At its very core, A&E's Bates Motel has always been a series about hope. Well, hope, murder and the twisted mind of a very confused young boy otherwise known as Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore).
It's a premise that co-showrunners Kerry Ehrin and Carlton Cuse have long spoken about, and it's a strong theme heading into Monday's series finale of the Psycho prequel starring Highmore and Vera Farmiga.
Monday's "The Cord" picks up where the penultimate episode, "Visiting Hours," left off: with Romero (Nestor Carbonell) kidnapping Norman from prison and driving off with him to recover Norma's taxidermy-treated body in the woods.
Although everyone involved has remained tight-lipped about the final episode, which Ehrin and Cuse have long envisioned for the series, it's safe to say that not everyone will make it out alive.
"We have to always hope, and I hope for all of these characters in every single f - ing script that I've written for this show. I've hoped that they would end up in the sun. So yes, there is always hope. But it's not a given," Ehrin told THR at the start of the final season. "We're very pleased with this season on every level, but even the ending will be very exciting, satisfying and unexpected. It's going to be really good."
For his part, Highmore calls Bates Motel the show he's grown up on. He was 19 when he started, and now at 25 years old he's closing out the drama with some writing and directing experience under his belt.
"You change as a person and of course that probably influences the way that Norman changed over the years," he said of playing the iconic character for five seasons. "It's hard to pinpoint how. In terms of the approach to Norman, it did become more fun as the challenge increased as time went by. Just the opportunity to get to see Mother take over Norman and learn how that affects the way he moves and reacts and speaks and engages with people in scenes."
For the past couple of episodes since Norman turned himself in for killing Sam Loomis (Austin Nichols), "Mother" has taken over the character's personality full force. It's a twist that has seen Highmore play a second and third version of Norman, which is just as confusing to act out as it sounds.
"You wrap your head around the fact that you're ultimately just pretending to be the person that you once started out as from another character's point of view," he explains. "That's what made the experience so enjoyable as time went by; no scene felt repetitive. Norman's trajectory toward becoming that person that we know inside and moving past that was reasonably rapid. It didn't feel forced or overly speedy but it was a character that was constantly changing or evolving."
After Monday's series finale, Highmore will continue exploring his creative side. He's set to star in ABC medical drama pilot The Good Doctor and is writing two projects with Ehrin), but he's aware that his role as Norman Bates was a fairly unique one that helped him flex a lot of different muscles. Especially during the scenes he shared with Farmiga.
"Vera really reinvented the role she had on the show with Norma Louise passing away at the end of season four. She came back with this whole new take on Mother and this person that existed clearly in Norman's head. That made for the most fun scenes that we got to do together," he said. "It just became a much more psychological game of cat and mouse between them. One of the things I'll miss most of all is getting to do those big scenes with Vera, those big, nuanced, emotional scenes."
Bates Motel wraps Monday at 10 p.m. on A&E. Stay tuned for full coverage on The Live Feed.