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Normal People - 1.07 - Review

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So, remember that inexplicable Sink Scene from Normal People's last episode when Connell and Marianne suddenly imploded and we watched the last 6 weeks unfold until this moment and it still didn't quite make sense? Well, we're back at it, and now... I guess... maybe... it clarifies things a little? Or at least it clarifies what we already knew: Connell has the communications skills of a soupe tureen and Marianne's confidence is in the negatives. This episode does offer quite a bit of a time-jump afterwards though, so we go from dedicating 3 episodes to a few days, to almost a year going by in 30mn. Then again, who would want to watch 3 episodes of the Marianne/Jaime show: no one, that's who. Let's get into it!

You see, as expected, out of a fit of misplaced proudness or an allergy to committment, Connell did not end up sharing with Marianne that he was out of a job, and thus out of a place to stay in Dublin during the summer, let alone ask her if he could (temporarily?) move in with her. Especially since he slept there 5 nights a week anyway. But I digress. Even then, things might still have been salvaged if Marianne exuded even a smidgen of the confidence she has in her academic aptitude, in her love life. But since she automatically assumes that she's inherently unlovable and of course Connell would lose interest or whatever else she's telling herself, she doesn't even fight for the relationship, and just shuts down.

- I’m not going to be here for the summer, I can’t pay the rent. I guess you’ll want to see other people.
- I guess so. Yeah.

Sometimes, like in this instance, their downfall is so swift, yet so unnecessary, it makes me want to scream. Imagine a world where Connell would call Marianne his girlfriend without even thinking about it, where he would have moved to her place and probably stayed there after the summer and his job started back up, a world in which Marianne would have called him out on his silence and not immediately assumed he couldn't possibly want to stay with her. Then again, the show would have lasted approximately 5 minutes if that were the case, but you'd think after their highschool fiasco, that they'd value the very unique relationship they have, a little more. Instead, they casually destroy it anytime things get even a teensy bit hard. You know how often, in shows (or books or whatever), a couple struggles to make it work and one of them asks if it should really be this hard? Here, the question feels like: should it really be so easy for them to fall apart? The lightest gust of wind seems to throw them off course, every single time.

Cut to a few weeks (days?) later, and they're both making good on the "seeing other people" part, as if to prove to each other (and themselves) that their relationship didn't matter and it was perfectly fine to throw it away, no big deal. Connell is slumming it at parties in Sligo, with his old crew. He doesn't seem that into it though (or maybe just into particular girl), more like partying away the pain. Meanwhile, Marianne also reappears, albeit for a week-end during which a mass celebrates her deceased father. Connell is under the impression that they're friends, and would have appreciated a warning that she was in town. It's not that they're... not friends, because ultimately, people who care that deeply about each other (even if they can't always express it) can't help but be in each other's lives. But it seems awfully raw to go from being in an exclusive relationship, to being devastated by a pointless breakup, to talking about your respective significant others. But Marianne and Connell have never shied away from awkwardness, so this is par for the course. And after exchanging some pleasantries...

- Embracing the single lifestyle?
- Yeah, well. You know me.
- I did once.

Connell still shows up to her father's anniversary mass, and the look they exchange is very telling. Gratitude, tenderness, longing, it's all there in that one, loaded, glance. But it also means that whatever happens, they're there for each other.

And friends, they truly try to be. Back in highschool, Marianne made Connell extremely uncomfortable by asking him which other girls he fancied, or had slept with, or was planning on hooking up with... all while they currently were in the throws of passion. At the time, I thought Marianne was being the weirdo, that in some kind of masochistic attempt at proving to herself that she was unlovable, she couldn't help but check and prove herself right through Connell's decisions. As is turns out, Connell is just as bad, since now that Marianne and Jamie are dating (ugh), he wants to know just what they're into. Yeah, you read that right. In a perfect world, Marianne wishes the two main men in her life would get along, but apparently Jamie is threatened by Connell (what isn't Jamie threatened by, anyway?) which leads to this interesting exchange:

- From where he’s standing, you’re the tall guy who used to fuck his girlfriend.
- Is that how you describe me to all your friends? The tall guy who fucked you?
- Pretty sure we fucked each other. We had mutual, equally involved kind of sex. It’s different. With Jamie.
- How d’you mean?
- Do you want to hear about this?

