So, I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that I’m still carrying on with this series over almost a year after it was released. The good news? It’s this post plus one more and then you’re free from my thirsting over Paul Mescal! Although, let’s be honest, when Conversations With Friends comes out, there may very well be another thirsty series. Anyway, today, it’s all about episodes 9 and 10 – both of which were some quite difficult ones to watch. These episodes get quite dark with their themes, exploring Marianne’s toxic relationship with Lukas and Connell’s depression following Rob’s death, but there’s so much to unpack, and it goes without saying that the acting from Daisy and Paul is incredible in these episodes – I mean, it is throughout the whole series, but these episodes in particular really highlight their talents.
IMDB Synopsis: “Marianne, studying abroad, pursues an unhealthy relationship; in Dublin, Connell enjoys an uncomplicated relationship with Helen.”
So, the episode starts with Marianne studying in Sweden. In the very first scene, first of all, we need to recognise that she looks FLAWLESS. I feel you also get the feeling straight away that Lukas is an asshole – or at least, I did – but you instantly get the impression of the power dynamic from him when he says “do you want a drink?…I think you do.” When you consider the events that happen in this episode, this initial encounter feels quite ominous. Later on, she tells him she doesn’t want a relationship, and when he tells her “I really like you,” she asks for “the opposite of that.” Of course, this can only go well.
Meanwhile, back in Dublin, Connell and Helen are living their best lives. He’s met her family, and it seems to be going pretty well. When they’re walking home, Helen mentions something like “did your Mum like Marianne?” – as a side note, can we just appreciate the fact that she was the one who brought up Marianne here? Connell seemed quite happy as things were, and to be fair, it was nice to see him happy for a change.
Following the snippet of Connell and Helen doing the nasty, we get a shot of Marianne and Lukas – and it’s uncomfortable AF. I didn’t like him from the start, and when he’s there telling her “you’re worthless” after banging her, you end up hating him just that bit more. Yes, Marianne said that’s the sort of relationship she wants, but the fact he’s just gone with it without asking any questions is rather problematic.
Cut to the Christmas party back in Dublin, where Connell runs into Peggy. Once again, it’s emphasised what a fucking asshole she is (and also, a shitty friend) when she says to Connell that she heard Marianne was into “bondage and shit.” Connell telling her to fuck off is just what we all think. In the previous episode, she says to Marianne “I’m your best friend” – but I think we’re all agreed that best friends don’t chat shit about one another – especially to that extent. As Connell puts it – fuck off Peggy. This scene more than anything is where I feel for Helen – because her and Connell were initially happy and this thing with Peggy has clearly affected him but at the same time, I just think he’s standing up for his friend.
Obviously we then move into a particularly difficult scene with Marianne and Lukas, where he decides to take her photo, and she’s clearly not okay. The episode really highlights the issue of consent here, where Marianne says “do we have to do this now?” but Lukas reiterates “this is what you wanted.” It’s uncomfortable and painful to watch, and I just wanted to give Marianne a hug.
Favourite Scene: In such a difficult episode to watch, it was difficult to pick a favourite scene. However, if I had to pick one, it would be the message that Connell puts to Marianne in his email – “just because people treat you badly at times – and I include myself in that by the way – it doesn’t mean you deserve to be treated badly.” It’s a line that I’m sure many of us will relate to, myself included, and it’s one that particularly got me in the feels. You just see how broken Marianne is in this particular scene, and it’s almost as though reliving his message to her gives her the strength to get up and leave Lukas’ apartment. The scene is so brilliantly acted by Daisy Edgar-Jones too – of course she’s amazing in the whole show, but this scene is definitely up there with one of her best.
Music Highlights: My favourite song in this episode was Rare by Selena Gomez. It was never really a song I liked when it was first released, but it was one of those instances where hearing it in the background made me appreciate it more.
IMDB Synopsis: “After a tragic event, Connell struggles with severe depression. Marianne remains a lifeline for him abroad.”
I think we can all agree this episode was Paul Mescal at his finest. How TF he didn’t win the Emmy based on this episode alone is beyond me. And that’s not me being biased because he’s at the top of my list. He’s amazing throughout the whole run of the show, but this episode in particular really showcases his talent. While this episode was incredibly difficult to watch, but I think props to all involved, as while they still put across a hard-hitting episode, they still handled the topic of depression and suicide incredibly tastefully.
Tied in between counselling sessions, we see flashbacks of events that led Connell to this point – namely, Rob’s suicide. Despite having Helen by his side at the funeral, it’s clear things have been made worse in their relationship. I’ve mentioned early on that I don’t like Helen, and I’ll be honest, I dislike her even more in this episode. I get she’s trying to be a supportive girlfriend and all that, but during the funeral scenes especially, it crosses the line into possessiveness. I must admit though, even though she annoys the tits off me, I feel as though if I were in her shoes, I’d be exactly the same – so maybe I could shut my hypocritical little ass up.
However, I have another point to make re. Helen. The scene after the funeral, where she and Connell are in bed together and she’s talking about how he was ignoring her but he wasn’t ignoring Marianne…again, I would have been the same, so maybe I can’t judge, but on the other hand, I just found myself thinking “FFS HELEN THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU.” Yes, there’s clearly an issue with your relationship here, but I don’t think bringing it up to your boyfriend after the funeral of his friend is a good idea.
Following this scene, we see more of Connell’s struggle with depression, subsequently resulting in Helen dumping him. I must admit, I felt a bit sorry for her – she clearly cares about him and is trying to help, but at the same time, I feel like it was a bit of a dick move dumping him when he was as low as he was.
Can we also talk about the scene where Connell and Marianne talk on Skype? At this point, Marianne is back in Sweden, but she’s totally there for him to the point where she offers to stay on Skype while he sleeps. It’s adorable.
We then move into the scene that has to be one of my favourite mental health portrayals in TV history – where Connell breaks down to the counsellor (I believe her name is Gillian if we’re going by the book). I felt as though I could have related to a lot of what he said, especially in terms of how he thought people in Dublin didn’t like him and how he hated it there (Northampton Uni 100% in my case) and how he felt as though he couldn’t go back to his old life, which I think is what made it even more heart-wrenching. Paul Mescal’s acting in this entire scene is just perfection, and I think it did such an amazing job at portraying male mental health. I think we also need to give props to Niall, who told Connell about the counselling service – that’s the mark of a real friend right there.
Favourite Scene: I especially loved the scene where Connell and Marianne are talking over Skype and she tells him “carry me over to your bed” and she just works in the background while he sleeps. It’s one of the most low-key romantic moments in the show, and I love that she does that for him – it’s such a small thing, but you can see how much it means to him.
Music Highlights: There wasn’t a particular piece of music that stood out to me in this episode – for me it was all about the acting.
What did you think of episodes 9 and 10? Let me know in the comments!