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'Euphoria' season 2 episode 8 review — the finale ends with a bang

Everything comes to a head in the finale: All My Life Has Yearned For a Thing I Cannot Name.

Zendaya as Rue in Euphoria
(Image: © Eddy Chen/HBO)

Our Verdict

Much like Lexi's play this episode is disjointed, with some satisfying moments.

For

  • *Zendaya's performance.
  • *The Lexi/Rue friendship.
  • *Suze Howard singing the praises of her daughter's play.
  • *The tension in the Fez scenes.

Against

  • *Not enough Cassie, Maddy, and Kat.
  • *Jules once again gets the storyline short straw.
  • *Too much time spent on Elliot's song.
  • *The Nate redemption arc.

Note: this post contains spoilers for Euphoria season 2 episode 8, All My Life Has Yearned For a Thing I Cannot Name.  

Memory, anxiety, and trauma are a foundation of Euphoria and in the first-ever episode, Rue’s (Zendaya) opening voiceover explains she was “born three days after 9/11.” However, it is the death of Rue’s father when she was 14 that is a rupture she struggles to reconcile and it is this defining event that Lexi’s (Maude Apatow) play “Our Life” keeps revisiting. Much like the second season as a whole, this finale is emotionally effective in places but suffers from the fragmented structure and it cannot address the many loose threads left dangling.

“Our Life” covers a series of vignettes that we have already seen play out across two seasons, whether through flashbacks — such as Rue’s father’s memorial — or as present-day events. The first half of the play is a narrative mess for those watching in the school auditorium but hits on some salacious and tension-building moments. Half of the thrill of last week’s episode is from watching the audience reactions and the big dance number was enough to send Nate (Jacob Elordi) stomping out. He also broke up with Cassie (Sydney Sweeney) and her fake smile turns to fury toward her sister after she is dumped.

Maude Apatow in Euphoria

(Image credit: Eddy Chen/HBO)

It is such a meta twist on the goings-on at this high school that at first, it is unclear to the audience whether the real Cassie entering the stage space is part of the play. “You’re just a f***ing bystander,” she yells at her younger sibling and this is obviously not a glowing review of either her art or her sisterhood. Their mother Suze (Alanna Ubach) comes up on stage to try and calm things down — she also praises Ethan for his portrayal of her, which is very sweet. When the crowd starts booing Cassie she goes full villain before screaming “Mom, this isn’t fair.”

Earlier this season, in episode 6, we saw how Cassie avoided accountability. Now, even though she claims she can play the bad guy it is not something she can follow through with. Maddy (Alexa Demie) is more than happy to crown her a “two-faced c***” and removes her shoes when making a dash for the stage to confront her former BFF. Cassie makes a run for it and Maddy is not far behind. “My baby’s a genius,” is Suze’s assessment as she tries to convince the audience that everything they just witnessed was scripted by Lexi.

The play has gone off the rails and creator Sam Levinson uses this moment not to stay with the fighting Cassie and Maddy. Instead, he offers up an interlude showing Rue going to see Elliot (Dominic Fike) a few days earlier. This fragmented approach only emphasizes the structural weakness.   

Cast members from the Euphoria season 2 finale

(Image credit: Eddy Chen/HBO)

Rue thanks him for saving her life and they talk about Jules (Hunter Schafer) and whether they can still be friends if she is clean. For some reason, Sam Levinson also decided this would be a good time for Elliot to sing an entire song — while the sentiment (and Zendaya’s reactions to it) is lovely it also drags. This is what extra content on YouTube is for and it has the unfortunate effect of killing some of the tension.

One other distraction is Nate going to confront his father Cal (Eric Dane) with a gun that is never going to go off — twice this has been used as a red herring. The redemption arc of Nate has been tough to swallow and, while his relationship with his father explains a lot of his behavior, it also feels like he is being let off the hook. Nate has called the cops on his dad and gives them evidence of Cal's illicit activity, but does this also include the video of Jules? Nate claimed he gave Jules the only copy but, in the digital age, there could easily be duplicates.

Javon Walton in Euphoria

(Image credit: Eddy Chen/HBO)

The other incident involving the police is far more fraught and we already know from the empty seat that Fez (Angus Cloud) doesn’t make it to the play. The episode opens at Fez’s home as he is about to leave and Faye (Chloe Cherry) subtly lets him know that something is awry. Custer (Tyler Chase) announces that the cops have found Mouse’s body and Faye's reaction points to the fact that Custer is likely wearing a wire. Ash (Javon Walton) reacts with violence as he tends to do — he killed Mouse — stabbing Custer in the throat. 

A sweet montage of Lexi and Fez’s phone conversations (that Rue mentioned in episode 7) follows directly after this bloody encounter and it paints a picture of a life that is about to be ended in one way or another. When we do return to the drug dealer's house it is clear not everyone is going to come out of this alive, as Ashtray locks himself in the bathroom with an arsenal of weapons. He hits Fez by mistake (though not fatally) and after a massive standoff, Ash is killed. Lexi doesn’t find out what happened or if she does we don’t get to see it — and prison is going to halt the blossoming romance.

There is so much going on that the play is an afterthought, but it is heartening seeing Rue start a “Lexi” chant and after an extended break it does resume. As I mentioned last week it would be understandable if Rue flew into a rage at having her most painful experiences performed on stage. Seeing it through this lens gives Rue a perspective she had been lacking and it is an eye-opening experience. Lexi is translating her own trauma of her alcoholic and then absent father and, while Cassie rages that she is a bystander, her little sister has also been the one holding her family together. It is a lot of weight to put on a teen and this exploration has been a strength this season.

cast members on stage in the Euphoria season 2 Finale

(Image credit: Eddy Chen/HBO)

Unfortunately, for every incredible performance (from the likes of Zendaya, Sweeney and Apatow) there have also been characters left out in the cold, like Jules and Kat (Barbie Ferrari). Much like Lexi’s play, it has been a messy and disjointed season and the resolution is equally bumpy. For Rue, there is finally a semblance of peace and this is one victory that has been well-earned. 

Euphoria season 3 won't return until 2024 and we hope that's enough time to iron out some of these narrative kinks.

More Euphoria reviews

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.