After their summer away, episode 9 of Normal People begins with Marianne studying in Sweden and dating a man named Lukas, whom she meets at a party. She’s still talking to Connell via email regularly but everyone else isn’t receiving as much attention from her.
Marianne heads out for coffee and cake with Lukas but she’s not sure whether this is right for her. Conflicted over what she wants, she tells him she wants the opposite of him showing affection, deciding to embrace the pain she’s feeling instead.
Meanwhile in Dublin, Helen and Connell continue their relationship together. While they make love tenderly, Marianne meanwhile starts to descend into a dangerous downward spiral, with Lukas using her and tying her down on the ground while he has his way.
Marianne continues to distance herself from her friends and family back home, instead slipping further as Lukas decides to take Marianne’s picture, her hands bound and following his instructions. She pleads with him not to continue but he doesn’t listen, telling her this is what she wanted.
Connell sends another email after not hearing from Marianne for a while, telling her that she has friends and family that love her very much. It’s enough to get through to her and Marianne decides to leave Lukas, unable to deal with this relationship any longer. As she steps out into the cold air, she looks out at the horizon and wonders what’s next.
Saving Marianne from her slippery slope to despair isn’t enough to protect Connell as he heads to therapy and discusses his issues. Before this though we cut back and see the moments leading up to this scene. Connell’s friend Rob has killed himself but Connell feels responsible for his death, given he didn’t reply to Rob’s last message. The therapist tells him he’s not to blame and it’s not his fault – something that he ironically told Marianne in the previous episode.
At the funeral Marianne arrives to lend her support and they both hug one another – perhaps too long given Helen holds Connell’s shoulder and snaps him out of his trance. After an awkward encounter by the buffet table, Helen confronts Connell about his feelings for his ex-lover before eventually breaking up with him.
At therapy, Connell discusses Marianne and how they see the world in a similar way. Given she’s away for a year, he has a problem clicking with other people but with her it feels natural. He opens up completely and starts crying as he realizes he can’t get his old life back again, believing his current life doesn’t compare.
Back home he talks to Marianne about anger and their feelings surrounding Rob and what sort of person he actually was. As the episode closes out, both Marianne and Connell admit to missing each other.
Raw, heartfelt and incredibly emotional, these two episodes are some of the strongest in the series and part of this is thanks to the way both Marianne and Connell complement one another perfectly. Episode 9 is all about Marianne’s destructive path and how Connell manages to save her from her damning ways. Episode 10 sees those roles flipped, with Marianne being there for him in his time of need.
With some great acting throughout, these two episodes have a feeling of harmony running through them and together, they really make this chapter of their troubled lives that much more meaningful.