For those us still reeling from last week’s merging of 1960 and 2017, Episode 7 coaxes us back with the iconic close-up of a lifeless, dilated pupil on the bathroom floor of Room #1 at the Bates Motel. We are now presented with the new reality we had 7 days to forget: the Norma we see is a coping mechanism created by Norman who just happens to look like his mother. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not like I thought Imaginary Norma was really Norma but….it feels different. Now that the secret is out, she has no more boundaries. She does not have to pretend to be anyone but Norman’s protector at any and all costs. And while Norman still refers to her as “Mother”, he is projecting fewer restrictions on her. He is giving his alternate psyche the same freedom of personality she had back in Norman’s pre-orphan blackout days. Only this time, he is aware of the inner workings of their special relationship. Let’s see where this goes…
Romero resurfaces in the spare room of Maggie Summers where she has nursed him back to pseudo-health with rest and antibiotics. Having fond memories of Romero’s decency during their upbringings, Maggie also has hidden his gun convinced that his morale compass needs recalibrating. She is able to get him to admit his wife did not kill herself but will not give up who did; he flatly insists his gun resurface by the time he’s well enough to leave. There’s that wonky compass – comprising her safety by showing up at her doorstep but keeping her out of the loop otherwise. That’s noble of you, Romero, because Maggie is naive and clearly smitten.
Sheriff Greene stops by the motel to give Norman the good news: Jim Blackwell won’t be bothering him any more because he – and multiple other bodies – was found at the bottom of the lake last night. (“Multiple?” Norman asks himself.) Is it just me or does Sheriff Greene keep doing that thing where we can’t tell if she’s fishing or floundering? Those long pauses between questions…waiting for Norman to self-incriminate…and then she goes right back to assuming the best? Ugh! Tricksy portrayal, Brooke Smith!
To no one’s surprise, Dylan pays a visit to White Pine Bay. As he walks around the house, he slowly takes in the life his brother has been living for nearly two years: a disastrous kitchen, cigarettes on the piano, high heels by the armchair. He gives Norman the Cliff Notes version of his life – got married, had a baby – and quickly moves on to the topic of mental health. He learns that Norman stopped taking his meds and is no longer in therapy with Dr. Edwards, although he did see him in town recently. Dylan gently tells Norman that he is unwell and shouldn’t be living alone. He offers to stay a few days but Norman distractedly excuses himself for an afternoon siesta. Dylan visits the pharmacy during naptime with hopes of getting Norman a refill. He convinces the pharmacist to dispense a handful to hold Norman over after she is unable to reach Dr. Reynolds who went missing a year ago (what?) and is presumed dead (WHAT?!). Upon his return to the Bates home, Dylan runs into Madeleine on the steps (dressed more than ever like the walking dead, I might add) who is there searching for her MIA husband. He pretty much tells her that Norman is crazy and sends her on his way. While the brothers sit down to a warm, homemade dinner, Dylan brings up Sam Loomis. He finally gets pissed at Norman’s avoidance which is a relief because he was being waaaay too nice when he first got there. I get that you genuinely want to help Norman but…hello? He killed your mother AND your mother-in-law. Okay, okay. I get it. Your mother is dead, your brother is crazy. Too much for an already emotionally stunted guy to process. But wait! You don’t even know about your father yet! Aw, jeez.
This episode was laced with the sharp humor, shocking bursts and blink-and-you’ll-miss-‘em subtleties that “Bates Motel” has perfected in its 5 seasons. This new Norma is off the hook – mocking Norman’s nervous stomach, wishing she had a quarter to make a wish in the well where Sam Loomis is dumped. Vera Farmiga’s eye rolls are fabulously burned on my brain for all eternity.
But let’s talk about the most amazing part of “Inseparable”. In the 47th episode of our saga, we find that Norman and his Norma are separate AND together. For this first time, we see a true and visible disconnect between the man and his myth. He has long accepted that he sees things that aren’t there (we even see Juno stuffed, not barking) but he is now faced with detaching himself from the creations of his mind. This protector, this forever partner of Norman’s, has become a stranger to him. She doesn’t have to pretend to be loving or sentimental. She is in survival mode – even as an invented alter ego. She knows to act like his sweet mother only when she needs Norman to do something. Norman intentionally keeps things from her, even whispering to Dylan how much he misses their mother, as if he doesn’t want the eavesdropping Norma to hear him. Norman moves his mother’s frozen body to a clearing in the woods for fear Sherriff Greene come snooping…and a certain someone is not invited to the relocation party. The adorned flesh-and-bloodless corpse is the closest Norman can be to his real mother now that his internal companion has revealed her true identity to him. This burial scene is simply crushing. At the end of last week’s episode, I felt like Norma died all over again. I think Norman is feeling the same thing. The comforting figure who protected him all these years has not only become a stranger, but also an enemy. And for the same reasons he needed her, he is unable to maintain his independent identity. When pushed to take his meds by Dylan, he tries to keep her away but is unable. She takes over and professes her love and pride to Dylan before smashing a glass across his face. It is here that all hell breaks loose and Norman physically fights himself, writhing about the kitchen table in bedlam while Dylan looks on incredulously. And in a temporary moment of lucidity, Norman defies his guardian, frantically dials 9-1-1 and confesses to the murder of Sam Loomis.
I am constantly sighing. Those long sighs that compromise my posture and keep my frown turned upside down. Only 126 more minutes. How can that be?