What to Watch Verdict
Two steps forward and one step back is the pattern for this season, but it is another episode with some strong moments.
The pop culture moments in the opening sequence are fun
Secrets are finally coming out
It is not pleasant to watch, but Rue's slide feels authentic
Getting closer to Cassie revealing the truth
Kat's story is going in circles
Was Austin Abrams unavailable? He is barely in this season (even in comparison to season 1)
So much drunk driving with no ramifications
Midway through Euphoria’s second season, secrets are beginning to spill as multiple characters are already hitting a breaking point. Affairs and drugs are at the heart of these various spirals, which plays into the self-destructive theme that has dominated since New Year’s Eve. This includes Rue’s (Zendaya) path toward oblivion, Cal’s (Eric Dane) repression and Cassie (Sydney Sweeney) edging closer to blowing up her friendship group. It is a slightly stronger episode as a result of these developments, benefitting from someone like Jules (Hunter Schafer) no longer being kept in the dark.
The opening once again deviates from the usual framework as rather than a fantasy flash-forward Rue instead imagines Jules as famous artworks (like Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus”). This is followed by Rue and Jules in various romantic movies that, with the exception of the animated Snow White (complete with a note offering consent), feature couples who end the movie separated by death. In each case, Rue is portraying the character who dies. This is rather ominous considering the copious amount of drugs the teenager is taking and what could be considered a death wish. Sam Levinson’s series excels at these stylistic moments that riff on culture, however, flashy sequences like this are also holding the series back.
- In the US? You can watch Euphoria S2 E4 on HBO Max now (opens in new tab)
“I don’t think you understand how much I love Jules,” Rue tells the audience before this meme-ready sequence unfolds. After last week’s conversation about Rue’s lack of sex drive, Jules is trying to add some heat into the relationship, but drugs in Rue’s system have dulled every feeling. Her repeated assertions that it is “amazing” aren’t fooling anyone and neither is her strained attempts at faking an orgasm. Jules knows something is up and chooses to confide in Elliot (Dominic Fike); as predicted in last week’s review, this pair goes from flirtation to smooching. They only stop when Rue texts to say she is outside. By the end of the episode, Elliot has revealed the extent of Rue’s drug use, including heroin, fentanyl and benzos.
Rue can no longer hide in the cover drug story she laid out last week, instead retreating into the imagined space in which her dad resides. Rue laments that she has let him down and this haunting scene suggests it won’t be long until Rue will have to face another intervention. In the meantime, Jules and Elliot are getting closer and tough times are ahead for Rue and Jules shippers.
Meanwhile, it is Maddy’s (Alexa Demie) birthday and BFF Cassie is hosting an intimate boozy party at her house — her mom continues her embodiment of Amy Poehler’s Mean Girls “cool mom.” Nate (Jacob Elordi) is still the object of both their affections; he plays house with Maddy while she babysits, while continuing to hook up with Cassie on the side. Cassie hears both sides of this champagne drinking story and is furious with Nate. She claims she is trying to stop Maddy from engaging in a toxic relationship with him, but she is fooling no one — except maybe herself. We also get to see Nate’s manipulative side at play, as he tries to use an “I love you” as a means to control.
When Nate arrives at the birthday gathering with a gift for Maddy from Tiffany’s it sends Cassie into a tailspin. She downs drinks and awkwardly dances (or rather sways) by herself; Lexi (Maude Apatow) is getting more material for her play. “That was certainly a choice,” Kat (Barbie Ferreira) quips when Cassie reappears dressed in a provocative bathing suit in a bid to catch Nate’s eye. Sweeney is excellent once again as the wasted teen who ends the hot tub hangout when she throws up (including over the birthday girl), but how long is she going to be stuck in this crisis? She doesn’t tell her best friend the truth but she is nearing her breaking point. Hopefully it is only a matter of time.
One thing Maddy does notice is how despondent Kat is; suffice to say her boyfriend is the root of her problems. “I can’t f***ing stand Ethan,” she explains about the guy who is perfectly pleasant but not much else — in part because his character is so paper-thin. This storyline has had such short shrift that part of me wonders whether Austin Abrams wasn’t available for a lot of the shooting schedule. We briefly see Ethan and Kat together in the final sequence but both characters are suffering from their lack of screentime.
Instead, we get more Cal (Eric Dane). The purpose of the previous episode's 15-minute flashback is to offer a somewhat sympathetic take on Nate’s dad. Burying his sexuality in illicit hookups has created an atmosphere of lying at home and it all spills out (quite literally) when Cal gets drunk enough to tell his two sons that he sleeps with men. The first part of his drinking bender sees him drive the car from his youth to the gay bar where he experienced a brief moment of authentic happiness. Playfulness quickly flips to aggression and he can’t even find acceptance here, which is when he drives home to tell his family how he really feels. He is a vision of what is to come and this bleak ghost of the future is Euphoria at its most nihilistic.
I was convinced that Cal was going to get in a car crash with Elliot, Jules and Rue. It is surprising no one has been involved in an automobile accident considering how much driving under the influence takes place on a weekly basis.
The final sequence is awash with the kind of beautiful shots that Euphoria excels at, which includes a teary Cassie surrounded by flowers in her bathroom looking like another Botticelli fantasy to mirror the opening. Aesthetically this series is on top, but it needs more than striking framing. Thankfully, now that some characters have been unburdened of the weight of their lies it means there is a chance to move forward (or slide further back) and Rue’s recovery of paramount importance.
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.