an adaptation of a well known book and film, it did something many other adaptations couldn’t and then it became its own thing until the final scene. There won’t be another series like this, and for that, it’ll be missed even more.

Crazy Till The End

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Norma-lly (Ha! It’s kind of funny), when a series ends and I do this type of write-up, I bring up the importance of closure. I’m still going to mention it, but it’s different this time. Closure, in the traditional way that most probably think about it, especially as regards a TV series, isn’t really present this time around. Sure it exists a bit, but it also keeps something that every TV viewer has come to expect. A happy ending. There’s no happy ending. Not really.

Closure and the happy ending don’t really exist. While that’s kind of depressing to think about and write, it’s perfectly fine. This series finale, when you really think about it, and can move past being even slightly disappointed that it ended how it did, was really the only way this show could finish. Nothing else, to me at least, seems to fit. Not even close. This is a series that never stuck to conventions, with anything. So, why end in a way that fans or other viewers have come to expect of every other television series?

And so, what fans got was an incredibly emotional, dramatic and perfect finale to a series that was probably not seen by all that many people. That’s another topic for another day. With the way the previous two to three episodes played out, yes, there was some uncertainty, but also, an expected trajectory. The big season storyline, which had some connections to the previous seasons, needed to come to a close in one way. Which is what we got. So many characters driven by certain desires and needs and some just having to confront where they were. It’s how fans were still treated to killer mayhem, some twists, and many emotional moments, not just confined to Max Thieriot’s Dylan.

Nestor Carbonell got some great screen time and wrapped up his character’s season arc in the way that didn’t just seem expected. When you reflect on it, which is surprisingly what I found myself doing, it was okay. His character had one goal in mind, and while technically that didn’t come to fruition, what happened was fine. When I watched Carbonell for that last time, I just saw his face and I knew, that his character knew it was okay. He’d somehow gotten the closure he’d been looking for this entire season.

Thieriot is different, as is Olivia Cooke’s Emma. There was a different blend of emotion and drama playing out for them individually and together. I’d say the worst part is that Cooke didn’t have all that much screen time, but by the end of the episode, we got everything we needed from her. Everything we needed from Cooke and Thieriot’s characters. So, back to Thieriot. He had quite possibly some of the hardest and most emotional work I’ve seen in some time, if ever. He wanted to protect his family as well as just ensure that his crazy brother was safe. But, as the shit hit the fan in this finale, it became more than evident that that wasn’t truly a possibility. So, viewers got treated to so much, but it was all preordained. Sometimes, no matter how hard we want an outcome to be different, there’s only one option available. Thieriot’s Dylan discovered this, and while it’s painful, even as a viewer, there’s a strange beauty to it all.

And, of course, Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore’s Norma and Norman Bates. As opposed to what I’ve already said above, it’s proving harder than I thought. Yes emotion and drama was there, but there was also something else still driving these characters. Farmiga is dead. Highmore is still in survival mode and clinging to all his delusions. His mother is still with him. So, if this is still the same, like it’s always been, how is there anything to care about? What can one take away? Well, you’d be surprised. Sure there’s some pain to be had for Highmore, but at the same time, there’s hope. I found hope in the fact that maybe he’d find a way to be happy. To be with his mother, whom he truly loves. If another area can be called a happy ending, it’s with Highmore and Farmiga and what happened by the end of the episode. It was sad, joyous and satisfying. In some ways, no matter who you are as a viewer, you got something out of this dysfunctional and delusional relationship.

It’s also how we just got such a great performance from Farmiga. That, and thanks to Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin, the show’s creators, we also got multiple lengthy opportunities to be reminded not just why we love Farmiga’s Norma so much, but why we love Norma and their relationship, going all the way to the beginning. We got a chance to fall in love all over, even though there’d be no more afterwards. Closure and the happy ending might not come about in the traditional way, nor really be able to be called happy at all, there was still a large sense that that is exactly what diehards fans got. They stuck with it, and were rewarded. It’s hard to deliver so much and satisfy so many, but I truly believe this series finale managed to do just that.

Originally Aired: March 18, 2013 – April 24, 2017 on A&E

Creators: Carlton Cuse, Kerry Ehrin and Anthony Cipriano

Starring: Vera Farmiga, Freddie Highmore, Max Thieriot, Olivia Cooke and Nestor Carbonell

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