A note before we begin: this article is full of spoilers for Normal People. If you haven’t seen the show yet, get thee to your streaming service of choice (Hulu in the US), watch it, then report back to see if the moments on this list match your thoughts.
So you’ve finished binge watching Normal People and you’re feeling some kind of way about it. I get it, considering my eyes have been mysteriously watering for days whenever I think about episode 12. Because I have nothing better to do than to rewatch the series and torture myself, I thought I’d make a list of the moments from Normal People that are designed to make you ugly cry (because let’s face it, most of us can’t make crying look as good as Daisy Edgar-Jones does). From romantic miscommunications to MVP moms, let’s discuss the heartbreaking moments that make Normal People the devastating watch that it is.
When “Hide and Seek” plays as Connell and Marianne sit on the beach
There’s nothing like a little Imogen Heap and secret keeping to get a good cry going. This moment is heartbreaking because you know their happiness won’t last as long as they have to keep their relationship a secret (or maybe that song just gets me. You have no soul if you aren’t moved by “Hide and Seek”).
Marianne Opens Up to Connell
Marianne in high school puts up a good front, but underneath it all she’s vulnerable. When she confesses to Connell that her father used to hit her mother, she’s letting Connell in for the first time. His gentle ability to be there for her in this moment definitely made me shed a tear or two.
Taking Rachel to the Freaking Debs
There’s making an unforgivable mistake, and then there’s asking Rachel to the Debs. This action is up there with the stupidest screwups by male leads, almost outranking Jane Eyre on my personal list (dammit, Rochester). Marianne barely holding it together and losing it when Connell leaves is devastating.
When Lorraine Wins the Mom of the Year Award
Lorraine is the real MVP of this show, from calling Connell out on his actions to being there for Marianne when she needs some motherly love (Denise can go straight to you-know-where). When she hugs Marianne to comfort her about Connell’s terrible behavior, the waterworks are impossible to hold back.
When Connell cries outside the Debs
Connell’s anxiety about what will happen if the other kids at school find out about Marianne is palpable for the first three episodes. But when he realizes he could have been with Marianne all along, not hurt her, and not lost his social status, he breaks down. Watching him leave that message as his voice breaks is sadness personified.
When Connell Apologizes to Marianne
Connell and Marianne reunite in college, at first not really acknowledging the extent of the hurt between them. But one afternoon, they finally talk it out. Connell apologizes for how he treated her in high school and she admits how humiliating it all was. Connell realizes the depth of his betrayal for the first time, and Marianne realizes the past is in the past now. She forgives him, and I’ve got dust in my eye.
When Connell and Marianne Teach a Masterclass in Misinterpreting Social Cues
I love my Irish lovebirds, I really do. But my god are these crazy kids bad at communication! Connell can’t find the words to ask Marianne if he can move in with her, and Marianne doesn’t realize the subtext behind his questions. They break up FOR NOTHING and spend several months angry with each other before a drunk Connell finally admits the truth and they both break down.
When Connell Comforts Marianne After Jamie Officially Wins His Worst Boyfriend Trophy
Jamie seemed to be vying for Worst Person of the Decade from the moment we met him, but it got even worse once Marianne started dating him as a rebound from Connell (hahahahaha Jamie as a Connell substitute, as if Jamie even comes close). It all comes to a head in Italy, when Jamie screams at Marianne and ruins everything yet again. Connell comforts her, and it’s like they’ve never been apart.
When Marianne Tells Connell About Her Family
We as the audience have known that Marianne’s family is terrible from early on. But Connell, raised by loving mom Lorraine, has no idea about just how abusive Marianne’s brother and mother are. Marianne tells Connell about Alan’s behavior after her and Jamie’s fight in Italy, and Connell’s face as he realizes how much he didn’t know and didn’t protect Marianne from is heartbreaking.
When Marianne Comes Back From Sweden
After Rob’s death, Connell is in a dark place emotionally. Even though she has purposely avoided coming home so she doesn’t have to see her family, Marianne leaves her year abroad in Sweden so she can be there for Connell at Rob’s funeral. She’s willing to sacrifice her happiness to make sure Connell is okay, and I know I cried when he saw her in the church for the first time in months.
When Marianne Skypes Connell While He Sleeps
Connell is upset over Rob’s death and feels alone. Marianne suggests they video chat so he feels like he has someone there with him. She stays on Skype with him all night to make sure he’s all right, watching over him while he finally gets some rest. This act of caring is sweet and says a lot about the kind of person Marianne is.
When Marianne Leaves Lukas
In Sweden, Marianne spends a lot of time running from her past. Part of how she does so is by throwing herself into a relationship with Lukas, a photographer who confirms her worst thoughts about herself. But Connell knows something is wrong. He emails Marianne to tell her he and others care about her, and it’s this act of reaching out that gives Marianne the strength to leave Lukas.
When Connell Gets Help
Connell is not someone who wears his emotions on his sleeve. So it’s all the more devastating to watch him breaking down in his therapist’s office after Niall convinces him to get help for his depression. The entire episode made me cry, but this scene in particular is haunting thanks to Paul Mescal’s performance.
When Marianne Runs From Connell
Just as it seems Marianne and Connell have finally found a way to make it work between them, their fears once again get in the way. When Marianne asks Connell to hit her during sex and Connell says he doesn’t want to, Marianne worries he’s judging her. She runs from Connell, thinking she’s ruined everything and is unlovable.
When Connell Rescues Marianne
After Alan lashes out at Marianne and hits her with a door, Marianne calls Connell for help. Even after their fight, when Marianne needs Connell he’s there, no questions asked. He threatens Alan and gets her out of the house where she’s no longer safe.
When Connell Tells Marianne He Loves Her
It’s not the first time Connell has said those three words to Marianne, but it’s the most meaningful. Now that he’s fully aware of Marianne’s home issues, Connell tells Marianne that no one will hurt her again as long as he is around. He loves her, and his quiet certainty as he reassures Marianne is perfection. If you didn’t cry during this scene, you are dead inside and should probably get that checked out by a medical professional.
When Lorraine Basically Adopts Marianne
After Denise shuts Marianne out for daring to see Alan for the monster he is, Marianne has no home to go to for the holidays. Enter Wonder Woman herself, Lorraine Waldron. She invites Marianne to spend Christmas with the Waldrons, making sure she feels like part of the family. When Denise coldly ignores Marianne in the street, Lorraine quietly becomes a maternal presence for Marianne and makes sure she knows she’s loved.
When THAT FINAL SCENE Ripped Everyone’s Hearts Out
There is no way to prepare yourself for episode 12 of this show. After Marianne finally has the life she wants and she and Connell are finally happy, one unexpected email changes everything. Connell has been accepted to a writing program in New York. At first he doesn’t want to take it, not wanting to leave Marianne. But she tells him he has to go, that she doesn’t want to hold him back. As they both start to cry in a pretty movie way, I started to cry in an “oh my god is that girl okay” way, especially when we got this exchange:
Connell: I would not be here if it weren’t for you.
Marianne: You’d be somewhere else entirely. You’d be a different person. And me, too. But we have done so much good for one another.
Connell: You know I love you. And I’m never going to feel the same way about anyone else.
Marianne: I know.
Connell: I’ll go.
Marianne: I’ll stay. And we’ll be okay.
Whoever’s cutting onions in here, please knock it off, okay? Jeez. It’s been two weeks since I watched this scene and I’m still not over it.
Any heartbreaking moments you think we missed? Let us know in the comments! Normal People is available to stream now on Hulu.