The Season 1 finale of Normal People begins with Marianne encouraging Connell to submit his fiction work. He’s not so sure though but as they drive together things seem to be looking up for our couple.
Surrounded by all her friends, Marianne celebrates her birthday but given what happened with her family last episode they’re obviously not present. Although she puts on a brave face for her friends and laughs through the celebrations, back home Connell sees her true emotions and tries to comfort her. When they make love again though, this time it’s tender and straight forward. There’s no kinks, no pain, no bondage – just love.
Sex has been a recurring theme throughout this series and every time it’s shown a different side to our characters. From the awkward early moments of these two hooking up in those early episodes, through to the different sexual partners they’ve both had over the years, this instance is probably the most meaningful out of all that we’ve seen. The two characters have been through so much that seeing them now together, complete in a way, is beautiful and perfectly crescendos into both of them being on the same page.
Connell applies for a creative writing program in New York and as he incredulously looks at his emails some time later, he realizes he’s been accepted to their program. He doubts himself though, contemplating whether he should go or not. For now, he pushes it to the back of his mind as Christmas approaches.
Marianne joins Connell’s family for Christmas and given her own broken home, she finally experiences a proper family Christmas. There’s party games, a lovely dinner and laughter floating through the warm rooms of the house. This Christmas cheer is alien to her and as she excuses herself, Connell follows soon after and talks to her about how she’s feeling.
New Year celebrations arrive not long after and with it, a meaningful and well written segment for our couple; these two have weathered the storm and come out the other side stronger. Connell puts his arm around Marianne and kisses her passionately at midnight. Although they’re clearly wrestling with demons, for now at least they’re content and happy in those fleeting moment of euphoria.
In the aftermath of this, Marianne and Connell discuss New York. It’s never been the right time for these two to stay together for an extended period of time and as the episode closes out, Connell decides to leave for New York while Marianne stays behind – promising one another that they’ll be okay, which is where the episode ends.
While some may have problems with the open-ended nature of the story (and given I haven’t read the book I can’t tell you how faithful an adaptation this is to that) the final scenes capture the uncertainty of the future and the struggles a couple can go through in trying to preserve their golden moments of happiness. It’s a beautiful and ambiguous way to finish a TV show and Normal People bows out with a lovely ending that’s sure to preserve this as one of the best dramas of the year.