Marianne and Connell are obsessed with being, you know, normal people, and constantly fear (while also taking pride in the fact) that they aren’t normal, will never be normal, are just fundamentally incapable of normalcy. But “normal” is a slippery and maybe pointless concept to fixate on, no? It’s not “healthy” that they’re after, or “fulfilled” or even the slightly-less-judge-y “good.” And the show doesn’t seem to know how it feels about its heroine’s “abnormal” sexual desires. (This is an issue it shares with the book.) Marianne is so willing to do anything to make men around her happy that when she expresses a desire that is purportedly her own, it is very, very hard to tell if that is genuinely what she wants, or just what she thinks she ought to want, or what she’s been conditioned to accept in the place of love (so, physical violence). It’s a bummer, I think, that Marianne’s interests seem to be chalked up to pathology — that she’s traumatized, and she thinks she deserves to be hurt, and that’s why she wants to be hit, as opposed to Marianne having grown and explored her sexuality and arrived at a place where she’s like: here’s what turns me on, I like you, let’s try this.
Also: Our resolution here is so cliché! I mean, literally saying, “If you touch her again, I’ll kill you”? Come on. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
It’s August. Connell is taking his meds and seems well. He’s submitting a story he describes as “probably the least crap of the ones I’ve written” to a magazine. His life is looking sunnier. Marianne is at home, which means she is subject to an endless stream of harassment and vitriol from her brother, Alan. (Why can’t Marianne stay with Joanna for the summer holidays?) It’s August and as she and Connell talk on the beach, they are both wearing sweaters. I guess that’s how Ireland works! Anyway, she and Connell are spending a lot of time together as, uh, friends. To go to a club with Connell, Marianne wears this dress that’s very Paris Hilton’s 21st birthday, as you do when you’re going out dancing with your platonic male best bud. Her messy bun has made its triumphant return. Her smudgy eyeliner is back.
The next day she is lying on Connell’s bed while he watches
soccer football, staring at the back of his neck with a Fleabag-Priest level of devotion. Much to Marianne’s relief, Connell says he did not wind up kissing another girl last night. Connell reports that Eric was looking for her, though, and Marianne says Eric apologized for his behavior in school, and she accepted it. “Don’t go in for grudges,” she says, and Connell says “luckily for me.”
Connell fetches Marianne a popsicle from the ice cream truck that she is not going to finish but will instead leave on his floor to congeal in a pool of melted sugar water that will be impossible to scrape off the hardwood, but they’re young and don’t worry about stuff like that. Marianne and Connell confess that they are lonely most of the time, except for when they’re with each other.
FINALLY, Marianne admits, in a whisper, that she really wanted Connell to kiss her the other night. He wanted the same thing. What a shock: they misunderstood each other. THESE TWO. Connell does not know what to do because he doesn’t want to lose his best friend (no offense Niall!!) and I write in my notes buddy if you think you can keep this friendship going and ever have a girlfriend you are DELUSIONAL but okay choose your own adventure.
He says he wasn’t annoyed with her. “I feel like our friendship would be a lot easier if certain things were different,” he said. “It’d be a lot less confusing if there wasn’t this other element to the relationship.”
She goes to leave and everybody is stammering about how he can drive her but no she can just walk no it’s fine no you’re fine ahhh!! He just reaches out to hold her hand and he kisses it. Reporting from week six of social isolation I feel an obligation to describe that as pornography.
“I think it’s pretty obvious I don’t want you to leave,” Connell says. Marianne says: “I don’t find it obvious what you want.” So Connell clears that up by getting up, turning off the match (hey!), and kissing her. These kids with the heavy breathing! “It’s not like this with other people,” she tells him, and he says, “I like you a lot more than other people,” and they cannot get naked fast enough.
At first when Connell asks how Marianne wants to be arranged on his bed, she says “however you want,” which is kind of her thing. And then she tries to take it to a sort of playful, you’re-the-boss-of-me place. Connell is extremely uncomfortable with where this ends up (which is his right, perhaps to him the request came out of nowhere) BUT let’s not pretend that Connell does not enjoy knowing he has total emotional power over Marianne. Their whole deal started when he had all the social capital in the world and was able to control the terms of their entire relationship. Probably this is something the two of them ought to investigate and think more deeply about but still, Connell does, in fact, like hearing Marianne say things that make it clear she is submitting to him. Even if he doesn’t like that he likes it.
Marianne asks Connell if he’ll hit her. And in a very deep and serious voice, Connell says, “No, I don’t think I want that. Is that okay?” Marianne cries, as this reaction from Connell, to her, confirms her most insidious fears about herself: that he thinks she’s weird, she is too weird even for this weirdo, and what she wants is just wrong. And then they are getting dressed even faster than they got undressed, which is really saying something.
Connell bursts into tears and Marianne cries the whole way home. When she gets there the house is dark, because of course it is, and her brother and mom are watching TV. Alan gets up from that with a beer just to give her hell, as is his standard practice. He has decided Marianne shouldn’t see Connell. Again I find this whole turn of events awfully cringe-y — like, really, it has to hinge on her big brother telling her she can’t see a boy? And then that boy has to come and save her from the big bad brother?
Marianne dares to say one snappy thing back to her brother, who throws his beer bottle at her, shattering it. And as she runs away and tries to shut the door behind her, he slams it open into her face, breaking her nose.
So she calls Connell. Between apologies for “feeling like an idiot” she lies and says she “tripped or something” and needs him, and he knight-in-shining-armors over to her place. It just sucks that Marianne’s only way out of this situation is into Connell’s arms. I mean, this whole bit where Connell gets there and is all “wait in the car” and he sticks around (!?) to shove Alan against the wall and threaten to kill him if he touches Marianne again? Isn’t Alan bigger than Connell? And older? Does this threat hold water? Isn’t it extremely out of character for Alan to not fight back? None of this checks out for me, but I’m curious what you all think — did this work for you?
Naturally Marianne’s mom was just sitting on the couch this whole time, ignoring them.
In the car, Marianne — doing more role play about being a total submissive or just actually feeling like complete shit, does this show know the difference? — whimpers, “I’m sorry to bother you,” but Connell insists, duh, that it’s good she called. For a book and a show with such astute, real-sounding dialogue, the number of clunkers in this episode is quite something; Connell tops it all off with, “No one is ever going to hurt you like that again.” And off they ride into the dark toward, one would hope, a hospital.