[Warning: This post contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 1 of Normal People.]
Hulu's 12-episode adaptation of Sally Rooney's Normal People has struck an emotional chord with viewers tuning in to see Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell's (Paul Mescal) heartbreaking love story unfold.
Edgar-Jones also lays out her interpretation of what that painful brother-sister relationship was all about for Marianne.
Beginning with their school days set in the small fictional western Ireland town of Carricklea and tracking through their university years at Trinity College, Normal People sees the vastly different individuals drawn together and torn apart through the years. When their relationship begins, Connell's a popular and outgoing young man as opposed to Marianne's withdrawn and lonely introverted side.
As viewers consume each passing episode, they see how the two switch roles upon arriving at Trinity as they deal with the struggles of depression, abusive home lives and more. Needless to say, there's a bountiful amount of heartbreak to go around. While it's difficult to wrangle them all, we're rounding up a few of the most affecting moments below, but beware of spoilers.
Normal People, Streaming now, Hulu
Caught in the Rain
Early on in the season, Connell (Paul Mescal) notices Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) arrive to class drenched after walking in the rain. Viewers know that her brother Alan (Frank Blake) forced her to walk the rest of the way to school after he refused to drop her off at the entrance. The moment represents the signs that Marianne’s home life isn’t great and it’s heartbreaking that no one but Connell seems to notice this about her.
Connell's Debs Mistake
It was easy to see this moment coming when Connell chose to invite a fellow classmate over Marianne to the school dance known as the Debs. Reprimanded by his mother Lorraine (Sarah Greene) for making his decision based on the possible embarrassment he’d face if he brought outcast Marianne, Connell learns the error of his ways too late and it leads to a tearful phone call.
Public Display of Affection
After taking issue with the fact that Connell rarely acknowledges that he’s with her in public, Marianne inspires him to make a big step by encouraging a public display of affection. His tearful reaction to overcoming the social quirk that prevented him from taking such a simple action before is gut-wrenching.
During their college days, Marianne spent time living together but were torn apart when she believed he was indifferent to living with her when he revealed plans to return to Carricklea for the summer. Agreeing to see other people, and remaining cordial, Marianne is distraught to learn that Connell had wished she’d invite him to move in with her when he did go back to Carricklea. The bottom line? Miscommunication or a lack of communication really mucks things up for these two who internalize an awful lot.
It’s difficult to pinpoint one moment in the episode depicting Marianne’s experience studying abroad in Sweden. The overall tone of the episode is depressing as we see Marianne engage in an unhealthy relationship, haunted by the own abusive relationship examples she grew up with in her home.
During a dark period in Connell’s life as Marianne studies abroad, he finds relief in Skype calls with her. In a sweet moment, Marianne refuses to let him hang up the call and sits by through the night to make sure he’s okay as he battles depression.
Following the death of a classmate from his youth in Carricklea, Connell deals with a bout of depression as he faces the concept that he’ll never get to return to the “good old days.” Lonely and isolated, his heartbreaking exchange with one of the university therapists is perhaps the most shattering breakdown in the entire show.
No Matter What
In one of the show’s more climactic moments, Marianne gets into a scuffle with her predatory brother Alan, leaving her with a broken nose. And even though she had a fight with Connell hours earlier, he shows up to help her without a question and threatens Alan, saying he’ll kill the man if he ever hurts Marianne again. But the real emotion of the moment is rooted in the idea that Marianne and Connell will be there for each other no matter what.
After leaving her family behind, Marianne is shopping in town with Connell and Lorraine when they pass her mother Denise (Aislín McGuckin) in the street, the woman refuses to acknowledge her daughter. Despite the warmth of Connell and Lorraine beside her, the sting for Marianne is no less.
It goes without explaining for fans of the series, that the end is so heartbreaking, it would be hard to believe anyone gets through it without tears in their eyes. After finishing their time at Trinity, Connell is given an opportunity to spend time writing in New York City and although reluctant, Marianne encourages him to go. The moment ends with a tearful and symbolic “goodbye” as he says, “I’ll go,” as she responds, “and I’ll stay.”