Normal People recap: full frontals and good background

Normal People provided plenty talking-points again tonight, writes Des O'Driscoll 

Normal People recap: full frontals and good background
Marianne and Connell in episode five of Normal People.

'They're at it again, Joe.' Yes, the Liveline phonelines could be leppin' by lunchtime tomorrow. Pubic hair, Joe. Clearly visible. And an actual penis. Just lying there.

In fairness to the perpetually-outraged, reaction to last night's recoupling of Connell and Marianne could be tempered in comparison to when we saw their first encounters. No longer secondary school students, the duo are now  young adults doing the things we kind of expect young adults to do.

And in fairness to the people behind the show, the sex scenes were again brilliantly rendered. Raunchiness is in the eye of the beholder, but you never get the impression that director Lenny Abrahamson is trying to provide an erotic charge for the viewer. The bedroom scenes are totally in context with the intimate view we get of other aspects of the couple's relationship, and are shot accordingly.

Despite the joyful reunion, it's far from plain sailing for the couple involved. Marianne's brutal dismissal of her posh'n'nice boyfriend Gareth paved the way for getting back with her first love, but it wasn't long before she was left in tears herself. Is Connell really tearing them apart just because, after losing his job and getting a rejection letter from a publisher, he doesn't want to ask if he can move in with her?

“For f**k's sake, man,” scolds his flatmate Niall, echoing all our thoughts. “I can't get my head around it.” 

Along the way we get an insight into Marianne's difficult homelife in Sligo. An excruciating family dinner scene is followed by a glimpse of her brother Alan's nastiness, and the tough choices her mother Denise – a victim of domestic violence from her late husband – is still making. Again, the complications of family life are brilliantly portrayed.

Connell, despite his apparent stupidity around the relationship, is also a vehicle for author Sally Rooney to show how young men should act around consent. A drunken invitation to sex by Marianne is met with the reply: “Not tonight, you're wasted.” Later, he tells her: “You can't do things you don't want just to make me happy.” 

 And just when you thought he was getting into the swing of Trinity and the big city, when hot friend Peggy suggests a threesome, shy Sligoman re-emerges. “That wouldn't really be my cup of tea,” he stutters in a tone that suggests he'd actually prefer a cup of tea. Liveline listeners punch the air in triumph. We might be ok yet, Joe.


Normal People recap: full frontals and good background
Niall and Connell in a scene from episode six of Normal People.

Jamie: Every time this guy enters a scene, you can almost hear the klaxon alert going off and see a big red arrow appearing above his head bearing the words 'privileged, white, straight, male'. He even dares to sew the seeds of doubt about our beloved Connell. Watch this space.

Niall: Straight-talking, decent, sound. Somebody described the northerner on social media earlier in the week as the type of guy who'd be at pains not to obstruct your view at a festival. The flatmate we'd all love to have.

Lorraine (Connell's mother): Unfortunately didn't make an appearance in these two episodes but we did hear her on the phone, wisecracking to her son: “Sweetheart, you were my stupid teenage mistake.” 

The Chain: Connell's chain probably has a Twitter account of its own by now. A brochure might describe it as “Simple and understated, but with a strangely impactful presence”. Expect to see a lot of them being worn by the Connell demographic over the next few months. The ghost of Medallion Man is finally vanquished.


Richard E Grant, actor, on Twitter: “Most forensically detailed, emotionally charged series about falling in love, that I’ve ever seen. Daisy & Paul are utterly astonishing. Guaranteed stellar careers. Awe & respect.”

 Kourtney Kardashian: The uber-influencer has been adding love-hearts and other emojis to clips of of Normal People that she's been sharing on her Instagram account.

Bishop Michael Cox, of the Irish Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church: “If will be an outrage if RTÉ go ahead and transmit this,” he told the Irish Sun. Oops.

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