The following story contains a crazy number of spoilers from this week’s Bates Motel series finale. You;d be nuts to proceed if you haven’t watched the episode.
For Freddie Highmore, Bates Motel‘s most horrifying death occurred after production wrapped on A&E’s Psycho drama. “Twelve hours after we were done [shooting] at the house, we were seeing the various bits of the house arrive back at the stage,” the actor recalls to TVLine. “They’d been slashed up. I remember the beautiful rose window that’s sort of the centerpiece of the house and seeing that just drive by on the back of a truck. They could have left it up another couple of days until we left Vancouver or something?”
That’s Highmore’s way of saying that Bates Motel — which on Monday ended its five-season run with a series finale that found Norman dying at the hands of brother Dylan (read full recap here) — was more than just another rung on his resume. “We had such a wonderful group of people and everyone just cared so much,” he shares. “No one checked out halfway through and went on to other things. Everyone came back season after season and gave everything to the show, from the writers to the crew to the actors. There was such a commitment to it, and I think that’s what made it so special.”
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In the following Q&A, Highmore — who also served as both a writer and director this season — reflects on Norman’s “romantic” death, details his off screen “rivalry” with co-star Nestor Carbonell, and reveals which props he swiped from the set.
TVLINE | You finished shooting earlier this year. Have you been able to let go of Norman?
It certainly took a while afterwards to adjust. Norman’s [death] didn’t really bother me, although it did seem to make things much more final. There’s no hope of coming back for another season or convincing people that we can just do a few more episodes at some point in the future. I’m not sure what the Christmas reunion would look like. Maybe Norma and Norman will be on a beach in Hawaii Heaven.
TVLINE | What was it like shooting that climactic Norman/Dylan scene?
We had almost a full day to do it. It was just a beautifully written last scene. Kerry [Ehrin] and Carlton [Cuse] did such a great job. The whole episode in many ways brought everything full circle, but that last scene had so many different moments that seemed to relate not only to what had been going on recently, but in the entirety of Bates Motel. The line that really stood out to me was when Norman says to Dylan, “If you believe hard enough you can make it that way.” That kind of just summed up the show. This idea that hope and love and pure desire and dreams are able to conquer anything else as long as you commit to them. But the heartbreaking thing is that it isn’t.
TVLINE | Did Norman get a happy ending in your opinion?
It’s certainly not a fairytale ending, although you could potentially argue that Norman and Norma being reunited in the grave together is somewhat romantic.
TVLINE | Is it your view that Norman committed suicide?
Yes. But I don’t think he went into the scene with that intention. He never [intended] to kill Dylan. I also think it’s interesting to evaluate whether Dylan [killed Norman] by choice or whether we think that it was this act of self-defense. I like to think it was a decision [because it’d] be such a strong end for Dylan to get to the place where he thinks that the best thing for Norman is to kill him and do it by choice as opposed to out of a summary action.
TVLINE | Norman goading Alex in the car sequence was so darkly funny…
I’m going to miss those scenes. Nestor and I absolutely love each other and we’re the best of friends, but the [Norman/Alex feud in] last two seasons has made us bicker more than ever before. It’s so fun. We just slip into character without knowing it and go at each other. I hope they will release some of the outtakes from those last scenes in the car.
Nestor also thought that I had something to do with [Alex getting killed off]. He was convinced that me being in the writers’ room meant that I was the one who had pitched his death and that no one else wanted it and I somehow forced it through. [Laughs] I can confirm that wasn’t true.
TVLINE | That was Vera [Farmiga] — and not a prosthetic — sitting at the dinner table in the finale channeling Dead Norma, right?
That was Vera. They did have a prosthetic body for certain moments, but the last beat was entirely Vera. I felt sorry for her as we’d do take after take in the kitchen and she’d have to sit there silently and dead. There was an eerie presence that it gave the scene with having her really there in the room. I think it would not have been the same without her.
TVLINE | I found myself really missing Norma this season.
I think in some ways that was by design. I think that’s what made this season have a real sense of absence about it. It makes you understand why Norman would want to return to his mother and his yearning for something that’s very much lost. At the same time, I just love what Vera did with Mother this year and the ways that she twisted it.
TVLINE | Did you take any mementoes from the set?
I got a couple of things. I got the manager’s badge. Norman was so proud of that. And his jacket. I think that’s what he’d want to be buried with, really.