Normal People: Episode 11

“I’m never lonely when I’m with you.”

So after more than a year of a whole lot of drama, the two are back in Carricklea, with their usual emotional baggage, sexual tension, and two ice lollies.

I thought we were going in for more time-hopping, but this episode turned out to be a simple, quiet summer in Carricklea. The initial jump to where we are at the beginning of the episode once again took some time getting used to. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t need to see every single part of Marianne’s flight back to Ireland. But to go from them missing each other over Skype last episode to suddenly being together like nothing had happened feels a little disjointed. There’s only so much coherence a time-jump title card can lend to your narrative.

However unsure we are of the status of their relationship at the start of this episode, it is clear that they’ve kept their reaffirmed connection intact. It’s nice to see how the way they communicate has grown. Connell is no longer always on guard around Marianne and seems much more relaxed. Marianne meanwhile is actually able to open up to Connell about her problems at home. They’re obviously keeping each other at a friendly arm’s length- but come on, who takes their platonic friend to the beach and chases them down the shore while laughing like they're in a 90s music video?

The morning after a rather awkward night out at the club, and things have gone back to feeling, well, awkward. The past year or so they’ve spent as friends has shown them how valuable that relationship is, and it’s understandable that Connell wouldn’t want to risk losing that and possibly losing Marianne once again. Marianne, on the other hand, is seeing things differently. It’s very reasonable that the emotional trauma she went through in Sweden hasn’t completely gone away, and the same goes for Connell’s depression and anxiety. Connell’s apparent rejection of Marianne at the club sent her right back to the place of self-loathing she had been stuck in.

The bedroom scene was hot. Literally. Pretty much everything about the scene was pointing at the big elephant in the room that was their electric sexual attraction for each other- from the discrete glances, to the summer heat, to the very conspicuously phallic ice lollies. Connell eventually caving in and admitting the obvious to Marianne was a big step forward for him as far as expressing feelings go, and this time it very nearly gets him what he’s been wanting for so long.

The ensuing sex brings them full circle back to their first time together. We even get a shot of them standing by the exact same bed, mirroring the moment they first saw each other naked. With the barrier of sexual tension finally broken through, we see them having sex again, but this time without much of the sensuality we’ve seen previously. It’s clear that Connell wants to be careful around her, but Marianne is still lugging around her experiences with Lukas, Jaime, and everyone who’s been abusive toward her. Marianne likely never told Connell about what happened in Sweden, so the wounds from that whole experience are still very much raw and internalized for her. Thankfully, Connell doesn’t indulge her request to dig into those wounds, despite her giving him every invitation to do so.

To top it all off, she has to cope with physical abuse from Alan. Once again, we are left in the dark as to why Marianne’s brother is as horrible as he is. Her mother is portrayed with a little more nuance, as like Marianne, she is probably numb at the thought of having to live with yet another abusive man in her life. But Alan just seems like he’s a jerk because he can be a jerk. He doesn’t even care that he breaks Marianne’s nose. It’s Alan’s abuse that finally allows Connell to step up for Marianne and be the white knight. I thought at first Connell was about to start beating Alan right there on the spot, and I’m glad he didn’t, because that might have just shaped him into an even more abusive person who would likely take it out on his mother.

We get a big moment from Connell that we’ve been waiting for for quite a while- him finally telling Marianne without a doubt that he loves her. The previous times we’ve seen him say this, he’s been remorseful and troubled. This time he makes a point of asking her to look straight at him to let her know that he wholeheartedly means it, and not because he’s trying to make up for any shortcomings. Her reply of “Thank you” instead of “I love you, too” didn’t seem like a denial of her love for him. It felt more like it was about Marianne finally accepting someone’s love, which is what she’s needed for so very long. It was a lovely moment for them both and one that the previous ten episodes have been building up to.

Bits and Pieces:

- The title card appeared against the sky instead of the usual black background.

- Connell emailed a piece he wrote called “The Beacon”. I wonder what kind of stuff he writes? Anyone who’s been through the same situation will no doubt relate to his expression of mild excitement and reckless abandon at emailing their “least crap” work to their editor.

- Connell still goes through his day alone, and like in Episode 7, Marianne has nothing to do in her house than to stare at the grass. That’s still better than trying to start a conversation with her family.

- So turns out Connell’s high school friends really are trying to make amends with Marianne. I hope Eric prepares a lengthy apology for all the bullying they put her through.

- Connell ditched the Hotmail address for Gmail -> connellwaldron01@gmail.com. Who wants to bet people have tried emailing both of his addresses?

- Connell makes collages of football players for his room. Vintage.


- 60 chain points for this second-to-the-last edition of Chainwatch 2020!

Quotes:

Marianne: “I don’t go in for grudges.”
Connell: “Luckily for me.”

Connell: “I’m just really nervous. I think it’s pretty obvious I don’t want you to leave.”
Marianne: “I don’t find it obvious what you want.”
They would have saved each other a lot of pain if they had had this conversation much earlier.

Connell: “It must be kind of lonely for you.”
Marianne: “I’m used to it. Been lonely my whole life, really.”

Marianne: “It’s not like this with other people.”
Connell: “Yeah, well, I like you a lot more than other people.”

An episode that could have resulted in another dramatic split but instead finally gave us a rewarding ending. Four out of five ice lollies that totally melted all over Connell’s floor.

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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