The episode opens with Marianne getting ready for her secret date with Connell, trying out new makeup looks and removing them. Once she’s satisfied, she heads to Connell’s house and he lets her in. They awkwardly stand in the entry and laugh nervously as Connell offers her some tea. They sit in Connell’s room, where Marianne remarks that he has a lot of posters and he teases that she’s too cool for posters. Marianne lists the many adjectives she thinks people associate with her, the main one being “annoying” and none of them good. Connell protests that no one thinks that about her, and that he must be annoying to people sometimes. Marianne says everyone likes Connell because he’s shy and never gives his opinions on anything. He’s surprised to learn she thinks he’s shy, saying that he just isn’t as sure of his opinions as Marianne. He’s honest with her, saying he struggles with knowing how he feels about things and hardly ever knows what he wants. She asks if he knows what he wants now, and he silently gets up and kisses her.
They tentatively and awkwardly undress, showing their lack of experience. It’s sweet, then Marianne stops and asks Connell if he’s done “this” before. He asks what she means, and she clarifies that she wants to know if he has “seduced” a girl before. He says he had no other motive when he came to her house other than that he liked talking to her. He smiles, teasing that he could say she seduced him. She giggles, saying she was trying to seduce him but she didn’t think it would work. She starts to say that there are prettier girls who like him too, but he stops her with another kiss. They both fully undress and have sex. Connell checks in with Marianne throughout, and she is in control of what happens. This scene is one of the most well done sex scenes I’ve seen on television. Both characters fully consent, they mention using protection on-screen, and it doesn’t kill the mood. It’s an honest portrayal of teenage sexuality.
The next day at school, Connell’s friends ask why they didn’t have a party at Connell’s house when they hear his mother was away that Saturday. Connell says he wasn’t thinking about it and was studying, which mystifies his friends. Marianne walks by, and neither of them acknowledge each other. Throughout their English class, they exchange meaningful glances but nothing more. After school, Connell heads to Marianne’s house and they have sex again. Lying in bed together afterwards, Marianne tells him that she thought he looked beautiful when he was playing in his rugby match. She says she had a sexual fantasy about him, asking if he thinks that’s weird. He says he does – but that he understands it.
In an A-plus music cue that calls to mind another iconic scene in a teen drama, Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek” plays as a montage of Connell and Marianne having sex while ignoring each other at school begins. Connell and Marianne go to the beach together. She asks if he minds that she will be at the Debs dance he and his friends are attending, and he says he doesn’t. She jokes that she hopes it’s not too hard to resist her, and he says it’s always difficult to resist her. She rests her head on his shoulder, and they stare at the waves.
After school, Connell and his friends go to grab food. While the others head inside, Rob and Connell stay in the car. Rob says Marianne’s brother Alan told him that Connell’s mother works for them. He asks how long Lorraine has been working for Marianne’s family, and Connell says it’s been about a year. Rob asks what it’s like inside the mansion and what Marianne is like at home. Connell is vague enough not to arouse suspicion, and Rob wonders if Marianne thinks of Connell like her butler. He’s teasing, but Connell doesn’t seem to find it funny. But he laughs as the others rejoin them, not wanting to cause any fuss.
The next time they have sex, Marianne asks if Connell has any crushes at school. He laughs, saying he’s literally still inside her. But she persists, asking if he likes Rachel. She points out that Rachel likes him, and Connell says he doesn’t have feelings for her. Later, they talk about Connell’s college application. He’s not sure why he put down law as his course of study and can’t visualize himself doing it. Marianne suggests he switch to English – he spends all his spare time reading and it’s the only subject he seems to love. She also mentions that he could go to Trinity College, where she also applied. He thinks she’d ignore him if they went to college together, pretending not to know him. It’s clear he’s thinking about the different worlds they both come from. This hits a little too close to home, and he apologizes when Marianne’s face falls. She says she’d never pretend not to know him. This reassures him, and he says he’ll put down English and Trinity, giving Marianne a small smile.
That afternoon, Marianne is filling out her own application. She goes downstairs for tea, and her mother and Alan are both there. Denise says she’s remodeling an apartment near Trinity that is meant for Marianne and invites her along to pick out the paint color. Marianne says she’d like that, but that she’s not sure she’ll get in. Denise says that’s not the attitude to have. She shares her own memories of going to college there, cycling along the canal. Alan looks up from his phone, staring at them both. He gets up abruptly and stalks out, saying he’s going to the pub. At the pub, Connell and his friends are out for the evening, Rachel flirting with him throughout. Marianne texts him to ask what he’s doing. He ignores the text, putting his phone away.
At school, the boys are discussing their dates to the upcoming Debs dance. Eric and Rob tease Connell about Rachel’s desire to go with him, joking that they’ll swoop in if he doesn’t want to go with her. Marianne walks by, and Eric jokes that maybe he can persuade Marianne to go. She says she’s too good for him, and the teasing stops. Eric’s pride is wounded, and he says someone would have to be desperate before taking her. He calls her an “ugly, flat chested bitch” as she walks away. Connell says nothing, burying his head in his book. After school, he goes to Marianne’s house to check on her. She asks what he did that weekend, and he mentions going to the pub and his friends going to a popular hangout spot called the Ghost House. Marianne hasn’t heard of it, and once again their social divide is made clear. Determined, she tells him she wants him to take her there, and he says yes, surprised at the intensity behind her request.
They arrive at the Ghost House, which is an abandoned house behind the school. They stand near each other but apart, the physical distance standing in for their emotional distance from each other. She asks if he knows how much he means to her, that she’d let him to anything to her. She asks what he would feel if she said she didn’t want to see him again. He says he’d be upset and unhappy, since he likes her and he thinks she likes him too. She asks if he thinks the way his friends do, that she’s flat chested and ugly. Connell says that Eric only said that because he thinks Marianne looks down on him, and that if Eric thought he had the slightest chance with her he’d talk differently. Connell says he would miss her if she ended things between them, and Marianne steps forward and kisses him. They leave as “Angeles” by Elliott Smith plays, and Connell takes Marianne’s hand.
Episode 2 Music Moments:
“Did It to Myself” by Orla Gartland
“Hide and Seek” by Imogen Heap
“Men Behind the Wire” by The Barleycorn
“Crazy World” by Aslan
“Horn” by Nick Drake
“Angeles” by Elliott Smith
Normal People is available to stream on Hulu.