This episode of Normal People explores Marianne’s depression in interesting and subtle ways. We’ve seen before that the way she values and sees herself is leagues away from how others (especially Connell) see her, but the events that unfold make that divide explicit. Daisy Edgar-Jones is excellent in this episode that she largely carries, with Connell still home in Ireland as Marianne goes abroad to Sweden. With little dialogue, Edgar-Jones is able to give Marianne’s emotions an outlet through her facial expressions and body language, and the scenes at the end of the episode rest on her shoulders. Read on to find out what happened in Sweden …
Marianne is at a party alone when she is approached by Lukas, a cute guy who offers to get her a drink. She accepts. We then see her walk down a snow covered street wearing a fabulous coat that I want to buy immediately. She’s on an exchange year in Sweden. Connell writes her emails, which we hear narrated as Marianne walks. He mentions her “photographer friend” (Lukas) and asks if she’s dating him or if they’re not putting labels on it yet, noting that Helen approves. He says he’s “not pushing the boyfriend thing, just wanted to make sure you confirmed he’s not a psychopath” (Marianne’s new bar for relationships after Jamie is ridiculously low.) Marianne gets out of the shower at home, and Lukas invites her to get something to eat.
The two sit in a cafe, Marianne barely eating and looking out the window. Concerned, Lukas asks if anything is wrong. Marianne sighs deeply and turns to him, but before she can even say anything he says, “Oh. Are you breaking up with me?” (Points to Lukas for having better communication skills than anyone so far in this series. He should get some kind of trophy for it.) Marianne says, “Maybe,” and Lukas half-jokingly asks if there’s anything he can do to stop it. She says she’s not sure a relationship is what she wants, and Lukas earnestly says he really likes her. Marianne leans forward and says, “That. I don’t want that.” She doesn’t want him saying that he likes her and in fact would like him to say the opposite. Lukas’ befuddlement is evident. But then he realizes what she’s actually asking for.
Back in Ireland, Connell and Helen are out to dinner with some of Helen’s family. Her father says it’s nice to have some creativity among all the scientists in the family, and everyone laughs. On the walk home, Helen says they liked Connell. She says they never really liked her ex Rory, which makes Connell laugh. Helen asks if Lorraine liked Marianne, and Connell says Lorraine likes everyone. He lets slip that Lorraine felt a bit sorry for her, and Helen asks why. He doesn’t respond, but they hold hands and cuddle the rest of the way back. They have sex, which leads directly into a shot of Lukas putting his pants back on after having sex with Marianne. She asks for a shower, and the dynamics of their relationship become clearer when he says he’ll decide when she’ll have a shower, adding that she’s “worthless.” It seems that he not only took her advice earlier to heart, but now they’re clumsily attempting to have a more dominant/submissive sexual relationship (which, much like Jamie’s situation earlier in the series, doesn’t seem to inspire actual pleasure from Marianne.)
Connell is now reading an email from Marianne that is narrated like the one he sent her earlier. She says she’s not feeling herself at the moment, that she feels outside of her own life. But she feels comforted by this numbness. Connell, Niall, Helen, and a friend go to a Christmas party that appears to be in a basement at Niall’s suggestion, and Connell laughs as he calls it “the most depressing Christmas party ever.” He gets up to get more beer for the group and runs into Peggy at the bar. Peggy, tactless as always, says Marianne’s been up to “some weird sh*t” in Sweden including bondage, according to Jamie. She asks if Connell’s the one who set her on that path as Helen watches them from a distance. He says to “f*ck off” and that he doesn’t want to hear about it as he goes outside for a cigarette.
Helen joins him, asking what’s wrong. He says Peggy is saying things about Marianne, but when Helen asks what she said he doesn’t elaborate. She stares, and when he asks what’s up she says that Marianne “seems to be a person that people like to talk about … and I don’t know that she necessarily has a problem with that,” adding that “she sort of f*cking invites it, Connell. Enjoys it.” Some sort of line has been crossed. From Helen’s perspective, it is strange how fixated everyone seems to be on Connell’s ex (including Connell himself.) Connell says nothing, and Helen awkwardly says she’s cold and heads inside.
Connell writes back to Marianne, narrating again as she sips tea in a cafe. He says from her emails it doesn’t sound like she’s happy, but he hopes he’s wrong. Connell says he knows how it feels to be detached from the world, but hasn’t felt like that lately. He adds that he’s sad to hear she’s not coming home for Christmas and that he misses her. She calls her mother and tells her that it doesn’t make sense to come home for such a short period of time, saying she’ll work through Christmas. Denise sounds hurt, but doesn’t make a special effort to get Marianne to come home. Marianne lets her phone clatter to the floor, staring at the ceiling for hours until the sun comes up.
Marianne narrates an email to Connell, saying she’s been thinking about the past summer and her relationships with Jamie and Peggy. She’s not sure how she ever thought those were real friendships (Yes! Correct! Finally some reflection here.) She says she pictures his house decorated for Christmas when she thinks of home, and that she misses him. We cut to her and Lukas just after sex, both breathing heavily, him smiling. She looks down at her arm, covered in bruises from their time together. He stares at her lovingly and says he wants to take her photo tomorrow, that he has an idea. They shower together. Marianne video-chats Joanna, who adorably says she’s on part seven of a documentary on the Civil War when Marianne asks her what’s up. Joanna asks how things are with Lukas, wanting to know if Marianne likes him. Marianne says it’s not that kind of thing and has almost no enthusiasm talking about him, which confuses Joanna.
Marianne arrives at Lukas’ studio. As he starts to take photos, starting with her clothed and progressing to more and more revealing, we flash around in time. We get closeups of Marianne’s face: sad, resigned, and deeply unhappy. This short scene relies on Daisy Edgar-Jones to show the full breadth and depth of Marianne’s inner turmoil, and she is stunning. Lukas asks to tie her up, reminding her that all this is what she wanted, and she barely resists at first. But then she starts hearing Connell’s latest email in her head as Lukas takes pictures. He apologizes for brushing over her mention of not coming home because of her family, saying he hasn’t forgotten the things she told him in Italy. He says none of the things she told him about were her fault, that there is nothing wrong with her. He says, “You are a good person, and I say that as someone who really knows you.” Connell then says, “Just because people treat you badly at times, and I include myself in that by the way, doesn’t mean you deserve to be treated badly.” Finding her voice, she says “no” to Lukas and leaves, slamming the door behind her. The episode ends with silence as Marianne walks outside into the snow and stares at the colorful sunset.
Episode 9 Music Moments:
“Rare” by Selena Gomez
“Old Bear” by Cloth
“Klangfall” by Joep Beving
“99 Luftballons” by Nena
“Groovy Train” by The Farm
“Berlin” by RY X
“Scene Suspended” by Jon Hopkins
Normal People is available now on Hulu.