Normal People: Episode 5

“It’s not like this with other people.”

Geez, you could light a fire with the tension between these two.

This entire episode was about Marianne and Connell coming backing together emotionally, and by the end, physically.

It started so endearingly awkward with a phone call where they pretty much skirted around every possible way to tell the other “I miss you”. Marianne then tries to bring Connell into her own circle of friends, which Connell does his best to become a part of. For someone with social anxiety, that’s no small feat. I think deep down Marianne may have been trying to get revenge on him for making her feel so terrible around his own friends. She even threw the “They’re my friends” line right back at Connell that he had once said to her three episodes ago at the Ghost house.

Both of their dispositions toward each other gradually changed as the episode progressed. Marianne was guarded and at times a little cold. Connell on the other hand was walking on eggshells the entire time around Marianne. Mescal is once again really good at capturing those little quirks people who struggle with speaking are so familiar with. The clearing of the throat before speaking, the audible gulping, avoiding eye contact, the mumbling. All this back and forth between them came to a head in that lovely apology scene.

Connell for sure had it coming. In his eyes, Marianne’s moved on in life and is now a popular college student with a spacious flat and a lot of friends. He probably sees her as always looking down on him given their different financial statuses and his own insecurities. But Marianne clearly hasn’t recovered from the hurt and is now using empty relationships with people like Gareth to try to mask the pain. Not many people get the chance to confront those who hurt them so long ago, so it was very rewarding seeing Marianne get the apology and validation she had been needing to hear for so long. The whole scene was a cathartic breakthrough for the two of them. Marianne was finally able to confront Connell about not asking her to the debs. Meanwhile, Connell, outside of his comfortable bubble in high school that he tried so hard to maintain at the cost of Marianne’s feelings, is now experiencing firsthand how lonely he made her feel. The moment felt therapeutic for both them and us, the viewers, who finally get to see them truthfully communicate with each other.

Their interactions with each other changed after this turning point, with Marianne unceremoniously dumping Gareth, her boyfriend stand-in. Connell was suddenly holding his head up higher and talking more confidently. Their chemistry from driving together to the party all the way to the ending scene was absolutely electric. They pretty much both knew at that point that they wanted to get back together, and in true Marianne and Connell fashion, danced around the opportunity to properly reunite.

Turns out all they needed was a nice cold shower. Literally and metaphorically drunk from the high of dumping Gareth and finally getting an apology, Marianne needed the shower to cleanse any emotional trepidation in order to open herself up to Connell again. While Connell, being Connell, needed the crystal clear go signal from Marianne that he was welcome back into her life again.

Their sex scene this time was a lot more sensual and mature than the first few times we saw them together. Their movements lacked their previous awkwardness and were now motivated by fiery passion. And fiery it was, as they finally let out the feelings they had been holding in for each other the entire episode. This is a testament to Lenny Abrahamson’s directing that he can make a sex scene so tastefully erotic but also emotional at the same time. Capping off the episode in such a tender way felt like (no pun intended) quite the happy ending.

Bits and Pieces:

- Connell said he hadn’t gotten a midnight call from Marianne in a while, meaning they probably called each other regularly before.

- Joanna continues to be the nice friend. She was the only one who didn’t make Connell feel uncomfortable when he went to Marianne’s flat.

- Marianne’s blue green dress and bath robe at the end were gorgeous. Is the bohemian chic aesthetic popular among college students in Dublin?

- I’d like to see more of Connell getting to flex his skills in English. We see his diligent work ethic both at school and work, but only ever hear of how good of a student he is.

- Jaime gets along with Marianne a lot more than Gareth, but it’s likely any feelings are more on his end than hers.

- Good on Connell for not giving in to Marianne while drunk, but why didn’t he offer to bring her home instead of coming back for her the next day? Maybe he knew something would happen between them if he did and it would end terribly given Marianne’s inebriated state.

- What a lovely final shot of them lying in bed together.

- So we get a pretty obvious sighting of the chain in that final sequence. And though I know I said shots with the chain under the shirt don’t count, I’m pretty sure this one is an exception.

There's the money shot. :)

Quotes:

Marianne: “I was thinking that I missed having you in my life. And that maybe it would be nice to, like, have you in it again.”

Peggy: “What about me, Jaime? Am I a nice girl deep down?”
Jaime: “No, you’re a nice girl superficially, and deep down, you are a fucking monster.”
I kinda like Peggy.

Marianne: “You have such nice face.”

Marianne: “I think I’m just a fundamentally cold, unfeeling person.”

Connell: “What upsets me is that I barely know what to say half the time, like outside of this, outside of work. Like they don’t have to go around and pretend or be anything other than themselves, you know. And I feel like I’m walking around trying on a hundred different versions of myself. It’s just not working.”

Connell: “I think we’ll be fine.”

Another lovely episode that actually ended without any drama for a change. Four out of five gratuitous chain shots.

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.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I tried to love Normal People but it was just such a turgid collection of pulp romance plots. Girl chases boy, boy then chases girl (and rinse-repeat), where love turns to indifference on a dime, and someone throws in some equal opportunity nudity and Thirty Shades of Grey to ape the last bit of popular fiction.

Is it saying something that the most convincing acting was from a silver chain?

Yes, we get it - they are all damaged people, who as soon as they get what they want, they destroy it and don't want it anymore, until the other goes, then they pine for it again. The script was just *ugh*.

Don't get me wrong, there were some things to like, but Normal People is not what it is cracked up to be and never escapes its trashy "bad tv" vibes.

Mara Fabella said...

I can definitely see where it can lag for people, especially if this kind of show and this kind of pacing isn't your cup of tea.

As for the sex, I still think it was tastefully done (with the exception of one episode I'll discuss soon!) But yes, I think people who makes shows like these underestimate how nice it would be to just see two people come together and be happy. The show wouldn't have resonated with me the way it did were it not for some personal experiences, but I do see where you're coming from, Anonymous.

Anonymous said...

I would agree with you Mara that I didn't think the nudity was exploitative or out of context overall, and indeed for one scene in the series particularly underpinned the emotional themes for that scene. Nor did I find problems with the pacing, considering it was meant to cover a period of a number of years.

I tried hard to like Normal People, but ultimately I felt it was let down by its plot and sometimes by the acting. That said, there is something about Paul Mescal (Connell Waldron) which I suspect will mean we will see more of him in the future (and who hopefully will refine his craft further going forward).

There is no doubt that it did have moments, but as a whole I just found it hard to like and just too turgid and somewhat laughable at times. Maybe changes in the casting could have caused it to feel more believable, but ultimately I think the script is mostly to blame (it felt like a pastiche of mommy wine time pulp trash).

There is no doubt that there are people out there who have pine/reject relationships like this, but I just didn't find the characters as portrayed resonated truth or believability in large part, and that took me out of scene quite a few times.

I feel that, probably with some judicious editing, there was a good story hiding in Normal People, but it was weighed down by some pretty bad scenes that it could have done without.

By as they say, somebody's trash is another person's treasure so I'm sure there is a range of opinions on this one.