The ending of Hulu’s Normal People explained

Hulu’s Normal People made its premiere on the streaming service on April 29, 2020, instantly captivating viewers with its story of friendship, love, and mental health — as well as the chemistry between its lead stars, Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal. 

Based on Irish author Sally Rooney’s bestselling novel of the same name, the television adaptation of Normal People had been eagerly anticipated by fans since Hulu announced a straight-to-series order in May 2019. One year later, even people who hadn’t read Rooney’s sophomore novel found themselves totally engrossed in the love story of Marianne Sheridan and Connell Waldron — secondary school classmates whose lives remain intertwined as they navigate the hardships of college and adulthood. While Marianne and Connell are a far cry from Friends‘ Ross and Rachel or Jim and Pam’s dynamic on The Office, their on-again, off-again relationship is sure to be referenced as one of television’s most enthralling romances for years to come. 

While the television adaptation largely remained loyal to Rooney’s novel, a few creative liberties were taken while bringing the story to the screen. However, the series finale has left many viewers debating what’s next for Marianne and Connell. Here’s the ending of Hulu’s Normal People explained. Note: spoilers ahead!

How did Marianne and Connell's romance begin in Hulu's Normal People?

Hulu’s Normal People is, at its core, a love story — albeit a complicated one. And while every good love story must eventually come to an end, understanding the beginning of said love story is vital to understand its ending.

While Marianne Sheridan and Connell Waldron (played by Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal, respectively) have a notably less tragic fate than Romeo and Juliet, they’re similar to Shakespeare’s famous young lovers in the way their differing social statuses force them to hide their romance when it begins in secondary school. Regarded as an outcast at school, Marianne comes from a very wealthy family. On the other hand, Connell is popular among his secondary school classmates and shares a close relationship with his working-class mother, Lorraine, who Marianne’s mother employs as a housekeeper, according to Elle

Despite caring for her behind closed doors, Connell is intimidated by what his friends might think of his romance with the unpopular Marianne and insists on keeping it a secret. Of course, this dynamic colors their romance for years to come, including the eventual end of their relationship.

Marianne's relationship with her mother plays a big role in Hulu's Normal People

Hulu’s Normal People might be a love story, but it’s far from a dreamy, storybook romance full of unicorns and magic. Instead, Normal People explores highly sensitive topics — depression, abuse, and toxic relationships — while showcasing the central romantic relationship. Marianne Sheridan’s relationship with her mother, Denise, is perhaps one of the most impactful relationships of the show, second only to her relationship with Connell Waldron. 

Throughout the series, Marianne is shown to have a complicated relationship with her mother, a wealthy widow. Denise is often portrayed as being cold toward her daughter and sympathetic to her temperamental son, Alan, despite his emotional abuse of Marianne. However, this fraught familial dynamic is later revealed to be a byproduct of Marianne’s late father, who physically abused her mother, as Harper’s Bazaar detailed.

By the end of the series, Marianne is no longer on speaking terms with Denise. However, while it’s easy to feel relieved that she’s finally freed herself from her toxic family, it’s hard not to imagine how different Marianne’s relationship with Connell would have been had she not grown up around abuse. 

Marianne has a series of toxic romantic relationships in Hulu's Normal People

While watching Hulu’s Normal People, you probably wanted to reach through the screen and point the series’ main characters in the right direction. This is especially true in the case of Marianne Sheridan, who is bullied throughout secondary school and plagued by her volatile home life and abusive brother — all such experiences shape her relationship with Connell Waldron, as well as her relationships with others. 

Throughout the entirety of the streaming series, viewers see Marianne find herself in a series of emotionally abusive relationships with incredibly toxic partners when she’s not with Connell. Gareth, Jamie, and Lukas are each problematic in their own ways — with the latter two taking pleasure in inflicting physical pain and emotional trauma on Marianne during so-called intimate encounters. 

Fortunately, Marianne’s relationships with these men don’t last for very long, as Connell is always the object of her desire. However, considering she and Connell don’t exactly end up together at the end of the series, it wouldn’t be farfetched to think Marianne may continue with this cycle of choosing toxic relationships with ill-suited partners. 

Hulu's Normal People lacks the inner monologues of its main characters

Hulu’s Normal People doesn’t veer very far from Sally Rooney’s 2018 novel of the same name. However, there are a few key differences between the book and the television adaptation that may influence the way viewers perceive the show’s ending. 

