Normal People: Episode 2

"I hope you don’t find it too hard trying to resist me."
"Don't I always?"

One of the main things that sets Normal People apart from the many other teen romances on air is the very intimate yet real way it portrays sex.

The way it deals with teenage sex is one of the aspects the show’s received high praise for, and this first episode that depicts that makes it easy to see why. It’s an impressive feat when a show devotes an entire third of an episode to sex but never at one point makes it feel gratuitous or pornographic. No Game of Thrones sex-position to be found here.

Director Lenny Abrahamson has said in interviews that he didn’t want the sex scenes to be feel separate from the rest of the episode. They wanted the sex to feel like a natural part of the narrative, and that’s exactly what came across.

The build-up to the scene was both awkward and endearing. From Marianne putting on eyeliner and then quickly changing her mind, to Connell very awkwardly inviting her in his house. I’ll probably say this repeatedly while reviewing the show, but you know Mescal and Edgar-Jones’s chemistry is insanely good when they can stay seated apart in uncomfortable silence and still give off both sexual tension and that charming young-love energy.

The entire sequence was sexy without being over-glamorized. A big part of this is thanks to the way it was filmed mostly in tight close-ups. Wide shots showing their entire naked bodies would have felt a little voyeuristic for us as viewers. Focusing instead on Connell and Marianne’s reactions to each other made it about their budding feelings and the excitement of their first time together.

This episode was very well-paced. In the span of thirty minutes, we went from Marianne and Connell having sex for the first time to them having a full-blown albeit secret relationship, all without feeling rushed or forced. Oh, the power of an Imogen Heap montage.

But for all the early-stage romance cuteness is the underlying communication barrier between them, and quite a tricky barrier it is. Marianne is defensive and has difficulty opening up to Connell. At the same time, Connell is so frustratingly beholden to how he projects himself socially that he won’t even admit his friends are wrong and tell Marianne what she needs to hear the most – that she isn’t ugly or flat-chested, and that he likes her, too.

I took Marianne frankly saying, “I would lie down here, and you could do anything you wanted to me,” as her blunt way of trying to get Connell to show affection for her in a non-sexual setting (despite the statement’s very sexual implications). She tells him she would openly submit to him as a way to break herself down and see if he would help build her up again. And in a very stunted, cryptic way, Connell does… Kind of.

Bits and pieces:

- We don’t get many first-time sex scenes where the guy says it’s okay to stop if it hurts for the girl. This was very responsible as far as showing teenage sex goes. I hope we see more of these very necessary depictions of consent.

- I don’t know if the bra Marianne was wearing was a clasp type or not, but anyone who wears a sports bra knows, there is no way of taking it off without it getting stuck on your head.

- It might not need to be said, but I do not like Connell’s friends at all. Frustrating how Connell seems to dislike their treatment of Marianne but still somehow defends this right to her face. You gotta do better, dude.

- As someone whose daily commute to and from school consisted of hours of being stuck in mindless traffic and smog, it must be nice to go to school in an Irish county, where walks home are lined with provincial landscapes and creepy rundown houses called “The Ghost”

- Marianne actually had an almost pleasant encounter with her mother, which was offset by her brother’s very conspicuous douchebaggery.

- In this edition of Chainwatch 2020, the chain takes center stage as we see it in the spotlight not one, not two, but four times! Where will Chainwatch take us next? Stay tuned to find out! *to be read in old-timey radio announcer voice*

Quotes:

Marianne: “Shy people aren’t annoying.”
Connell: “You think I’m shy? Just because I don’t give my opinion on everything all the time--"
Marianne: “You never give an opinion about anything. Ever.”

Marianne: “Was that a good one?”
Connell: “Yeah. Yeah, it was class.”

Marianne: “Point at any patriarchal structure in the world and say that.”

Connell: “Then we’d be in college together. I bet you’d pretend not to know me if we bumped into each other.”
*awkward silence*
Connell: “Sorry.”
Marianne: “I would never pretend to not know you, Connell.”

Connell: “I would miss you if you didn’t want to see me anymore.”
Marianne: “Would you miss sleeping with me?”
Connell: “Yeah. A lot.”
This is the closest we’ve gotten to an “I like you too, Marianne.”

A really good episode with a really honest portrayal of the sexual side of teenage romance. Five out of five rundown ghost houses.

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.

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