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Normal People - 1.06 - Review

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Having watched this episode twice now (and read the corresponding book chapter(s)), I'm disappointed to report that I'm still not sure how things ended up going south so quickly, and so intensely. Of course, this is Connell and Marianne we're talking about, our famous non-communication afficionados, so in one sens, of course all it took was a look for them to break up, and obviously they weren't going to have their happy ever after halfway through the show, but still. One could hope they'd have learned from their past experiences (one would be disappointed, however).

On the evening of this ill-fated outing, we find ourselves 6 weeks in the future. Marianne is sobbing angrily in front of the sink (Monica would be so proud. No crumbs on the carpet, no tears on the floor) and that glass she's holding never makes it back on the counter. Connell makes a moody exit à la Heathcliff on his moors, and we're left baffled by the state of things, which were, dare I say it, going pretty swimmingly since they last reunited.

Back in the "present", Marianne and Connell are in the exact same location (i.e., Around The Sink, which honestly should snag a guest spot in the credits at this point), but in a much happier place relationship-wise. So much so, that Connell is practically living at Marianne's place, and it barely takes one (sink-adjacent) kiss to set them off again, and then it's all Off With Your Clothes! But I digress. Marianne is being all kinds of helpful to Connell (namely with a job so he can pay rent for a room he barely uses) but Connell is still in some twilight zone of denial about their relationship, in that he will not admit that Marianne is his girlfriend. Which gives me (and Marianne) war flashbacks from the first three episodes where he would not admit they even knew each other, let alone slept together. So I suppose one might say one some level there's progress but on another... why hang on to these stupid labels? If you're spending most every minute with someone and enjoying it, surely the least you can do is admit how you feel?

Lorraine at least, is keeping him in check about how he feels and how grateful he should be, but much like in highschool (I almost said 'back in season 1' since that is how those 3 episodes feel now), he's very nonchalant about it and clearly doesn't want to discuss his love life with his mom. This all feeds into Connell's inability to demonstrate any kind of affection for Marianne when they're not alone. He won't call her his girlfriend, won't act like they're more than friends, won't admit she's beneficial to his life and happiness... the list goes on. For the most part, Marianne doesn't call him out on it and even goes out of her way to extricate him from situations he feels uncomfortable with. Peggy off-handedly suggesting a threesome was, well... Peggy being Peggy. (Yes, I hate Peggy). But as in every many instances, Marianne immediately senses that Connell needs saving and she wholeheartedly puts his happiness above hers, by taking the blame for not wanting to do the threesome, because of her alleged "coldness" and "unlovability" (oh, Marianne. Months of therapy await these statements, if only she'd go). After Peggy finally leaves though, she admits if Connell had in any way been into it, she of course would've followed suit, in order to please him.

I’d have done it. If you wanted to. Had you wanted to… I would’ve enjoyed you wanting to.

To Connell's credit, he's finally started to realize just how much she puts him first and not-so-gently tries to put her on a path where she loves herself more. Which is admirable, but I want to say good luck with that, mate.
On the bright side, when they are alone, Connell is very considerate and loving with Marianne, which is how we end up with the nude pic exchange (was not expecting that, honestly), which somehow ends up quite sweet (even less so).

I think I was starting to have feelings for you there at one moment.

On the not-so-bright side, Marianne has a mandatory dinner at her parents' place to attend, and she's about as enthusiastic about it as she would be about the guillotine, with good reason. Far from having mellowed since Marianne left for Dublin, her brother is now consumed by jealousy at the mere mention of her accomplishments, especially when their family is doling out compliments. (He conveniently forgets that they're also praising him). Their mother, as usual, doesn't say a thing either way, which is how Marianne ends up slopping wet with dishwater all over her hair and face, for daring to do well at Trinity and not apologizing for it. Somehow, sending your not-boyfriend hot pics when you're still sobbing over the incident doesn't have quite the desired effect, but you have to admire her for still trying.

Back in Dublin, Connell's job is made redundant for a few months, which means he can no longer pay rent since looking for another job in the middle of exams is pretty much impossible. While the obvious solution, brought by Niall, would be to ask Marianne if he can move in for a few months, Connell would much rather suffer in silence until the most meaningful thing in his life also crumbles to dust under the weight of Not. Communicating. (and being way too proud).

Then follows a succession of events which result in Marianne and Connell's latest downfall, all in varyingly small but nonetheless potent ways. She's miserable over her family situation, and eludes sex (for probably the first time ever in their relationship) because she's on her period. His paper doesn't get accepted. He still hasn't asked her about moving in. Smarmy Jamie puts his paws on Marianne's thigh as casually as if he'd claimed her then and there. Marianne finally admits she can't fathom why Connell keeps acting like they're nothing but friends whenever they have company. Jamie keeps sowing seeds of doubt in Marianne's mind, even though she obviously only has eyes for Connell.

Things might still have ended well if we'd stopped at the pool party, where Connell finally, tentatively, demonstrates a little affection. It's quiet, and it's not much, but it's enough for them. He almost, almost asks her then and there about moving in. But he doesn't, and that signs their death warrant.

Back in the future, which is now the present, the glass Marianne was holding shatters in the sink, and Connell leaves without having asked, and they're effectively broken up. She of course, has no idea what just happened, or what she did wrong (if anything, aside from bringing him to a pool party, which makes it even sadder.

It's crazy how you can go from seemingly being completely in sync with someone, to getting completely derailed and barely recognizing the other person. Which is incredibly frustrating here, because in so many ways Marianne and Connell are made for each other. They have insane chemistry, they care deeply about each other, they're equally matched in that they're both incredibly smart. But they don't talk, or they don't talk enough about what matters and what makes a relationship work. It's all misunderstandings and unspoken truths that should be obvious but end up muffled, and it's heartbreaking, every single time.
What did you guys think of this episode? Will Marianne and Connell ever just sit down and talk about what matters? Or are they better off on their own, with maybe less-intense relationships but equally less-intense break-ups?

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