Perhaps the most striking difference between the novel and the show is the lack of inner monologues in the television adaptation, reported Harper’s Bazaar. Throughout Rooney’s novel, readers are given an inside glimpse at Marianne Sheridan and Connell Waldron’s true thoughts and motivations, subsequently making it easier to understand why the characters make the decisions they do — no matter how wrong those decisions may seem on the surface. However, the Hulu series doesn’t include the inner workings of Marianne and Connell’s minds and, as a result, some viewers could be left wondering why the two lovebirds keep sabotaging their relationship. 

While actors Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal’s incredible portrayals of Marianne and Connell’s relationship certainly doesn’t lack emotion, perhaps a voiceover or two would help some viewers feel less confused about how the couple leaves things at the end of the series. 

Author Sally Rooney was instrumental in making Hulu's Normal People

Hulu’s adaptation of Normal People was largely seen as a hit, even if non-readers were let down by Marianne Sheridan and Connell Waldron’s relationship at the end of the series. However, considering the author of Normal People, Sally Rooney, served as an executive producer and co-writer of the show, according to the Los Angeles Times, it’s safe to say the series ended exactly as it was supposed to.

According to Paul Mescal, who portrays Connell Waldron in the Hulu series, Rooney was a constant guide throughout the filming process — even from far away. “Sally was actually writing a new novel in New York, so she wasn’t particularly present all the time on set, but she had a very big input via producers and directors, and it was great to feel her approval throughout the shooting process,” Mescal revealed to Harper’s Bazaar in April 2020.

Daisy Edgar-Jones, who brought Marianne Sheridan to life onscreen, said she hopes the show lives up to Rooney’s expectations. The star told Harper’s Bazaar, “It must be crazy for her, because she created these characters and now we’re all talking about them!”

Hulu's Normal People made a change to this pivotal ending scene

Considering Hulu’s Normal People is a television adaptation of a beloved book, producers of the series undoubtedly felt enormous pressure to please fans of Sally Rooney’s work. Fortunately, as fans of both the show and book can attest, the Hulu series made a noticeable effort to stay true to its source material. In fact, according to the Los Angeles Times, the “unofficial motto” of the show’s filmmakers consisted of five simple words: “The book is the bible.”

Still, as executive producer and director Lenny Abrahamson revealed to the The Hollywood Reporter in May 2020, one particular scene in the series finale played out a bit differently than it did in Rooney’s bestselling novel. “A scene that was one scene in the novel becomes two scenes separated by a passage of time at the end of the adaptation,” Abrahamson revealed, referring to the scene in which Connell Waldron tells Marianne Sheridan he’s been accepted to grad school in New York City. According to Abrahamson, the choice to split the pivotal scene was best “from a screen storytelling point of view.”

Hulu's Normal People star Daisy Edgar-Jones has expressed concern about her character's fate

Normal People definitely made a splash when it premiered on Hulu. Not only did the series captivate viewers with its storytelling and gorgeous cinematography, it also introduced its main stars — newcomers Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones — to the world. 

Speaking with Nylon in April 2020, Edgar-Jones revealed why she was drawn to the role of Marianne Sheridan. “I loved how she had this deep inner life,” Edgar-Jones told the publication. She continued, saying, “It’s the first time I’d ever read a female character that was so incredibly flawed and complicated.”

Nevertheless, the star also expressed concern over the mental and emotional well-being of her Normal People character. When asked what she hoped for Marianne at the end of the series, Edgar-Jones told Nylon, “I think she feels she doesn’t deserve the goodness that she gets from people like Connell. So I hope that she remains able to believe that she deserves kindness in her life.” The star continued, saying, “I think as long as she’s happy just being steady and comfortable and not feel unworthy anymore — that’s what I hope for Marianne.”

Sally Rooney has revealed if Normal People's Marianne and Connell stay together

Hulu’s Normal People didn’t have a tragic ending per say, but for fans wanting to see Marianne Sheridan and Connell Waldron end up together once and for all, the final episode was likely somewhat disappointing.

In the 12th episode of Normal People, viewers watched as Marianne and Connell agreed to part ways, as Connell decided to accepted a grad school opportunity in New York City. However, if you’ve found yourself wondering if the on-again, off-again lovers ever find their way back to each other after Normal People ends, we have good news: Normal People author Sally Rooney has already answered that question with her short story.

