Hulu’s newest original series Normal People (based on the bestselling novel by Sally Rooney) follows Marianne and Connell, two Irish teens from different worlds who must navigate between them as they fall in love. It is a moving and realistic portrayal of love and all its messiness, with stunning performances from Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal (in only his second on-screen role). It also features a killer soundtrack and gorgeous cinematography. Based on the first episode alone, Normal People is a show everyone will be talking about. Read on to find out what happened in Episode 1.
We open on Marianne walking the hallways at school as Connell and his friends chat by their lockers. Marianne watches them before leaving, and Connell sneaks glances at her while Rachel talks to Eric. In class, Marianne is caught daydreaming out the window by her teacher, Mr. Kerrigan. Connell watches as she sarcastically talks back to him, and when Kerrigan sends her to the principal’s office she just heads home instead. It’s clear Marianne is something of an oddity at the school (although for what it’s worth, at any other school Marianne would be a hero for taking down a teacher like that).
After school, Connell goes to Marianne’s house to pick up his mother Lorraine, who works there as a housekeeper. Marianne lets him in, and they both go to the kitchen. Lorraine says Marianne told her he did well on his mock exams, and Connell says Marianne did well on hers too before asking to leave. Lorraine laughs at his impatience and leaves to finish some last minute laundry before going. The two discuss their exams, with Connell mentioning his high mark in French. Marianne teases him about bragging, and he notes she’ll likely be top of their class since she’s smarter than him. She mutters “smarter than everyone,” and he barely suppresses a smile as he retorts, “Well, you’re not top of the class in English.” Lorraine returns and she and Connell leave.
In the car, Lorraine questions why Connell wanted to make such a hasty exit, barely saying goodbye to Marianne. She says Marianne is a sensitive person and he could try being nicer to her, but he brushes her off. They arrive at home, a much smaller house than the one they just left. Marianne and Connell are both shown trying to study, but they are distracted. The next day at school, Marianne is sitting alone in the cafeteria reading her book as Connell and his friends laugh. One of them mocks her, asking if she’s enjoying the book. It breaks her concentration and she drops yogurt on her lap. Connell is quiet, not speaking up and looking away. Marianne just returns to her book as the others laugh. As Connell heads to rugby practice, Marianne goes to the bathroom to clean her shirt.
At home, Connell and his mother argue over what he plans to study. He’s undecided, and she reminds him that his applications are due soon. They seem to have a good relationship as she gently teases him. A different scene is playing out at Marianne’s as her mother Denise arrives home. She’s cold, critiquing Marianne from the minute she walks in and interrogating her about her day. Marianne’s brother Alan arrives, not planning on staying long since he’s going out. Alan gets in a dig at Marianne’s lack of social life, but she doesn’t take the bait.
The next day, Alan is driving Marianne to school as his coworker asks for a ride. Alan pulls over and tells Marianne to get out and walk despite the rain, telling her “you should learn how to drive.” She gets to school late and drenched, walking to her seat as Ms. Neary reminds her of her tardiness. Like before, Marianne snaps at her. The class laughs, thinking she’s an angry rebel, but Connell notices how tired and sad she seems. Rachel approaches Connell after class to ask him to a party at her house after the rugby game, and he says he’ll go. As they all wait in the hallway for their next class, Rachel, Eric, and the rest of Connell’s friends continue to make fun of her, with Marianne responding in kind. Connell laughs at some of her barbs, and they all head inside.
After class, Connell approaches Marianne to talk. He asks why she was so hard on Kerrigan and Neary. She responds that she hates having her thoughts policed like they are in an authoritarian regime. He notes that that’s what school is and that it isn’t just her who’s affected by it. She wants to know why he’s acting like they’re friends, that he’s not “that kind of guy.” He responds that maybe he is, and she deflects, asking why he was talking to Ms. Neary after class. He is vague, and she wonders if they’re having an affair. He says it’s not funny to even joke about that, and she backs off. She says she knows he hates her, and it’s a shame, because he’s the only one who talks to her, and he responds that he doesn’t. Marianne says, “I like you,” and Connell blushes as he mumbles an excuse about practice and leaves.
At the game, Marianne watches Connell play in slow motion. As he scores a goal, she leaps to her feet and cheers. They win the game and on the bus back to the school, Connell slides into the seat next to her. They sit quietly the whole ride home, neither looking at the other. Later, Connell arrives at Marianne’s to pick up Lorraine again. She’s still mopping so he waits in the entryway as she congratulates him on the game. He wanders into the living room and thumbs through a book from the bookshelf called The Golden Notebook. Marianne appears, telling him he played well. He says that it’s nice of her to say that, and she defensively retorts that she can be nice. He tells her that he doesn’t think the version of her he sees at school is who she really is. She offers to let him borrow the book, but Connell says he’s read it and that she would like it (seeming to forget that this is her house and she’s almost certainly read it). She teases him, asking if his friends know he reads so much and if they themselves read at all. He says they aren’t as interested in it as she and he are but that they have their own interests. She asks if that includes bragging about who they have sex with, and Connell says that while he may not approve of everything they say, they are his friends. He says it’s different for her, and she asks why.
Not answering, he asks if when she said she liked him she meant as a friend or something more. She says something more, and he says he’s not sure what he feels. He’s worried about what it would be like at school if something happened between them. She leans in close, saying, “no one would have to know.” They kiss, and Marianne giggles. He asks why she’s laughing, saying, “it’s like you’ve never been kissed before” as he smiles. She smiles back and says, “I haven’t,” which makes them both smile wider. As Lorraine calls out for Connell, he asks Marianne not to tell anyone at school, suddenly serious. She scoffs and says, “as if I talk to anyone at school” as he leaves. Connell heads to Rachel’s party, where he is greeted like a hero after the game. Marianne is on her bed alone, checking her phone and smiling to herself. At school the next day, Connell and his friends discuss the events of the party as Marianne listens.
As he’s driving home, Connell makes a detour to Marianne’s house. When she answers the door she says his mother isn’t there, and he says he knows. They go to a back room, where Marianne asks if he’s planning on kissing her again. He crosses the room and kisses her until Marianne asks if they can go further. He says, “not here,” and Marianne seems disappointed. But Connell mentions that no one will be home at his house on Saturday, if she wanted to come over. They kiss again, with Marianne again mentioning taking their clothes off and Connell again pulling away. He mumbles an excuse about having to take his mother shopping, and Marianne teases that she almost “tempted him.” He gets up to go and turns to her when he reaches the door, confirming she’ll be there on Saturday. She nods, and he leaves as “Warped Window” by Anna Mieke plays. Marianne stares after him.
Episode 1 Music Moments:
“Hate Dah” by Super Silly
“Dear SJ” by Alex Gough
“Neverending Circles” by Chvrches
“Warped Window” by Anna Mieke
Normal People is available to watch on Hulu.