Normal People: Episode 1

“No one would have to know.”

If I could choose one word to describe Normal People that sets it apart from all the many Noah Centineo-led teen romances, it would be: subtle.

(Full disclosure: I haven’t actually watched any Noah Centineo-led romance, but you get my gist.)

What struck me the most about this pilot episode was how much it conveyed about its two main characters without really having them say much at all. Right from their first scene, we know that Connell is well-liked among his friends while Marianne is a loner. And more important than that – they totally like each other.

Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones both do really good jobs at using subtle expressions to convey their characters’ inner monologues. Connell’s both the high school jock stereotype and its antithesis. He’s the popular athlete with a group of snooty friends, but he’s also a lover of literature and is secretly riddled with anxieties. He hides his affections towards a girl he sees regularly both in and outside of school out of the fear he might be rejected by his social circles.

Marianne could have been a pretty unlikeable character from the get-go, but just like Connell, she has two very interesting sides that Edgar-Jones is just too good at playing. There’s the openly antagonistic Marianne she shows to everyone at school at the mercy of many an irritated teacher. Then there’s the side that just wants to be liked despite this. You could see this in the way she went from teasing Connell about his complexion to thinking he hates her in a matter of seconds.

The contrast between the two dinner scenes was interesting. Connell was having an open discussion right beside Lorraine about his future college prospects over a massive pot of beans and toast. Meanwhile, Marianne was sitting alone, eating a salad she prepared while attempting to talk about her results with her mother. Her brother is also a douche if I’ve ever seen one.

These two went from cute flirtation to Connell inviting Marianne over to his house pretty quickly. Then again, Lorraine may have been working for the Sheridan family for a while, so their feelings may have built up over time. Marianne is in a more vulnerable position than Connell when it comes to their budding romance. She has no support system and only ever smiles when it comes to Connell. And she ends this episode in what’s probably an exciting emotional time for her. I suppose it’s not too much to hope she gets to remain happy.

But with eleven more episodes in a romantic drama, what could go wrong?

Bits and Pieces:

- The acting was great in this first episode, but the camerawork was amazing as well. Often when the two would be around other people, shots would be just focused on them, particularly in Connell’s case, emphasizing how out of place he sometimes feels. The times we see the camera comfortably lingering on wide shots are when both Marianne and Connell are in frame.

- The sport Connell played is called Gaelic football, and is a popular Irish sport that Mescal himself plays. A fun fact for the uneducated like me who don’t know the difference between football and soccer.

- Paul Mescal has mentioned in interviews that he really does blush a lot. Now I’m wondering if the blushing scene was added in because of that or if it was just very serendipitous casting.

- The book about feminism Connell took from Marianne’s bookshelf was The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing.

- I already feel protective over Marianne seeing her pure reaction to the kiss and smiling to herself while Connell was at Rachel’s party.

- “Don’t tell anybody in school about this” isn’t exactly what you want to hear after your first kiss.

- I had to look it up, but apparently "giving grinds" is Irish slang for giving tutorial sessions.

- If you’ve heard anything about the buzz on Normal People, you’ve probably heard about Connell’s chain. I don’t think I would’ve even noticed the chain if I hadn’t looked it up. I’m now partly tempted to do a chain count every time it shows up onscreen. Chainwatch, anyone?

Quotes:

Marianne: "Well, I object to every thought or action or feeling of my being policed like we’re in some authoritarian fantasy."

Connell: "I could be a marine biologist."
Lorraine: "Yeah, that sounds like your area of interest, all right."

Marianne: "But, you know, you blush at everything."
Connell: "Thanks."
Marianne: "Guess you have one of those complexions."
I love how Marianne genuinely seemed unaware that she was making Connell uncomfortable.

Marianne: "You were tempted. I tempted you."

Connell: "You act like you've never been kissed before."
Marianne: "I haven't."
Them both giggling was the cutest thing. :)

This was a sweet first episode with nuanced but likeable characters. Pilot episodes are hard to rate, but maybe this is 4.5 pots of beans out of 5.

Mara Fabella is a visual artist, writer, retired martial artist, yoga practitioner, booper of cat noses, and lifelong lover of mint chocolate chip ice cream.

5 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Welcome to the site, Mara! There's a lot of buzz about this show -- thanks for taking it on for us.

Mikey Heinrich said...

Congratulations Mara!!

CoramDeo said...

I'll also echo the welcome, and a great review, too! You write well!

Josie Kafka said...

Mara, welcome to the site! I've heard a lot about this show and the book, so I'm really curious to check it out.

Logan Cox said...

Welcome, Mara!

Good job on the review.