Published in 2016, At the Clinic was the basis for the subsequent Normal People novel and follows Marianne and Connell for a longer period of time. Readers learn that, at 23 years old, the pair travels to have Marianne’s wisdom tooth removed,Vogue detailed. As Rooney herself explained to The TelegraphAt the Clinic inspired her to explore the couple’s relationship with more depth, which she ultimately did in Normal People. And, according to the short story, Marianne and Connell’s relationship is still as passionate as ever, though the two are seemingly facing the same problems as before.

The stars of Hulu's Normal People "don't know what's on the other side" for their characters

If Hulu’s Normal People left you with more questions than it did answers about the future of Marianne Sheridan and Connell Waldron’s relationship, you’re not alone. According to the stars of Normal People, Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal, they’re just as unsure as the rest of the world when it comes to what’s next for their characters. After all, the Hulu series covered the entirety of Sally Rooney’s bestselling 2018 novel, which left the nature of Marianne and Connell’s relationship largely up for interpretation. 

However, Edgar-Jones and Mescal don’t seem to think that’s such a bad thing. “We don’t know what’s on the other side,” Mescal told New Musical Express in April 2020. He continued, saying, “The great thing about these two characters is that their lives continue.”

Edgar-Jones shared her thoughts, saying, “At the end, they’re very much alive and you’re left not knowing where they’re gonna go.” She continued, telling the publication, “We’ve left the series in a similar way. I think it’s quite interesting to leave it open.”

What happened to Connell's chain at the end of Hulu's Normal People?

Hulu’s Normal People has taken the world by storm and the same rings true for its stars, Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal. However, many fans finished the final episode of the Hulu adaptation wondering about the fate of an unexpected breakout star: the silver chain worn by Mescal’s Connell Waldron throughout the series. 

Connell’s chain garnered quite a large fanbase upon the debut of Normal People, even scoring its own Instagram account. Yes, @connellschain raked in 174,000 followers by June 1, 2020. “Probably the last thing I expected to garner a response was Connell’s chain,” Mescal mused when speaking to Variety

As for what’s happened to the chain now that filming has wrapped, Mescal dished to Variety that it’s in the care of his co-star — or, at least, he thinks it is. Explaining that he’d gifted the chain to Edgar-Jones at the end of filming, the actor revealed it later got lost by the time he had to borrow it to wear for a photo shoot. Fortunately, however, it was located by the show’s costume designer. “I think Daisy has it now,” Mescal told the publication. 

Daisy Edgar-Jones spoiled the ending of Hulu's Normal People

Although readers of Sally Rooney’s Normal People had an idea of how the Hulu series would end, the ending may have been spoiled for those who hadn’t delved into the novel. Unfortunately, the spoilers happened to come from one of the show’s breakout stars, Daisy Edgar-Jones.

Edgar-Jones, who portrays Marianne Sheridan on the television adaptation of Normal People, seemed to have a major slip up during a May 2020 appearance on The One Show (via Express). When host Alex Jones asked her where she’d like to see Marianne and her love interest, Connell Waldron, the actress responded, “I hope they remain at that level of settled they get to by the end of the series and I think it is wonderful that Marianne encouraged Connell to follow his dreams as a writer in New York.”

Unfortunately, the final episode had not yet aired, meaning Edgar-Jones’ comments took many viewers by surprise. “Oh dear, Daisy Edgar-Jones just unwittingly spoiled the ending of Normal People on [The One Show],” one fan tweeted in response. However, to her credit, Edgar-Jones never disclosed if Marianne and Connell would try to make a long-distance relationship last.

Will there be a second season of Hulu's Normal People?

When Hulu’s Normal People came to an end with its 12th episode, the first question on many viewers’ minds was likely the same: Will there be a second season of the steamy romantic drama? 

As it turns out, fans aren’t the only ones who think a second season might not be such a crazy idea — even if the initial season of the Hulu series covered the entirety of Sally Rooney’s bestselling 2018 novel of the same name. “I remember finishing the novel thinking, ‘I wonder what the next phase of their lives is going to be like,'” executive producer and director Lenny Abrahamson revealed in an April 2020 interview with the Los Angeles Times. He continued, saying,  “So it’s something we should probably think about. It depends on how Sally feels, if she feels she’s finished their story.”

According to producer Ed Guiney, though, fans shouldn’t hold their breath for a second season. “It feels like we tell a very complete story about these characters’ lives, and so [a second season is] not something we’re moving to do,” the producer revealed to The Hollywood Reporter. However, he made sure to leave fans with a little hope. “Maybe there’s a version of it down the line,” he added.

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