BATES MOTEL: THE COMPLETE
A lot of television shows should take a page from Bates Motel: know when to quit. Bates Motel: The Fifth Season actually went a bit past the events of Psycho (and even changed some of them), and had a definitive ending. A good thing too, as I found this final season a bit weak, where things ended not with a bang, but with a whimper.
I don't think I've been as disappointed in a series finale as I have been with Bates Motel, at least not since the debacle known as Twin Peaks (though perhaps the revival will redeem it). Looking over the reviews, I find that Seasons 1 to 4 averaged a very respectable 8/10, but Season 5 eked out a 7.8. Yes, rounding up makes it another 8/10, but it also has six episodes that were 6 and lower (with The Cord being the lowest of them all at a 3/10). The lowest-ranked Bates Motel episode for me was the series finale, and it wasn't because I was sad to see it go, but because I thought it gave people a false ending.
I found that this season, there were good things still rattling around (who would have thought Rihanna would turn out to be a respectable actress), but there were other things that I thought bordered on the ludicrous.
I was thrilled to see Chick killed as I loathed him pretty much from the get-go. However, when he got killed, having him hit the typewriter with his head and ending it with the 'ding' was not funny. It was stupid. Seeing Romero turn into some sort of superman where he can survive getting shot repeatedly was also silly.
Perhaps worse, from my perspective, is seeing that in a sense, Norman Bates got a happy ending. Psycho didn't give him a happy ending: he was locked up in an insane asylum, where he needed to be, and if not for the sequels he would have spent the rest of his life there, completely given over to 'Mother'. Instead, Bates Motel opted for a metaphysical reunion, where Norman could spend time and all eternity happily with Norma.
This just didn't seem fair to me on many levels. It didn't seem fair to the many people he killed, for they never got true justice. It didn't seem fair to me as a viewer, who found the idea of a serial killer going to a form of Heaven almost blasphemous. It just seemed a very easy way out for him: to have his psychologically tortured half-brother/uncle take care of things.
Even that seemed a bit unfair, to have Dylan be the instrument of retribution. He was the only person who genuinely cared for Norman, and perhaps the writers thought it would be great drama to have him be his executioner. Still, something about that just didn't sit right with me.
We'll also never get a definitive answer to what ever happened to Dr. Edwards. We get a great moment where Norman accidentally bumps into him (echoing a scene in Psycho, curiously enough), and Dr. Edwards gives a great insight to Norman about his true mental state. We then get a great twist when we hear that Dr. Edwards has actually been missing for over a year, but we never learn what actually happened to him.
It's probable that Norman killed Dr. Edwards too, but how, and why? Did Dr. Edwards find Norman in drag? Did they perhaps meet at the gay bar Norman as 'Norma' went to (remember, Dr. Edwards was openly gay and it's doubtful he wouldn't have gone to the bar at least once)? Did the good doctor take advantage of the situation, or was he an innocent bystander? Did Norman break into Pineview to get at the doctor? How and why Dr. Edwards may have been killed is something the show will never bother to explain.
Almost seems unfair to bring it up then, doesn't it, if you're not going to give an answer. Why couldn't the sheriff have found Edwards' body too, giving us closure?
Let's also touch briefly on the change to the original story. Part of me understands the rationale for not killing Marion off as she was in the film (they wanted to not be a carbon copy of Psycho). Fine, I get that. From me perspective though, it felt like a big tease or a bait-and-switch (or is it Bates-and-switch): bringing her in just to say, 'nope, sorry, just kidding'.
Then again, you can't kill off Ri-Ri.
Instead, we get Sam Loomis killed off in the shower, with Norman not in drag as 'Norma', but as himself. Part of me, again, understands what we've been told is the rationale behind it, but again, I just never felt it was a good idea. Wouldn't Sam, a much stronger man than Norman, been better able to defend himself? Yes, he was stabbed, but he still could have had enough strength to overpower the thin kid.
After all, Romero managed to survive multiple gunshots, and he was older than our adulterous Sammy.
A lot of Loomis' murder just felt off. Worse though was the idea of Bates Motel producers who decided to have Norman do the killing because seeing him in drag killing people might be offensive to transgender people.
Whatever one might think of transgenderism, this politically correct motivation, while well-intentioned, is erroneous. Norman never thought he should have been born a woman a la Laverne Cox or Caitlyn Jenner. He was always conscious of being male, down to being horrified when he found he had inadvertently been having sex with other men. He never saw himself as a woman, but as one particular woman (his mother, Norma) and those times he was in a blackout stage. That is not a transgender person.
Norman was and has never been transgender, and I doubt the audience would ever mistake him for one. To alter a major plot point to satisfy a sense of social justice is silly, especially given that by this point most if not all Bates Motel fans understand that Norman sees himself as Norma Bates, a specific person, not as a woman per se (and even then, only at certain times, not all the time as would an actual transgender individual).
Transgenderism would not have crossed my mind when and if the show had stuck to Psycho. I don't even think the concept of transgenderism existed in 1960 (note I said the concept, not actual transgender people. There is a difference). Bates Motel, if they changed the killing to placate certain social views, is selling its audience very short.
I wasn't thrilled they made major changes to the Psycho story. I wasn't overwhelmed with how the show ended. I was highly impressed by Freddie Highmore as Norman Bates, who now took center stage after Vera Farmiga's Norma was killed off. I even thought better of Max Thieriot as Dylan, someone who I constantly went back and forth on.
Still, Bates Motel Season Five was a disappointment to me. I feel we could have had a stronger ending, and especially not a happy-type one for our deranged serial killer.
And that damn 'ding' when Chick was killed.
So close, and yet...
Bates Motel: The Final Thoughts