This episode gives us a much needed change of scenery by moving the action to Marianne’s summer villa in Italy, giving the audience an immediate sense of FOMO with Instagram-perfect locations, while giving Marianne and Connell more angst. A lot of that angst comes at the hands of Jamie, who has morphed from mildly annoying to truly the worst human being on this show (and that includes Marianne’s family, so it’s saying a lot.) The dynamic between Fionn O’Shea as Jamie, Daisy Edgar-Jones, and Paul Mescal is great, finally bringing some of the background class issues to the forefront under the guise of simple romantic rivalry. We also get more of Niall, which is always a welcome treat, and learn more about Marianne’s family life. Read on to find out what happens when your ex-boyfriend and current boyfriend meet up in Italy for a friendly dinner.
Connell and Niall are in Italy some time after we last saw them, arriving at a gorgeous villa with backpacks in tow. They’ve been backpacking around Europe, stopping here in Italy to say hello to Marianne at her family’s villa. Peggy welcomes them, saying “the others” are out back. As she gets Connell some water, he catches sight of Marianne hanging clothes on a clothesline in the back and goes to her. They shyly say hello to each other until Niall bounds in, thanking Marianne for having them. After an apparently much needed shower for the two of them, Connell and Niall rejoin the group, which also includes Jamie. The tension between them is still there, but apparently Jamie believes himself to be the victor in the thought war over Marianne. Connell asks Marianne for the WiFi password so he can call Helen and let her know he’s arrived. He leaves to call her as Marianne pretends it doesn’t bother her. When he comes back inside, they make small talk until Marianne invites him to bike to town with her to get some things. He agrees and Marianne says he can borrow Jamie’s bike.
In a montage that makes me want to rent a villa in Italy immediately, Marianne and Connell take in the local town via bike. They stop and get ice cream, sitting in the town square. Connell says he feels like everything has changed since Schols, with his being able to travel and see art for the first time with his money worries eased. Marianne says she’s never really thought about the financial side of school, apologizing for her ignorance when Connell is silent. It seems this is the first time it’s really occurred to Marianne what their class difference means to Connell. She says she’s conscious of the fact that they met because Lorraine works for her family. She also says she thinks her mother doesn’t pay Lorraine very well, and in a rare admission of his feelings over their status difference Connell angrily says “she pays her f*ck all.” Marianne wonders why this has never come up before, and wouldn’t blame him if he resented her. He says he doesn’t resent her, but doesn’t think he’s adapting to his new life very well. She says he shouldn’t feel guilty for getting to experience the world, and he scoffs that she doesn’t feel guilty about anything.
They head back to their bikes, with Marianne telling Connell she loved the emails he sent and that he’s a good writer. She says she’d love to read the stories he’s working on, but he says they’re not as good as the emails as they bike back to the villa. When they arrive, Jamie is standing outside and they all awkwardly greet each other. Over dinner, Jamie once again proves to be insufferable as he lectures everyone on the proper glassware for serving champagne (as everyone else just wants to celebrate together.) Marianne says they’re an older style and belonged to her dad, and Jamie snaps sarcastically “well, I didn’t realize it was such an emotional issue for you, I’m terribly sorry.” He’s in a terrible mood, and everyone is quiet. In an effort to move on, Marianne asks Niall and Connell how their backpacking tour of Europe is going so far. Niall enthusiastically talks about the places they’ve visited (bless him and his sunny personality.) Jamie tries to get a dig in about how miserable it must be to travel by hostel (practically adding the words “like POOR PEOPLE do”), but Niall doesn’t rise to the bait and talks instead about how nice it is to see the world while saving money. Connell says his favorite moment so far was getting to see a Vermeer painting in person, and Niall jokes that he spent the whole day staring at it.
Jamie once again tries to condescend, saying with tours like the ones Niall and Connell are doing, you just end up “ticking boxes” and not really getting anything of substance out of it. Niall, who is my new favorite, retorts “oh yeah, not like pissing around your girlfriend’s Italian villa for the entire summer.” Marianne gets up, frustrated but covering it by getting more champagne. She breathes in and out, resting her head on the wall, before heading back to the table. Jamie says “well, thank f*ck for scholarships,” clearly showing he believes Connell doesn’t deserve to be there. Connell tries to brush it off by saying he’ll drink to that, and Peggy tries to help by including Marianne’s scholarship in the toast, but Jamie is relentless. He says “well, I don’t think Marianne would have been working in a garage and living with her mum for the summer” without the help of the financial aid. He adds, “I mean, this is life changing stuff for Connell here.” It was at this point that I wanted to kick Jamie directly into the Italian sun, but instead I’ll just say that the actor behind Jamie, Fionn O’Shea, seems like a lovely person and is truly a good actor to make me hate Jamie this much.
Marianne offers to take Niall and Connell to Venice, which excites Niall since he’s never been (Jamie: “Shocker.”) Jamie tries to throw cold water on the whole thing, talking about how touristy Venice is and not worth the effort, but everyone else wants to go. Marianne especially wants Connell to go to the Guggenheim Museum since he loves art so much. Peggy and Marianne clear the dishes and go inside, with Peggy asking Marianne if she’s all right. She doesn’t respond, and Peggy asks if she’s going to comment on the insanity currently going on at their dinner table, reminding Marianne that she’s her best friend. Marianne says Jamie’s just upset, and Peggy says it’s not just Jamie (from where I’m sitting, it’s just Jamie.) Peggy says that she should have expected this to happen, bringing Connell here. Jamie might be “an a**hole, but he f*cking adores you.” Marianne just asks Peggy to bring the bowls out as she heads back to the table with strawberries. Niall exuberantly declares that Marianne is spoiling them all, but Jamie just wonders where the cream is. It’s inside, and Marianne gets up in a huff to get it. Jamie mutters and also gets up, walking inside. They fight loudly as Peggy, Connell, and Niall try to ignore it. But then Marianne screams in frustration, and Connell rushes inside.
Jamie is drunk and gives a sarcastic toast gesture to Connell with his glass, sloshing wine on the floor. He purposely shatters his glass as Marianne rushes forward to tackle him. Connell stops her and holds her back. Jamie says she’s “f*cking deranged” as Connell moves her forward and out the door of the villa. By the pool, Marianne cries and Connell hugs her. Without saying a word, he gives her a cigarette and they both smoke side by side looking out on the beautiful scenery. Marianne quietly asks if she can stay in Connell’s room tonight, and he says “of course.”
That night, Connell and Marianne lie next to each other in bed, careful not to touch. As they stare at the ceiling, she says “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Don’t know why I can’t make people love me.” Connell tries to reassure her, saying lots of people love her including her friends and family. She quietly says that Connell doesn’t know her family. She says the last time she went home, Alan told her he wished she was dead, that no one would miss her because she was “entirely unloved.” Connell can’t conceive of this happening, especially when she says her mother saw the whole thing and did nothing. He asks what the argument was about, and Marianne thinks he means she did something to deserve it (which Connell denies.) Connell is saddened by the fact he didn’t know this was going on and asks why she never told him any of this. She says “I suppose I didn’t want you to think I was damaged, or something.” She looks up at Connell, who is holding back tears. He shakes his head no, then says “Jesus Christ, come here” and pulls her into a hug. They kiss, and when they pull apart they hold hands.
Niall, Peggy, Marianne, and Connell take the train together to Venice. Marianne and Connell stare at a painting in the Guggenheim as “Love Will Tear Us Apart” plays.
Episode 8 Music Moments:
“Dandelion” by Jealous of the Birds
“Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Nerina Pallot
Normal People is available now on Hulu.