Episode 5 of Normal People begins with Connell and Marianne discuss the possibility of hanging out more, as she tells him she missed having him in her life. He tries to fit in with her social group but sometimes pieces just don’t fit together no matter how hard you try. Marianne in particular has difficulties with her feelings for Connell now that he’s back in her life while he struggles to match their same wave length as her new friends.
When Teresa shows up, Connell takes her home as Marianne learns about this and seems to be a little jealous. This also causes issues with Gareth too, whom she starts to drift away from given Connell is more desirable.
After acing his exam, Connell is the talk of the campus but when he sits with Marianne in private, he discusses how he’s struggling to fit both of his lives together. Torn between his old life back home and his new one on campus, the only constant happens to be Marianne and she’s the only one who he can truly connect with.
Eventually they talk about what happened between them in the past and the conversation turns to Debs and how that night changed both their fortunes. He apologises wholeheartedly to her and the two start to connect again.
This ultimately sways Marianne’s opinion and she breaks up with Gareth. After telling Connell about what happened, they arrive at the party together. Drunk on gin, Marianne stumbles through the crowds and tells Connell she wants him to sleep with her. He refuses though given she’s wasted but does kiss her before leaving.
In the morning, the two head back to Marianne’s place and hook up properly, admitting afterwards that what they have is special.
Episode 6 begins with a shot of a smashed glass in the sink. Six weeks earlier we see Connell and Marianne together and hooking up in secret just like before. Peggy quizzes them on the idea of a threesome but Connell is visibly uncomfortable by this suggestion. When she leaves, Marianne asks whether he wants to and he replies that “you shouldn’t do what you don’t want to do.”
It’s a subtle but clever line of dialogue, one that links back to just before the party where Lorraine told him sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do. Seeing it used in this context, with the meaning tweaked and changed given what he’s learned is a lovely throwback and in one line, helps to elevate the entire episode.
Unfortunately sometimes all good things must come to an end and Connell loses his job thanks to refurbishments at the restaurant and the place closing down. Realizing he’ll need to move back home given he can’t afford rent, he struggles to ask Marianne if he can live with her for the time being, believing it’ll ruin what they have going.
Back home, Marianne falls out with her brother as she talks about her exam work, with him believing that she’s going to overshadow him in the family. He dumps water on her head and the misery she feels is too much as she heads back to Dublin.
Once there, Connell and Marianne hook up again but things are different. He refuses to ask her to move in for the time being and struggles with public displays of affection. This volatile cocktail starts to stir when Connell slips up with his essay and Marianne is questioned by some of her friends whether he’s actually right for her.
Giving it some thought, Connell finally sits with Marianne and puts his hand around her – the first sign of affection in public. Only, he struggles to ask her if he can move in and as she closes her eyes, soaking in this moment, she misses that he’s pained and internally torn over what to do. As he breathes heavily, we cut forward to Marianne alone in her kitchen sobbing after smashing a glass; Connell packs up his things and leaves.
Normal People is a very cleverly written show. It’s one that leans heavily on the past while showing glimmers of the future. There’s a lot of nice bites of dialogue that play off things that have happened in the past while allowing for some surprisingly deep characterisation to shine through for both of our lead characters.
The two episodes work harmoniously together too, with the first episode acting as the initial euphoria you feel when you first hook up with someone and the second acting as the tougher, more resilient behaviour you need to adopt to ride through those rocky patches of a relationship.
Of course there’s more to it than that, and the open conversation Connell and Marianne share when they discuss the past and get their issues out in the open is arguably one of the stronger moments of the entire series. It helps that both of these characters are so flawed but realistically depicted as well and given the entire show revolves around these two, their scenes together crackle with chemistry.