Believe it or not, Connell actually NODS, he does want to hear about this. I'm not even sure friends who haven't slept together would want to know about this. Especially when we learn that far from the intensely sexual relationship Marianne and Connell shared, she and Jamie are on more of a unilateral path in which he inflicts pain on her during sex. Connell is baffled. So am I. Under the sheer shock of this announcement, he lights a cigarette (because it's probably only 11am and downing some whiskey would be frowned upon in a café), but dude is going to need something much stronger than that for what's about to come.

- Sounds fucking horrible.
- Things were different with you. I didn’t have to play any games with you, itw as just real. With Jaime. I don’t know. It’s a bit like I’m acting a part. I just pretend to feel a certain way. Like I’m in his power. With you I actually had those feelings. I’d have done anything you wanted me to.

To each their own and everything, but I'm with Connell on this one. Especially since we'll soon realize that it's not like, bondage or role playing or whatever. It truly is her being physically (and, honestly, mentally, considering the dynamic) hurt during sex, and being completely in his power. Then again, this is Jamie so it's unclear just how much of a threat he poses, and if he really does need to feel this superior in the relationship considering his general lack of appeal. More importantly, Connell and Marianne demonstrate yet again that they have no self-preservation whatsoever, and Marianne is still (figuratively) lying on that block of concrete in front of the Ghost house, again.

As she and Jamie engage in their version of sex and she seems anything but happy, Connell walks away, and they both head to the scholar exams which, in Connell's case, will determine his entire future. Much like during the final high school exams, they can't keep their eyes off each other. This time however, Connell seems more concerned with Marianne's wellbeing than desperately searching for her.

Flashforward to April this time (another year gone, just like that), and the scholar announcements take place. Unsurprisingly, Connell gets in for English, as does Marianne in Politics. More surprisingly, she and Jamie are still together. And while Connell and she share a glance of mutual respect and celebration as their respective announcements are made, they aren't in the same group, and seem to have grown apart.

Not that much however, since a few hours later Connell shows up completely smashed (literally and figuratively, celebrating the scholars announcements and getting mugged in the process) on Marianne's doorstep, because her number is still the only one he knows by heart. Note that he didn't call his current girlfriend (whom we learn about a little later), or his mom, who after all only lives a few hours away (yes, I did google the Dublin-Sligo distance, thank you very much). All roads lead to Rome, and all that.

- Do I still have pupils ?
- Ha, just about. They’re huge.
- They always get like that when I see you anyways.
- Ah. You must be drunk.

Marianne was having a dinner party with her usual bunch of fake friends (minus Joanna, who remains lovely and funny and the only worthy one), but she drops everything when Connell shows up. After a few passive-agressive exchanges between Connell and Jamie, the undesirables slink off to some bar or other, leaving our star-crossed lovers alone. Being drunk, Connell is a little less careful with his thoughts about Marianne's choices than usual:

- I'd rather literally anyone else, Marianne. I’d rather the guy who mugged me. Do you love him?
- We don’t talk about that, do we. That stuff is off limits.

Is it, Marianne? You CONSTANTLY talk about "that stuff", it's certainly not off limits. Or does she mean the love part, as opposed to the physical part. Talking about sexual preferences is fine, but when actual feelings are involved, suddenly she remembers maybe it's weird? Please. She knows Connell's right about Jamie and she doesn't want to hear it. On the bright side, if you were still confused about why, exactly, they broke up during the Sink Scene, well this is your lucky day because so are they. Neither of them can quite comprehend how they went from point A (happily in love) to B (seeing other people), aside from a complete and utter lack of communication and absolute misunderstanding of every single situation.

The episode closes with the introduction of Connell's new girlfriend: Helen, who patches him up. Somehow, even in those few seconds you can already tell she'll never hold a candle to Marianne, but it would've been interesting if they'd picked someone we could've rooted for (more).
So now we finally know what went down (sort of), and how Marianne and Connell ended up simultaneously closer, but further apart than ever before. What did you guys think of this episode? Is the endless lack of communication starting to feel redundant or are you rooting for them both to finally figure out they care about each other more deeply than is healthy if they're staying apart? Are you counting the episodes days until Smarmy Jamie finally leaves our screens? Do you think a stabler relationship with Helen will ultimately make Connell happier than Marianne did? Discuss, and tune in for more as we launch into Marianne and Connell: the sequel.

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