Did Norman Live Or Die In Bates Motel's Series Finale? Here's What Happened

bates motel series finale

Warning: major spoilers ahead for the series finale of A&E's Bates Motel.

Bates Motel came to an end after five seasons of ups, downs, twists, and turns on A&E. Fans had plenty of questions going into the final episode, not the least of which was whether or not Norman would live past the end of the series. Well, we've finally gotten to see the long-awaited finale, and we know just what happened: Norman was shot and killed. As this is Bates Motel we're talking about, of course Norman's death wasn't a straightforward shooting from somebody seeking vengeance. It was much more complex and much, much more amazing.

The end began for Norman in the finale when he took a pretty severe beating from the soon-to-be-dead Romero at Norma's penultimate grave, which knocked him off his rocker enough that he reverted to his memories from the beginning of the series, making it all the more painful when he had to learn yet again that his beloved mother was dead. (A nice enough change from the standard amnesia twist.)

Unwilling to live with the reality of his mother's death and absence, Norman committed suicide-by-brother, picking up a knife and making his intentions abundantly clear to the gun-drawn Dylan before finally plunging the knife forward. (And in a way in which the more sane sibling barely had to dodge.) Naturally, Dylan shot Norman in self-defense, and Norman had just enough time to say "Thank you" before fading off to reunite with his mom in the great beyond as he bled out in Dylan's arms.

bates motel series finale gravestone

All things considered, it was a strangely sweet (?) ending to a very odd, very tragic story. Dylan was the only person alive who really cared about Norman and his state of mind by the end; as everybody else just wanted to problems resolved. In a way, Dylan's act of killing his brother was the kindest thing that anybody could have possibly done for Norman as he was. He wasn't able to get Norman away to get him the help he needed, but he was able to give him what he desperately wanted: to get back to his mom. The ending shot of the tombstone, with "Dream a Little Dream" playing, was pretty much a perfect ending to the series, regardless of how it reflects the film or novel from which Bates Motel's story was drawn. This show ended as it began, both literally and figuratively, with the idea of "Family First."

The Bates Motel series finale was a solid hour of television. We've known for a while that the show was ending after Season 5, so there's been plenty of time to prepare for the end, and this season has been laying down all the pieces -- i.e. dead bodies -- for the endgame to play out. "The Cord" was crazy and unpredictable and emotional, and gave audiences one of the series' creepiest moments in the past/present juxtaposition as Norman drove back to the motel after killing Romero. I'm not sure I have it in me to re-watch just yet, but I'd say that this is one of the better finales I've seen in a while. The team at Bates Motel delivered a finale that honored longtime fans and brought a cathartic end to the story that has been building for years and years now. What else could we want?

Bates Motel may be done on A&E, but you can check out our midseason TV premiere guide and our summer TV premiere schedule to discover all your viewing options for the coming weeks. Be sure to drop by our rundowns for cable/streaming and broadcast TV renewals and cancellations. What do you think? Should Norman have lived or are you happy he died? Let us know in the comments!

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).