Normal People: Episode 8

“Life. You live it up, and you drink it down.”

This episode felt like a breath of fresh air after all the drama the recent ones brought us.

A summer getaway in Italy was a nice way to cleanse our palate both emotionally and visually. The muted colors of Dublin were traded in for a more vibrant and spacious Italian countryside. With the exception of Jaime, everyone this episode looked refreshed. Connell was even smiling, and not in an uncomfortable way. After being so closely invested with him and Marianne behind closed doors, it was nice to see how their dynamic worked in relation to other people, and not under the restraint of hiding their secret relationship.

And lifting that restraint worked, because we finally got to see them communicating. They were actually talking about things they’ve never talked about before, like the very circumstances that brought them together in the first place. Connell is now able to experience at least momentarily the freedom that comes with financial stability, and we are able to see a bit of what he’s like outside of his relationship/non-relationship with Marianne. We see his infatuation with art and the experience of foreign countries as well as his pragmatic view of that only being possible because of the temporary safety net that is his scholarship.

Like the previous two episodes, this one began and ended with similar shots. This time it was Connell staring, completely transfixed at a painting. Emphasizing his financial status, the first scene made a point of focusing on his dirty, worn-down shoes on the clean museum floor. The final shot made a point of showing Marianne staring at Connell, once again transfixed by a painting. It seemed like a nice roundabout way of showing Marianne’s feelings for Connell despite whatever uncertainties his status in life brings. And given how hotly their second breakup left them, it was nice seeing them slowly rebuild a more truthful connection this time, facilitated by some well-written emails.

But then on the other hand, we have Jaime and Helen. Jaime went from being a little persistent, to suddenly being a sexual sadist, to now being a very asshole drunkard. Helen meanwhile is… quite nice. Nice enough to let Connell spend the summer with his ex-girlfriend. I think them being with other people is giving them a chance to learn how to support each other in a way they seemingly didn’t when they were together. Connell is learning to give Marianne the emotional validation he never really gave her as her boyfriend. And she definitely needs the support considering the writers seem determined to put her through as much pain as possible, from a brother that wishes she were dead to an emotionally and physically abusive boyfriend. The scene in bed helped put a lot of Marianne’s actions in perspective. She clings on to people like Gareth and Jaime despite there not being much of a connection because she isn’t sure if anyone can truly like her. Her thinking there was something wrong with her was very sad, and I hope she sees a happier next few episodes.

Not too long ago, Connell attempting to confide in Marianne got cut short by sex. This time, it was the sex that was cut short, leaving things at an honest conversation between them both. Connell still wasn’t able to say the obvious – that he loves her – but him staying by her side both in bed and by the pool was at least some development in that he didn't abandon her (for the third time). Whether Marianne stopped him because of Helen or because she wasn’t willing to go down that road again is uncertain- it could be both. But for now, I think they’re in a better place as friends.

Bits and Pieces:

- The two paintings Connell was looking at were “The Art of Painting” by Johannes Vermeer and “Sad Young Man on a Train” by Marcel Duchamp. One presents an almost voyeuristic view of two people in an intimate scene while the other shows a man symbolically traversing through a changing landscape. Are these metaphors for Marianne and Connell’s relationship and Connell dealing with life outside of home? Maybe. Am I possibly looking too deep into it? Maybe, also. Blame the art theorist in me.

- It’s official. Niall is my favorite. I like that he both relieves some of the tension while being a good friend to Connell. He even encouraged him to check on Marianne. I’m lowkey hoping that him and Peggy took off and had some fun after that awkward dining scene.

- In one of their many Zoom interviews, Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal pointed out how funny the scene was where Connell sees Marianne the first time as she’s hanging her laundry. Them practically whispering and hearing the other perfectly despite being pretty far apart reminded me of a certain evil villain monologue from Shazam.

- Daisy Edgar-Jones can both put on a very convincing Irish accent (she’s British) and speak Italian. What can she not do?

- A lot of lovely shots in this one that gave us a lot more visual breathing space while feeling intimate at the same time.

- One almost sex scene means one chain point.

- Nope, this episode totally did not give me Call Me By Your Name vibes. Now if they had had peaches for dessert instead of strawberries, well...

Quotes:

Marianne: “I was gonna bike to the shop for some bits. Do you wanna come?”
Connell: “Yeah, well if there’s a bike I can borrow.”
Marianne: “Jaime’s will do. I’ll raise the saddle a bit... A lot.”

Marianne: “And if you think that people should be able to go to college and get English degrees and go to Europe and look at art, then you shouldn’t feel guilty for yourself, because you have every right to.”
Connell: “That’s easy for you to say, you don’t feel guilty about anything.”

Jaime: “Yeah, you were gonna drink champagne out of gravy boats, and I’m a philistine.”

Connell: “Is that how you think about me or just my taste?”
Marianne: “It’s just a really good painting. It’s a nude.”

Marianne: “I don’t know why I can’t make people love me. I think there was something wrong with me when I was born.”

This episode was much better than the previous ones. 3.5 Spanish strawberries without cream out of 5.

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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