Euphoria S2

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Zendaya in Euphoria.
Zendaya in Euphoria.
Photo: Showmax


Euphoria S2




3/5 Stars


After Rue relapses at the end of season one, she tries to hide her addiction from her loved ones as they attempt to help her. 


There's something to say about the addictive quality of Euphoria. After every episode, I hungered for more. I thought about it throughout the week, I theorised about what would happen to certain characters, I shared memes and quotes, and looked forward to the next episode. In a time when most people binge-watch shows, Euphoria made the audience hunger for the next episode. We couldn't wait until the season was over; we had to watch right away to be part of the conversation.

This is a feat, as the first season of the series aired in 2019 and because of the pandemic and scheduling difficulties, the second season was delayed. The production team shot two special episodes centring on Rue (Zendaya) and Jules (Hunter Schafer) separately. But the fact that momentum was still up and fans were still eager for the content is a testament to the successful first season.

In the second season, we watch as Rue tries to hide her addiction from her friends and family while trying to sustain it. We also catch up with Rue's friends as they recover from the events of season one: Jules is more determined that Rue is the one she wants to be with, Cassie (Sydney Sweeney) is in a self-destructive spiral and has begun to fall for her best friend's ex-boyfriend, her best friend Maddy (Alexa Demie) and Nate (Jacob Elordi) are on-again, off-again, Kat (Barbie Ferreira) is second-guessing her relationship with Ethan (Austin Abrams), and Lexi (Maude Apatow) is starting to come into her own.

But it is difficult to put your finger on what precisely the plotline is supposed to be this season other than following Rue's journey with addiction. Sam Levinson, the creator, serves as sole writer and director of the series, and while he seems to relish having a diverse ensemble of characters, he doesn't seem to know how to create rich storylines for all the characters. This is where a writers' room could have helped him.

Even though Levinson works with the actors to flesh out their characters, a writers' room could have helped him with the characters' individual journeys and how it fits into the greater storyline. Because what we are left with is a disjointed storyline, plenty of plotholes and unanswered questions. By the end of the finale, there are so many loose plot threads that have not been addressed. And many can say that they are leaving it for season three, but that is not good storytelling; good storytelling gives the audience some payoff that acknowledges the storylines and teases what is to come in season three.

What was happening between Maddy and her boss? What were the references to her leaving the town? What was the point of Elliot other than to drive a wedge between Rue and Jules? What are the consequences of the fact that Rue owes Laurie money? Where is McKay? It seems like Levinson gets caught up in one side's storyline and then forgets about all of the others. A diverse writers' room can keep him on track and write a lot of the characters in a way that seems more authentic.

Two characters suffered the most from the lack of direction this season – Jules and Kat. Both were central characters in the first season, and Jules got her own special episode (the only one where Levinson shared writing credit with Hunter Schafer). This season Jules was relegated to a supporting character, she had cute scenes with Kat and Maddy in the first two episodes, but after that, her character just became about her relationship with Rue and being tempted to cheat by Elliot, which feels like a disservice to a character that was such a nuanced portrayal of a trans woman in high school.

If Jules was relegated to a side character, then Kat was a background character. Kat's storyline in season one was incredibly compelling and had her learn to embrace her body and sexuality and eventually find accepting that she deserves love from someone who truly appreciates her. In season 2, she has a few scenes in the first episodes that show her feelings, but after that, we only see her supporting Maddy and one scene where she breaks up with Ethan. It feels like there was so much missing from a storyline that we were missing out on. There were rumours that the actor Barbie Ferreira had disagreements with Sam Levinson about her character, which caused her to be cut out of her season. But this could have been better handled to re-writes and editing so that her character's journey does not seem so stilted and disjointed.

But when Euphoria is good, it is very good. Here I have to single out episode five, which centres around various interventions people have with Rue and her trying to run away from her problems before she eventually seeks help. The writing in this episode is excellent, and because addiction is something that Sam Levinson knows because he has been through it, his true artistry shows. Every conversation that Rue has with her mother, her sister, Lexi, Fez, Jules, is beautifully done, and it is easy to see why Zendaya won an Emmy Award for playing the role of Rue in season one.

I also enjoyed how the season played with the ideas of fantasy and reality. Blurring these lines is often part of the experience of being a teenager. Levinson, along with his cinematography team led by Marcell Rév, created beautiful sequences that might be divisive, but I enjoyed the creativity and the artistry behind it. It especially worked well in Kat's scenes at the beginning of the season and in more detail with Rue and Nate's storylines. This culminated in the last two episodes portraying Lexi's play about her and her friends which often blurred the lines between what really happened and what was in the play and often had the characters in the play merging into real-life counterparts.

While I have never really been invested in the romantic storylines in Euphoria, the slow burn romance they created this season between Lexi and the friendly neighbourhood drug dealer Fezco (Angus Cloud) had me hooked. Both characters were underutilised last season but got more traction this season, and we learnt more about the backstories and motivations. It was such a change of pace to the fast way that the show usually moves, and the chemistry between Apatow and Cloud was so palpable that I was excited when they were onscreen.

What I think separates Euphoria from many other young adult television is the strength of the acting. I previously mentioned Zendaya's Emmy-winning performance, and she does not drop the ball in the second season, moving from strength to strength. But I would also like to highlight an amazing performance by Sydney Sweeney, who depicted Cassie's mental distress and emotional turmoil so well. Sweeney is a consistently good actor, as seen in her work in The Handmaid's Tale and The White Lotus, but this season it felt as if she had better material to work with to display her acting strengths. Nika King also gave a strong performance as Rue's mother, Leslie. Even though she wasn't in the season much every scene she had, she gave her all and was emotionally vulnerable in a way that one doesn't often see on television, and it was compelling to watch.

There is no denying the fact that Euphoria is a success. It was named the most tweeted about show of the decade by Twitter, and it dominated the conversation while it was airing. However, the show has a lot of potential with a fantastic cast of actors, and Levinson's direction is really good; if only he would relinquish his control of the writing process and open it up to new voices, the show could become tighter and even better in season three.


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