Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Bates Motel 5x10 Review: "The Cord" (Checking Out) [Contributor: Erin Allen]

"The Cord"
Original Airdate: April 24, 2017

“It’s like there’s a cord between our hearts.”

The finale of Bates Motel is a near-perfect ending to a near-perfect series. The showrunners set out to do five seasons and wrote toward an end. It’s not too often writers are able to do that. They told the stories they wanted to tell and arrived at the conclusion on their terms. The fans and the characters alike benefited from this. Connecting the first episode to the last reminded us why we started watching and why we stayed.

Spoilers will be included in this review. Read at your own risk.


The show was always about this intense bond between a mother and son. It was “the cord” that ran through the entire series. Whether it’s the true embodiment of Norma, an ethereal vision bathed in a warm glow, or the protective Mother creation, the show focused on her and Norman’s unique connection.

The series began with Norma determined to start over. Dream Norma convinces Norman that he can do the same. “You had a bad dream, honey. You need to learn how to wake up from them. You can if you just try hard enough.” And with that Norman resets. He goes back to the time his mother was filled with hope for a new beginning. 

They cut between scenes from the first episode, “First You Dream, Then You Die.” Norma brings Norman to White Pine Bay to start their new lives. She talks to him from the past and he responds in the twisted present day with the same dialogue. It is a chilling effect, and the nostalgia tugs at your heartstrings. 

Norman sets up the motel and even takes guests — a mother and her two boys, one of which is named Dylan. He invites Dylan over for dinner. “This can be a new beginning for all of us.” Problem is, Dylan lives in the real world, and he has the brotherly responsibility of trying to make Norman see that reality. 

Norman gives himself two options: stay in this fantasy land playing house with Norma’s corpse or join her in her final resting place. Either way he's with her. Dylan takes away the first option and Norman forces him into the second option. It's a mercy killing, the only way that Norman can be free. Norman thanks him as he's dying. 

Freddie Highmore and Max Thieriot are phenomenal in that scene. Norman is spinning out of control, becoming untethered from that vital cord, and Dylan wants his suffering to end. Both actors play this with raw emotion — their actions come from a place of love as they are thrust into this extreme situation. 

Once Norman is finally free, we see him as a young man and a young boy running to his mother. Both Norma and Norman are smiling and it is really, really beautiful. The final shot is the dual gravesite for Norma and Norman where they will be together forever. It is the most merciful ending for Norman, who, despite his crimes, deserved some peace. 


Alex Romero’s ending is truly heartbreaking. He went through so much to avenge Norma’s death, and failed at the last minute. As upsetting as that is, we know that ship was endgame. They both died fiercely loving each other. 

His final scene with Norma is majestic, fit for a unicorn like Alex Romero. Co-creator Carlton Cuse said that “this shot of Romero finally seeing Norma’s body is one of my favorite of the whole show.” The way he strokes her face and says “I’ll always love you” is filled with so much love and anguish. The scene is set in the snowy forest, and Norma looks angelic. In contrast, a violent struggle happens between Romero and Norman, and Norma’s porcelain face has her eye sockets rimmed in black. I don’t what that black is supposed to be. Rot? Whatever it is, it is friggin’ beautiful in a morbid way, just like the whole scene. 

It is an epic moment in a season full of epic moments. Shockingly, Romero meets his end within the first 11 minutes of the finale. I was expecting the whole episode to build up to that moment, and it happened before the first commercial break. That was gutsy, and it paid off. It gave us the shock factor as well as ample time to concentrate on the fundamental Norma/Norman element.


I am two for two on my Bates ships! Dylan and Emma get a happy ending. The last half of this season had me wondering, especially the last episode, “Visiting Hours.” Even leading up to the final scene, I was worried. The phone call between Emma and Dylan before he goes to see Norman felt like Dylan saying goodbye. I guess he was, in a way, not knowing what he would encounter in that house. Emma pleads with him to involve the sheriff telling him that he has a child. He responds, “I know I have a child. Do I have a wife?” She doesn’t answer the question! Which is infuriating! And then she won’t tell him she loves him when he asks her to. “I’m not going to arm you up so you can go and do something stupid.” When Emma argues that Norman is dangerous, Dylan, says, “He’s not dangerous to me.” Emma tells him he sounds like Norma, and I swear I see the slightest hint of a smile. That is a compliment to him. He always wanted to be a part of a family, and he is finally accepting the family he was dealt, taking responsibility for his brother and understanding his mother. 


I love this series finale, however I have a few minor complaints. Sheriff Greene tells her team to get deputies to check on the Bates residence. It is the next day when Norman shows up back at home with his mother’s corpse and there are no police in sight. You know they would’ve had at least one cop surveying that place. She called in the U.S. Marshal, for crying out loud. This is just a little unbelievable, logistical nitpick, but it’s there nonetheless. Also, there was way too much focus on this Regina person. I get that Romero needed her for his getaway, but did he really? It was so much nicer when it was just Norman and Romero. Sheriff Greene tells Dylan that Regina is the only person that she cares about in this hostage situation, and Regina is the person we, as the audience, care about the least. I did laugh when Regina finally makes it back to the station and Sheriff Greene looks at her disappointed. In the same vein, I didn’t think the chick that hits on Dylan in the bar was necessary. I don’t even think that scene had to take place in a bar. He could’ve gotten that phone call from Norman anywhere. These things felt superfluous. If they are adding extra stuff how about tying up some loose ends like Dylan finding out Caleb is dead or what the heck happened to Dr. Edwards. 

As I said, these are only small criticisms. The episode as a whole and as the final chapter of the Bates saga is remarkable. It did the series and its iconic source material justice. It’s sad to say goodbye, but I am happy with its ending. 

Motel Amenities:
  • If you’re interested in crying again after watching the finale, may I suggest reading showrunner Kerry Ehrin’s farewell letter to the show.
  • “I’ll get hypothermia.” “Walk fast.” Bye Regina. 
  • Norman/Mother calls Romero “Sheriff Lonelyheart.” I’m hoping this is a nod to Hitchcock’s Rear Window.
  • Romero said the F-word! On A&E! I didn’t think that was allowed. Did they get special permission or is there a new guideline for Standards and Practices?
  • “You know everything now, and there’s nothing for me to protect you from.” This is the last we see of Mother, I believe. What we see after this is Dream Norma. That’s my theory anyway. 
  • Remo isn’t the only returning season one character. The realtor in the final montage is Jiao, the girl Norman and Emma saved from Shelby’s sex trafficking ring. 
  • “It’s safe here, right?” 
  • “I don’t know a Romero.” 
  • Fantastic uses of Doris Day’s “Dream a Little Dream Of Me” and “Que Sera,” and Patsy Cline’s “You Belong To Me.”
  • “I’ll never love anybody else but you. You screwed me there, Emma Decody.”
  • The last image in the Bates house is a spooky but gorgeous tableau. Norma is propped up at the head of the table while her sons say their final goodbye in the corner.


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