Normal People: Episode 7

“I didn’t have to play any games with you. It was just real.”

With a show that relies so heavily on internal dialogue, us viewers have to balance being understanding of characters and wanting to reach into our screens and whack them on the head.

Lost in a state of postbreak-up limbo, Marianne and Connell are both trying to navigate keeping some semblance of a friendship intact while both still reeling from their very abrupt split.

I quite like the way this show handles pacing. Any jumps forward in time feel natural, and it allows us to follow the more essential parts of Marianne and Connell’s stories. But for all the smoothness of the pacing, we are once again lacking with character motivations. It often feels like things just happen, and we’re simply left to connect the dots. Boom, Connell’s drunk. Boom, Marianne and Connell aren’t really friends. Boom, they’re kinda friends again. Boom, scholarships. Boom, Marianne and Jaime. Boom, they’re kinda communicating again. Boom, new girlfriend.

If we’re going to be jumping forward in time through the narrative, I’d like to see it structured in a way that helps us understand why these characters are acting the way they are more. Why did Connell seem irritated at Marianne in the car scene when it’s likely that was the first time he’s seen her since the breakup? Why is Marianne so forgiving of Connell and yet obviously trying to antagonize him when they talk to each other? Why is Jaime suddenly into sexual sadism?

It’s no surprise that it’s Connell’s head that I want to reach through my screen and whack. If it weren’t for how convincingly Paul Mescal conveys Connell’s insecurities and anxiety, it would be all too easy to dismiss him as a total jerk. He not only hurt Marianne twice, he’s also trying to get her to break up with her current boyfriend and then throwing it out there that he’s seeing someone else. When did he suddenly become comfortable openly being in a relationship? Mental health issues can only gain you so much sympathy. I’m anticipating some redeeming episodes for Connell in the near future. Otherwise I risk whacking my TV screen.

Connell started and ended this episode in the exact same state – drunk and incapacitated. Similar to the broken glass last episode, this feels like a symbol of the stagnancy Marianne and Connell’s relationship went through. They never totally push each other away, and yet they can never really be completely platonic. The mass scene for Marianne’s father makes me think that perhaps they could be better off as friends. It was a sweet gesture on Connell’s part to show up but to also keep his distance and give Marianne the space she needed. But despite that moment of goodwill, they end up back in relationship limbo several months later after Connell finally admits what he wanted to ask Marianne last episode but instead broke up with her over. Gold acting stars once again to Daisy Edgar-Jones for selling Marianne’s look of shock and regret after finding out they broke up and lost so much time together over a simple misunderstanding.

So by the end, we’re left back where we were not only at the start, but at the end of the last episode. Connell has once again hurt Marianne and left her crying all alone. For an episode that spanned several months, it sure feels like we haven’t really progressed all that much.

Bits and Pieces:

- Once again, it would be nice to see Connell using his writing skills more. He’s obviously good enough to earn a scholarship. I feel like it would be interesting to see him make up for what he lacks in verbal skills with his writing.

- I like the way the camera lingered on Helen in that final shot. It felt almost alien suddenly being introduced to this stranger who’s been a part of Connell’s life for a few weeks, if not months.

- Couldn’t Connell at least have pulled up straight to her door when he dropped off Marianne in the pouring rain?

- I can’t recall, but was the teacher Connell made out with the same one Marianne was teasing him over in Episode 1? If it was, then eww, drunk Connell. Very eww.

- Marianne saying “Obviously” to Connell mentioning moving in mirrored him saying the same thing to her in Episode 3 when she asked about his feelings. Only this time, you could tell Marianne was completely sincere and had no doubts.

- Chainwatch 2020 gets one major close-up. Is it me, or is the chain ever really in view when he’s with Marianne? And no, I’m not just talking about the sex scenes.

- Congratulations to the Normal People team for scoring four Emmy nominations! In the Limited Series categories, they bagged Directing for Lenny Abrahamson, Writing, Outstanding Casting, and Lead Actor. And this is only Paul Mescal’s first TV role, too!

Quotes:

Connell: “Do I still have pupils?”
Marianne: “Just about. They’re huge.”
Connell: “They always get like that when I see you anyways.”
Marianne: “Ah... you must be drunk.”

Marianne: “Embracing the single lifestyle?”
Connell: “Yeah, you know me.”
Marianne: “I did once.”

Marianne: “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. But with you, I actually had those feelings.”

Jaime: “Fucking lowlife scum.”
Connell: “Well, that’s quite the welcome, Jaime. We can’t all be the spawn of millionaires.”
Jaime: “Yeah, well I was talking about the dickhead who robbed you to buy drugs, obviously.”

Another iffy episode. 2 out of 5 huge drunken pupils.

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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