The simmering tensions between Alan and Marianne come to a head this episode with awful results. While I still believe Jamie is the worst villain this season, Alan is a very close second and makes a solid case for the top spot in the final minutes of this episode. We also get a summer reunion for Marianne and Connell, who confront the nature of their relationship directly. Their scenes together are electric, with the final discussion between them in Connell’s car, a series highlight. Read on to find out what happened in episode 11.
In August, Connell is back at school in Dublin, working in the library and submitting his stories to another magazine. Marianne is at home in Sligo, relaxing outside, when her brother Alan interrupts. He asks if she’s done anything all day, and she says she cleaned the house. He remarks that you’d never know it and calls her lazy before going inside. That weekend, Connell is back at home and he and Marianne go to the beach together. They chat about Alan, with Marianne telling Connell how he’s always picking on her. She asks him why he’s come home so much since she’s been back from Sweden, telling him he doesn’t have to for her sake. Connell says it’s the only thing he has to look forward to at the moment. Giggling, Marianne runs down the beach as Connell chases after.
That night, they both go to a club, dancing and having a good time. But with Marianne dancing so close, Connell panics and goes outside, leaving her alone on the dance floor. The next day, both are lounging around Connell’s room watching a football game. Marianne asks where Connell went the night before, and he says he stood in the smoking area for a while. It’s hot, and she goes to open a window. Connell mentions that Eric was looking for her and asks if he found her. Marianne says Eric apologized for how he acted towards her in school. She says she accepted his apology because she doesn’t “go in for grudges,” to which Connell slightly smiles as he replies, “luckily for me.” He goes outside to the ice cream truck and gets them both popsicles.
As they sit and eat, Marianne mentions how people from town have been much nicer to her lately, even though she really hasn’t made an effort to be around them. Connell says maybe she should, that it must be lonely for her to be back home again. Marianne says she’s been lonely her whole life, and Connell replies that he knows the feeling. She scoots closer on the bed and lies down. Marianne asks if she did something to annoy Connell the night before, wondering why he left her alone. He says she did nothing wrong. After a moment, he says their friendship would be a lot easier if there wasn’t this “other element” there. Marianne asks if he was lonely when they were together before, and he says no. She agrees, saying she’s never lonely as long as she’s with Connell. Connell says that was a “perfect” time in his life, adding that he “was never really happy before then.” Marianne says she really wanted him to kiss her at the club. Connell says he wanted to as well, adding “I guess we must have misunderstood each other” (story of their lives.) But Connell says that while it’s nice to hear her say these things, their previous attempts at a romantic relationship haven’t been the greatest, and he doesn’t want to lose her again. Marianne gets up and says she’d like to go home.
He tries to stop her by silently reaching out his hand for her to hold. She takes it silently. He raises her hand to his face and kisses it (swoon.) She closes her eyes and says it feels nice, while Connell says “I’m just really nervous. I think it’s pretty obvious I don’t want you to leave.” Marianne says “it’s never obvious what you want.” As if to answer her, he stands and kisses her. They undress and start to have sex. It goes well at first, with both rekindling their previous spark. But then in the heat of the moment, Marianne asks Connell to hit her during sex. This immediately kills Connell’s mood. They stop, with Marianne asking if Connell is okay. Not meeting her eyes, he just says he wasn’t comfortable doing that, that it would be “weird.” He tries to backtrack, not wanting to shame her, but Marianne replies “you think I’m weird” in a flat voice. Connell insists that he doesn’t, but the damage is done. Marianne leaves the house crying and walks home while Connell sits on his bed, sad and confused.
At home, Marianne sees her brother, who blocks her way in the hall. Alan says he doesn’t want her seeing Connell anymore. He says word has spread around town about Connell’s breakdown. He doesn’t want people saying that “a knacker is riding my sister” (which is wrong on a ridiculous number of levels.) Alan is menacing and won’t let it go. When Marianne says she doesn’t care what people think, he throws a glass at her feet, shattering it. Worse: Denise can see this from her room and chooses not to get involved. Marianne tries to run from him, and when he forces open the door she’s trying to close it hits her in the face, breaking her nose. She stares at her bloody hand in shock, and even Alan seems surprised at what just happened.
Connell is at home when he gets a call from Marianne. He thinks she wants to talk about their fight, but she says she needs help. Instead of telling the full story, she says she fell at home and is hurt, not badly but enough that she doesn’t want to be alone. Connell rushes over no questions asked, jumping in his car immediately after hanging up with her. When he gets there, Marianne lets him in, bleeding. When Connell sees Alan lurking in the hallway, he guesses what really happened. Connell asks Marianne “was it him?” and she nods. In a calm, low voice we haven’t heard from him before, he tells Marianne to “get in the car.” She leaves, and Connell shuts the door, leaving him alone with Alan. Alan, fear in his eyes, asks what’s going on. Connell, who we’ve never seen be physically imposing before, grabs Alan and pushes him against the wall. He says if Alan lays a hand on Marianne again, he’ll kill him, and his face shows he’s serious. He leaves to go back to the car, with Denise watching him go and again saying nothing.
In the car, Marianne apologizes to Connell for inconveniencing him. Connell softly says “look at me a minute.” She does, and staring into her eyes he says: “It’s good that you called me, okay? No one is ever gonna hurt you like that again. Everything’s gonna be all right, trust me. Cause I love you, and I’m not going to let anything like that happen to you again.” She nods slightly and whispers, “thank you.” As they drive home in the dark, the song “Strange Weather” plays – a perfect music cue to express the moment’s emotions.
Episode 11 Music Moments:
“Breathe” by CamelPhat, Cristoph, Jem Cooke
“Strange Weather” by Anna Calvi, David Byrne
Normal People is available now on Hulu.