Season 5, Episode 10 “The Cord”
Written by Kerry Ehrin and Carlton Cuse
Directed by Tucker Gates
[All images courtesy A&E/Cate Cameron]
Here at the end of all things Bates Motel, “The Cord” features a series of events that, at least within the context of everything that’s come before on this show, can be thought of as a “happy” ending.
If you consider a carjacking, a near-death beatdown, and two fatal shootings happy.
Alex, Norman, and Norma
We join Romero (Nestor Carbonell) and Norman (Freddie Highmore) on the road, continuing their midnight “Take Your Stepfather to Your Mother’s Corpse” field trip. Police station receptionist turned unwilling driver Regina (Aliyah O’Brian) begs Romero not to kill her. He obliges after the unhappy trio turns off the road towards Norma’s shallow grave. Romero “frees” Regina to walk back to the highway in freezing temperatures and sets off with Norman through the woods.
Mother is still controlling Norman (and in her mind, the situation). “Norman isn’t here … you can’t touch him.” Even digging through the snow with bare hands Mother can’t resist taunting Romero before asking for help. “It would go faster if you help me.”
Being the vengeance-crazed, sleep-deprived, and grief-stricken widower that he is, OF COURSE Romero tucks his gun away and pitches in. Norman briefly overpowers his stepfather before Romero beats him bloody.
Turning away from the dazed Norman, Romero completely loses any composure he had left at the sight of Norma’s frozen corpse, vacant open eyes staring upwards. “I’m going to get you out of here … I’m sorry I couldn’t help you.” He doesn’t notice Norman staggering to his feet. Norman has Romero’s gun in an instant and shoots his nemesis.
Before his joins Norma in death, Romero says words that doom Norman. “You killed your own mother. You can’t hide from it.” Romero’s death seems to snap Norman back to himself. Mother appears. She’s bathed in a golden light as she tells Norman, “I have to leave you now. There’s nothing for me to protect you from. Goodbye, Norman.”
What follows is a fascinating jumble of images. Norman lies in the snow next to Norma and dreams. He opens his eyes on a golden morning and tells his mother, “I just had the most horrible dream.” Norman gets out of bed, running through the house to find Norma. She’s in the kitchen making breakfast. Norma gently tells her son, “you just have to learn to wake up from them.”
We see Norman lying in the snow between the corpses of Romero and Norma. He asks his mother, “Am I still dreaming?” As Norman thinks he’s driving to White Pine Bay with Norma to start a new life, we see a bloody, beaten Norman driving through the night.
Norman gently tucks Norma’s corpse into her bed and hurries to prepare the hotel for opening. He’s back at the beginning of their lives at the Bates Motel.
A new start means a time to repair frayed family ties. Norman calls his brother. He knows Norma and Dylan (Max Theriot) fought terribly, but he’d like to invite his brother to dinner. “We’re at the new house with the motel. I miss you and our mother does, too.” Norman doesn’t understand why Dylan’s asking him about someone named Romero.
By the time Norman calls his brother, Dylan already put in a full day’s work. His day started with a tense discussion with Sheriff Greene (Brooke Smith) regarding Norman’s inadvertent jailbreak, moved on to a quick stop to pick up an illegal handgun from his old pot farm coworker Remo (Ian Tracey) before ending the day with a shot of liquid reflection (aka alcohol).
Dylan is surprised Norman called him, relieved he’s alive – then crestfallen as he realizes Norman has retreated into a fantasy world where Norma is still alive. He agrees to come to dinner.
Norman and Dylan
Before entering the Bates House, Dylan takes care of a few loose ends. He warns away the mother (blonde) with two young sons (one named Dylan) whom Norman checked into the motel. Then he makes a heartbreaking call to Emma (Olivia Cooke).
She begs him not to do this – he has a child, responsibilities, a life beyond Norman. “I know I have a child. Do I have a wife?” Emma doesn’t answer that one, nor does she respond to his I Love You. She won’t give him that final goodbye.
Now to dinner. Norman has done a remarkable job cleaning up the place and removing all the crime scene tape. He’s also dressed Norma in a lovely skirt and sweater combo and seated her at the head of the table; her makeup, smearing and running down her face, does ruin the effect.
Dylan refuses to play along with Norman’s delusion. Norman hustles his brother into the dining room. “We can talk over dinner. Just sit here by Mother.” The sight of Norma’s corpse prompts a fairly normal reaction out of Dylan – he vomits.
As the illusion begins to unravel, Norman clings to it. If he just keeps pretending hard enough, everything will be as it was. He counters Dylan’s insistence that he live in the “real world.” “In a prison for the criminally insane?” Dylan doesn’t want that; as he explains to his brother, he wants a lot of things that will never happen. “I want you to be happy. I want you to be well … I want Mom to be alive again.” This is (I believe) the first time Dylan has called Norma “Mom,” and it’s one of the most heartbreaking moments in all of Bates Motel.
For a moment, it seems like Norman will go with his brother and rejoin the “real world.” But Norman picks up a long kitchen knife, sadly tells Dylan, “I just want to be with her, ” and commits suicide by brother (aka the “Kill the Ones You Love” trope).
“Thank You.” Norman lies bleeding to death cradled in a weeping Dylan’s arms. In his mind, he is running through the forest, joyfully reunited with his one true love – a smiling, loving Norma.
We see Dylan sitting on the house porch steps; he watches the police take Norman and Norma’s bodies away.
“Dream a Little Dream of Me” plays as we see the future in sunlight. A man and woman buy the Bates Motel. As Remo told Dylan earlier, the legalization of marijuana in Oregon has transformed the secret pot farms into booming artisanal weed growers. Maybe these two can make the place a success.
Emma leads a Katie through a crowd of people. They meet up with Dylan. He scoops up Katie in his arms. Are they still together, or now former partners who put their child first? I suspect the later even if I hope for the former.
In the sunlit graveyard, the audience makes the final pilgrimage to Norma’s headstone. Next to her name and testimonial is a simple inscription. NORMAN. Together with Mother, today and always.
~ Norman liked the “cord between our hearts” line he cribbed from Jane Eyre and quoted to Norma in the very first episode of Bates Motel (“First You Dream, Then You Die”), he used it for Norma’s headstone (as seen in The Convergence of the Twain and the series finale.
~ Norman ends up killing his mother and her lover in both Psycho (simultaneous poisoning) and Bates Motel (carbon monoxide poisoning and gunshot spaced two years apart).
~ Norman worried about being committed to “a prison for the criminally insane.” Ed Gein was sent to the Wisconsin Central State Hospital for the Insane before being transferred to the Mendota Mental Health Institute, where he died in 1984.
~ Dylan’s “drink & think” bar features the 2016 song “Magi Bullet” by the band My Morning Jacket; ironic in the light of the magic bullet that saves his life at episode’s end.
~ At the Bates home, classic easy listening of the 50’s & 60’s hold sway – on vinyl of course.
- “Que Sera Sera” – sung by Doris Day. The actress also starred in Alfred Hitchock’s 1956 movie The Man Who Knew Too Much.
- “You Belong to Me” (1952) by Pee Wee King, Chilton Price and Redd Stewart; first recorded by Joni James, most popular version recorded by Jo Stafford.
- “Dream a Little Dream of Me” (1931) by Fabian Andre and Wilbur Schwandt, lyrics by Gus Kahn. Covered many, many times, including a version by Doris Day.
Sadly, Bates Motel is no longer airing on A&E Network.