Normal People series premiere recap: Should you watch it or skip it?

Normal People is BBC Three’s new series based on Sally Rooney’s masterpiece. It centers on the love story between two teenagers, Marianne and Connell.

Normal People is a new series made for BBC Three and Hulu based on the award-winning novel by Sally Rooney. Fans of her book have been eagerly awaiting this adaptation for some time now, and I’m pleased to say their anticipation has paid off.

The first episode of Normal People was enough to tell me that this series will be a beautifully crafted story about the highs and lows of falling in love. I’m sure it helps to know Rooney herself served as an executive producer and wrote several episodes. Lenny Abrahamson, who directed films like Room and The Little Stranger, lends his ability to create genuinely intimate scenes to the series as the director.

In the series premiere, we are introduced to our two protagonists, Marianne and Connell. Marianne is an abrasive but intelligent young woman who disrespects her teachers regularly but hardly gets in trouble for it due to her formidable intellect.

On the other hand, we have Connell, a charming popular boy whose friends think Marianne is psychotic. They enjoy ridiculing her. Connell plays rugby and seems pretty smart himself.

Marianne is a social pariah. Her brittle demeanor and combative attitude repel everyone, except Connell.

The two spend time together because Connell’s mother works for Marianne’s family. He usually picks his mom up from Marianne’s house, and they sometimes talk to each other during that small timeframe.

Connell’s mom is one of the few people to think Marianne has more to her than meets the eye.  She is aware of her rather sad home life.

We don’t learn much about Marianne’s family in the first episode, but it is apparent that her brother is selfish and cares more for his social life than his sister. Her mom just seems sharp and distant, as if she doesn’t care much what Marianne does with her life.

Eventually, it becomes apparent that Connell and Marianne share a mutual attraction. She tells him she likes him. He mulls that over for a while.

Later, at her house, Connell asks her if she meant that she liked him as more than friends, and Marianne says yes. Connell considers this and admits he’s confused about his feelings — really, he’s afraid of what people would think if they saw them together.

But she tells him no one would need to know, and the two share a sweet kiss, Marianne’s first kiss ever.

At school the next day, Marianne doesn’t pay Connell any attention, but he can’t seem to stop thinking about her, as evidenced by him showing up at her house yet again, despite having no reason to do so.

This time their kissing turns into a full-blown makeout session with Marianne wanting to fast-forward to the “taking off their clothes” part of the evening.

Connell tells her no, but he’s sorely tempted. He invites her to his house on Saturday, the implication that they’ll have sex then because they’ll be completely alone.

Normal People

Normal People – Courtesy of Hulu

Our thoughts

I haven’t read the book Normal People is based on, although it is on the top of my wishlist now, I am already immersed in this dreamy, lovely world. Sometimes it is nice to watch a show with a simple focus of two people falling in love, along with all the common entanglements and obstacles that go along with said love.

We get so many genre shows these days, it feels good to slow down, and Normal People is definitely a “slow down” kind of show. It might not appeal to people who prefer something slick and fast-paced, and that’s okay.

A lot of the charm of Normal People is in its intimate approach to Marianne and Connell’s relationship. It helps that the two actors have loads of chemistry, the writing is confident, and the cinematography is lush and gorgeous.

The Guardian‘s Lucy Mangan wrote an excellent review of the series, calling it a “triumph in every way,” and adding that “if we see a better drama – certainly about adolescence, one which takes it seriously without treating it indulgently – this year, I’d be very surprised. It’s a beautiful, hugely beautiful thing.”

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What did you think of the first episode of Normal People? Will you continue watching the series? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

All 12 episodes of Normal People are currently available to stream on Hulu.

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