Normal People: Episode 4

“What’s not to like about you?”

Time jumps in the middle of a season always feel a little uncomfortable, because suddenly the characters we’ve come to know intimately have become strangers.

The first shot of the episode was a neat little trick. We see Connell knocking on the other side of a glass door, just like we’ve seen him do at Marianne’s for the past three episodes. Then suddenly we see him not at Marianne’s house, but at his new housemate Niall’s place as he’s about to move in for the start of his first college semester.

I may have been a little hard on Connell last episode, but this time it was difficult not to sympathize with him. This episode was essentially him starting from scratch. He’d lost his only true friend in Marianne. He lost his comfortable social status in high school. And now he’s literally far from home. Suddenly he doesn’t fit in anywhere and spends his nights alone in his room rather than at Rachel’s house for a party. It’s an interesting role reversal that suddenly he’s right where Marianne was at the start of the show. We even got a nice shot from behind that mirrored Marianne’s shot in the very first scene of the series. Nicely done.

As someone who’s coped with her fair share of social anxiety, a lot of this episode felt all too real for me. Like Connell, there’ve been countless times where I chose to bury myself in school or work rather than face the reality that maybe you just don’t fit in with the people you by all accounts should be fitting in with. The start of the party scene was especially familiar when Connell took one look at the party full of strangers and tried to leave right away before getting caught by Gareth. This isn’t isolation caused by horrible classmates like Marianne went through. Gareth was even kind of nice, albeit a little slimy. People talk to Connell, but Connell just can’t find the self-esteem to talk to people. Portraying this very internal kind of anxiety in such a subtle but relatable way is quite an achievement, and this episode did it beautifully.

About two-thirds of the way through, we get a perspective shift and see a matured Marianne. The make-up and costume department did a great job at showing just how much Marianne’s changed. She looked like a completely different person from the Marianne we saw just an episode ago and who, two episodes ago, didn’t have the confidence to put on eyeliner. Again, the roles were reversed. Marianne is now the popular one who has a lot of friends and a comfortable social niche. It’s ironic though that she doesn’t admit her past relationship with Connell just like Connell didn’t admit it in front of his friends back then.

This Marianne is in a relationship with Gareth- someone who we wouldn’t think her to be all too compatible with. It's clear she doesn't match with him as well as she did Connell. Something just feels off about them being together. She also may be forming a closer friendship with Jaime, who doesn’t seem to have much of a problem getting closer to her despite her relationship with Gareth.

Connell and Marianne'scene at the party was the first time we see them talking in front of other people. It was nice seeing them actually conversing and even laughing openly. And yet they still were obviously holding things in. Marianne is still very much affected by what Connell did, and Connell is still very much in love with her.

Bits and Pieces:

- Our two new nice friends are Niall and Joanna. Niall was cool enough to include Connell in his friendly circle while Joanna seems nice enough to actually get Marianne to open up. A little.

- Connell and Lorraine have such a lovely relationship. I love that she’s both his motherly support and friend.

- Connell’s so awkwardly polite he thanks the student activist handing out anti-fascist pamphlets to anyone she sees.

- Mescal and Edgar-Jones both get two sets of gold acting stars here. Edgar-Jones was great as usual as Marianne, though I felt this was really Mescal’s episode, and he sold it with such a subdued yet meaningful performance.

- Gold acting stars as well to Eanna Hardwicke in his brief scene as the once happy and douche-y Rob. Connell isn’t the only one having difficulty adjusting to post-high school life, as it looks like Rob’s lost a bit of his cheerful self.

- I only now realized you can see Connell’s chain at the sides of his neck while he’s wearing a shirt. We need to see the chain in all its glory for Chainwatch 2020, though.

Quotes:

Connell: “I’m not sure college is all that great, to be honest.”
Rob: “Oh, fuck off, would you?”

Lorraine: “How are you gonna get to know people if you don’t go and meet them?”
Connell: “Not really my type of people.”
Lorraine: “And what type of people are they?”
Connell: “You know, like, Trinity students.”
Lorraine: “You’re a Trinity student.”

Connell: “I think the fact that she gives us a new chapter suddenly out of nowhere from the perspective of Knightley, having been with Emma throughout, felt really remarkable to me.”
Ha. I see what you did there, show.

Connell: “You know, I did used to think that I could read your mind at times.”
Marianne: “In bed, you mean?”
Connell: “Yeah. And afterwards. But, I don’t know, maybe that’s normal.”
Marianne: “It’s not.”

Marianne: “What are you gonna do when you’re the sensible girlfriend and your boyfriend’s off fucking and taking drugs with students?”
Peggy: “When am I gonna be the sensible girlfriend?”

This was a really good episode that was cleverly written and had some wonderful shots, especially in the party scene. Five out of five debates about gravity.

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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