What to Watch Verdict
The second season of 'Euphoria' is getting bogged down by the adults in the room, but there are some intriguing developments.
Sydney Sweeney retains the season 2 MVP title
Lexi's 'art imitates life' storyline
The Oklahoma! outfit conversation
Rue's infectious dance
The opening flashback was longer than necessary
The meta element veers toward self-indulgent
Dragging a suitcase packed with narcotics to an Narcotics Anonymous meeting is not Rue’s (Zendaya) finest hour. It is safe to say that Rue has not been sober for any of the first three episodes of Euphoria’s second season, and her tactics for getting high are increasingly alarming. She is back wearing her father’s burgundy hoodie and the latest troubling development sees her going into the drug dealing business to cut out the middleman.
Creator Sam Levinson offers a reminder that Rue is not a figure to find hope in. “Unfortunately, I’m not it,” Rue says directly to the viewer in a sequence that taps into the heightened stylistic element. In another tutorial with Elliot (Dominic Fike) as Rue’s slideshow-clicking partner in crime, she lays the groundwork for explaining the enthusiastic musical number her younger sister Gia (Storm Reid) has just witnessed. The over-the-top routine set to the Bobby Darin track playing in her head is an instant red flag to her sibling that she ha relapsed (if Gia only knew the extent).
“Are you high?” Gia asks with a mix of concern, anger and sadness. Rue is prepared for this scenario and there is an element of tonal whiplash that Levinson’s teen drama steers into. It is a playful sequence with dark undertones in which Rue explains her need to drop hints about smoking pot (she claims it helps with her anxiety); Zendaya’s charm further adds to its effectiveness. Breaking the fourth wall during this sequence is an additional reminder that Euphoria is taking a fantastical approach to adolescence, although the surface-level gloss doesn’t leave much room for developing these ideas further.
It seems unlikely that no one else has caught on that Rue has been permanently high, which includes those who know to look for the signs. The only person who really challenges her beyond Gia is Ali (Colman Domingo), but Rue twists the stories he told her in confidence against him. Cruel jabs are her way of pushing him away and it points to the dangerous spiral she is currently caught in.
Elliot is an active participant in this activity, but now that Jules (Hunter Schafer) has joined their hangouts it disrupts the cozy twosome. Jules was convinced she wasn’t going to get along with Elliot and yet (somewhat predictably) there is a flirty vibe that will likely worry Rue and Jules shippers. It doesn’t help that Rue is preoccupied with her new business venture and everything is starting to slip through her fingertips.
Lie after lie exits Rue's mouth, which includes telling her mom that she auditioned for Lexi’s (Maude Apatow) production of Oklahoma!, except she was so high that she missed the point that Lexi has written an original play. Rue and Lexi often sit on the outside looking in, but Lexi is funneling her observational skills into this artistic endeavor. Euphoria leans into the meta aspects thanks to Lexi’s semi-autobiographical text centered on her relationship with her sister. While Cassie (Sydney Sweeney) obsessively wakes up at 4 a.m. to get ready for school (and trying to get Nate to notice her), Lexi lies in the bed opposite typing out their fraught interactions as dialogue.
Before the students like Ethan (Austin Abrams) line up to audition, Rue’s voiceover explains how Lexi’s passive state is a coping mechanism she utilizes to deal with how chaotic her family life has been. Instead of running toward destruction as her sister does, Lexi treats the whole mess like a movie she is watching. Taking control means using these moments for her play and a behind-the-scenes style vignette of Lexi talking to the camera about “This Is Life” — a not-so-subtle mash-up of This Is Us and My So-Called Life. Apatow sells this show-within-a-show idea but it runs the risk of self-indulgence.
Talk of Oklahoma! does lead to one of the funniest interactions of the episode, when after pretty much dressing like a Maddy (Alexa Demie) clone, Cassie’s gingham ensemble reads like she’s auditioning for the musical. Thanks to her lack of sleep and on-edge state (lying to your best friend will do that), Cassie blurts out the truth about her hookups with Nate (Jacob Elordi). However, in reality, she says nothing, and this yo-yo behavior gives Sweeney the MVP crown once more.
It' been three weeks of Friday night Nate and Cassie illicit hangouts, and Euphoria continues the unfortunate trend of parents being able to hear their kids having sex (see also, And Just Like That ...). This causes Nate’s mom and dad to have a moment of nostalgia that taps into the flashback sequence that opened the episode. After last week’s format change (which showed Nate’s fantasy future), Euphoria returns to its origin story opener. It is a rather long depiction of Cal’s (Eric Dane) teen years when he was in love with his best friend but ended up married to Nate’s mom. I don’t think there is anything particularly revelatory within this nearly 15-minute sequence that shows teens in the early ‘90s were just as horny and confused. Yes, Cal was restricted by society’s prejudice, his father’s homophobia and the fact he looked like the all-American jock, but it reads like the show excusing his aggression in the present — I think most viewers have figured out why.
Cal’s whole world could come crashing down thanks to the missing tape that he incorrectly thinks Fez (Angus Cloud) has. After surveilling Fez’s home, he gets a quick education in who he is messing with. Ash (Javon Walton) repeatedly hits Cal over the head with the gun; considering how much Cal flexes his dominance there is some pleasure to be found in him getting bested by a child who is half his size — yes, it is also disturbing in that patented Euphoria fashion.
Of course, Fez has nothing to do with the missing disc and the reason he beat up Nate wasn’t specifically tied to this recording, as Nate told Cal. Teens and tweens are running circles around a man whose disappointments in how his life turned out have manifested in unchecked toxic masculinity.
Euphoria is stronger when portraying this dark fantasy version of adolescence and the second season is being held back by the adults in the room.
Emma Fraser spends most of her time writing about TV, fashion, and costume design; Dana Scully is the reason she loves a pantsuit. Words can also be found at Vulture, Elle, Primetimer, Collider, Little White Lies, Observer, and Girls on Tops. Emma has a Master’s in Film and Television, started a (defunct) blog that mainly focused on Mad Men in 2010, and has been getting paid to write about TV since 2015. It goes back way further as she got her big start making observations in her diary about My So-Called Life’s Angela Chase (and her style) at 14.