How do you follow up the most intense and possibly impactful episodes in the history of Bates Motel? By its very nature, “Inseparable” had to be more transitional, taking us from the death of Sam Loomis (Austin Nichols) in the closing scene of “Marion” and into the final arc of the series, and that’s exactly what it does. The noose is tightening around the neck of Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore), and three people are pulling the rope — Dylan (Max Thieriot), Alex Romero (Nestor Carbonell), and Sheriff Greene (Brooke Smith). In the end, however, it may be the remaining shred of Norman’s sanity that pulls the tightest.
We open where we closed, zooming out of the dead eye of Sam and up to Norman against the wall, panting and holding a bloody knife. “Norma” (Vera Farmiga) comes in to handle the situation. She’s got her yellow gloves on, ready to clean up, as she has so many times before. Norma, even in death, is always practical. “You can think about the meaning of life later,” she says. “But right now we got shit to do.”
Having cleaned up, “Norma” and Norman have a body to dispose of, but life is about to get in the way. First, it’s key to note that this is one of the first murders of which Norman seems fully aware. In the past, Norma would take over and he would black out. He knows he killed Sam Loomis. And he’s not feeling great about it. Before guilt can take him, fear sets in when they see police boats dredging the lake that the Bateses have used as a dumping ground for years. Standing in the woods, watching a body pulled from the water, Norman pukes. “How many times have we done this, mother,” he asks. “How many bodies are they gonna find in that lake?” They have to dump Loomis in a well in the woods instead and we get Norma’s best line of the week — “It’s good that one of us is thinking about these things.” There’s literally only one of them dragging Sam Loomis through the woods. And one of them “thinking.”
Cut to Norman and Norma headed home after selling Sam’s car to a chop shop. Norman suggests turning himself in. As they’re “talking,” Sheriff Greene pulls up. They didn’t just find Jim Blackwell, the assassin sent by Alex Romero. They found multiple bodies. Greene also notices the disturbed gravel in front of the motel, questioning why Norman told her they had no recent guests. He cops to Sam being there for a quickie, but claims he left after. Greene is getting more suspicious, but brilliantly placating Norman at the same time so he doesn’t flee or do something even crazier.
While Greene gets closer to her suspect, her predecessor gets healthier. Romero’s recuperating at Maggie’s (Jillian Fargey) house. He wakes up, looking for his gun, which she denies he had when he came stumbling to her doorstep. He was infected from the buckshot wound, and she’s been giving him antibiotics and letting him sleep. She’s trying to save Alex from his quest for vengeance, later figuring out that he must be going after Norma’s killer and using all her powers of persuasion to convince him not to go.
Meanwhile, Norman needs to clear the house because Greene is likely to show up with a search warrant any minute. You know what that means — get rid of the mummified corpse of his mother in the basement. He tells “Norma” to go back to the motel, which I found interesting. He’s protecting that half of his brain, trying to keep it alive in a sense, and not leave it in the woods. That’s where he takes the real Norma, wheeling her to a spot that they both liked when she was alive. And Norman lovingly, emotionally digs a spot for his mother. It’s more of a shrine than a burial, almost like Sleeping Beauty. He kisses her and covers her with a blanket. Let’s hope there’s no wildlife in this part of the Pacific Northwest.
Norman is lucky he didn’t wait one more day because Dylan comes home. He looks around the house, suspiciously, knowing that Norman isn’t well. He can’t be alone. They chitchat, and Norman sees a photo of his niece for the first time. Dylan learns that Norman is off his meds, and the “well son” cries looking at his mother’s housecoat. It’s easy to forget sometimes that Norma was a victim here. Yes, she made some serious mistakes, but Norman killed her, and Dylan is left to grieve.
Dylan is about to learn the extent of Norman’s illness. First, he goes to get a prescription filled for Norman and learns that Dr. Edwards (Damon Gupton) went missing over a year ago. This means that the conversation that Norman had with him in the coffee shop was imaginary. Whoa. That’s a nice twist that I didn’t see coming. Dylan convinces the pharmacist to give him the meds, running into Madeleine (Isabelle McNally) on the way home. She’s looking for Sam, of course. And Dylan instantly suspects his brother. Dylan tells Madeleine that Norman is not well, but also that he’ll pass on the message.
Multiple seasons and plotlines have been building to the final scene of this episode. Dylan comes into the house, screaming his brother’s name, only to find him happily cooking dinner like nothing is wrong. Candles are lit. Music is playing. Dylan needs to talk. First, he mentions Sam, and Norman acts suspiciously. He’s always had trouble lying to his brother. We see Norman fighting with himself. He clearly wants to tell Dylan what’s been going on. He wants to tell him he’s sick. The half of his brain that manifests his dead mother just won’t let him.
Dylan senses this need and moves closer to Norman. “I just really want to help you get better,” he says. He pulls the drugs out of his pocket, which was the wrong approach. The “Norma” side of Norman that the drugs would kill is going to fight back. Norman goes to the sink and starts talking to himself. Then he turns around and puts on that slight twang that means “Norma” is in charge. Dylan’s eyes widen. “I can only ever be a real mother to one person,” “she” says. And then Norman smashes his brother’s head with a glass, knocking him to the floor. We see “Norma” grab a knife and go to stab Dylan when “Norman” stops him. The two fight, knocking dishes to the floor, and we see Dylan’s POV, in which Norman is wrestling with only himself. It’s terrifying. Norman wins. He goes to the phone and calls 911, saying, “I’d like to report a murder. My name is Norman Bates, and I killed Sam Loomis.”
• This was a much more deliberately paced episode than the two Rihanna chapters. Scenes like Dylan looking around the house and Norman wheeling his mother through the woods had a nice melancholic sense of good-bye to them.
• The fact that this is the final season has really upped the tension on this show. Caleb is dead so anybody could die, including Dylan. The increased stakes have been remarkably effective in taking this show from drama to horror.
• This was Thieriot’s best episode in years, possibly ever. He brilliantly blended fear, anger, and grief without feeling showy at all. I’ll miss Dylan.