Normal People is a tragedy of miscommunication and incorrect assumptions, from Connell’s initial fears about his social status leading him to keep his relationship with Marianne a secret, to their assumption that the other can seemingly read minds. Neither of them are good at saying what they mean, which causes misunderstandings that have far-reaching consequences. Never is that more evident than this episode, which shows what might have been if both of them could have been honest with the other. They also clear up what caused their breakup with devastating emotional effects for the both of them. Both Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones are excellent as usual, saying so much with their acting while saying so little in dialogue. Read on to find out what happened in episode seven.
We open the episode in July, where a disheveled Connell wakes up on the floor after what appears to be a wild night out. We see him laughing in a club with Rob back in Sligo, getting drunk as he moans and tries to get up. The title card flashes “SIX WEEKS EARLIER,” and it appears we are about to find out what really happened the night Marianne and Connell broke up.
In Marianne’s kitchen, Connell tells her he’ll be leaving for the summer since he can’t afford his lease. In the most frustrating communication breakdown yet, he leaves his real question unasked: whether he can move in with Marianne. When she doesn’t read his mind and immediately invite him to move in with her (something Connell seems to wish everyone could do), he says he understands if this means she wants to see other people. (NO, Connell. Use your words!) Marianne, blindsided and hurt, takes this to mean that he actually wants to break up with her and says that makes sense. (NO, Marianne. Use your words!) Also hurting, Connell leaves before he loses his composure, and now we know why Marianne and Connell were so upset in the flashback scenes in episode six. The scene is also shown from both Marianne and Connell’s perspectives to further emphasize just how much they misunderstood each other. As this scene unfolds, we get flashes of Connell at the nightclub in July, with his former teacher (!!) making out with him outside as they dance the night away.
Also in July, Marianne is back in Sligo for a weekend for her father’s memorial Mass. They haven’t seen each other since the breakup, and they’re both surprised to run into each other at the convenience store Connell works at. He drives her home since it’s pouring outside, and they talk about what happened – by which I mean they talk around their emotions. These two should teach a master class in emotion suppression. Connell says he’d like to come to her father’s Mass if it’s all right with her, and she says she’d prefer he not go. He also says he heard she was dating Jamie, and she confirms this. She asks if he’s dating anyone, and he jokes that he’s embracing the single life, saying “you know me.” She says “I did once,” and the mood instantly darkens even more. Marianne goes to leave, but Connell asks her if she still wants to be friends. He’s fine either way (sure, Connell), but he wants to know where they stand. She says of course she does before inviting him in, but Connell has to get back to work.
At Marianne’s father’s Mass, she sits with her family in the front of the church. Connell does attend, sitting in the back. Marianne notices him there, and this seems to fix what’s broken between them. We flash forward to September, where Marianne is waiting to meet Connell for coffee. She’s dressed in a black ensemble that feels more grown up than what we’re used to seeing from her, but she also seems a bit sadder. Connell asks her how she’s feeling about the upcoming Schols (the scholarships Trinity College offers to students who score 70 or higher on all their second year exams that offer free fees and accommodation for five years). Marianne asks how he’s feeling about them, and his nervousness is apparent. The financial lifeline this represents for him is different from Marianne and her friends. It’s an honor for them, but not a necessity like it is for Connell.
He changes the subject, asking about Jamie, and Marianne says she wishes Connell didn’t intimidate him so much. He laughs, asking if she told Jamie not to intimidate Connell. She scoffs at that since Jamie is barely her height and scrawny while Connell is larger and more physical. She says “from where he’s standing, you’re the tall guy who used to f*ck his girlfriend.” This hits a nerve as Connell asks if that’s how she describes their relationship. Marianne, trying to provoke Connell, describes the sex she has with Jamie, who as it turns out is into pain and sadism (of course he is.) She plays it like she’s cool with this and enjoys it, but Connell is reminded of the times she would do things she didn’t like in order to please him. He carefully says she never asked him to do any of that when they were together, and Marianne reveals a bit too much when she says “it was different with you. Didn’t have to play any games with you – it was just real. With Jamie … it’s a bit like acting a part.” She says that she pretends Jamie has power over her, but that Connell actually did, that she would have done anything for him.
The Schols winners are announced, with Connell making it for English and Marianne getting one for History and Politics. That night, Marianne’s friends throw her a party to celebrate, with Joanna toasting her success. Marianne laughs, embarrassed at the attention, when her phone rings and rescues her. It is Connell, who has been mugged and needs help. Hers is the only number he knows off the top of his head, and she tells him to come over. He’s badly beat up and drunk, and Marianne takes him inside. Jamie calls the person who mugged Connell a low-life scum, and just to be contrary Connell says “well we can’t all be the spawn of millionaires.” Jamie says the guy was probably using the money he stole to buy drugs, which puts Connell in the position of defending the guy who just punched him in the face just so that Jamie is put in his place (a nice bit of mental gymnastics for a guy who’s drunk and just got beaten up.) The rest of the group leaves to go to a pub, but Connell stays behind with Marianne.
Connell says she could have anyone else for a boyfriend, that plenty of guys are in love with her. He asks if she loves Jamie, and she deflects, saying that she and Connell “don’t talk about that stuff.” Connell chooses now to tell Marianne that he’s seeing someone, a medical student named Helen. This stops Marianne in her tracks. She asks why he was trying to get her and Jamie to break up, and he says he just wants her to be happy, with Jamie or someone else. Marianne breaks down in tears. She tells Connell to leave, but he has to ask her for cab fare, reminding her that he’s just been robbed.
She gets him the money, and he finally tells her what really happened that summer. He says he had hoped she would have let him stay with her, that he didn’t want to break up with her. Marianne is stunned. She says she thought he was breaking up with her, and Connell silently shakes his head. Marianne’s voice breaks as she says he would have been welcome to stay, that he never asked her. She says “that would have been … always. Obviously” as they exchange heartbroken stares. Both devastated by the revelation that they could have been happy all this time, spending the whole summer together, Connell leaves. Helen fixes his face as Marianne stands in her kitchen alone.
Episode 7 Music Moments:
“It’s Okay with Me” by Broadway Express
“Metroma” by The Sei
Normal People is available on Hulu.