Reel Thoughts: ‘Euphoria’ season two proves the show is brilliant, but not for everyone


Illustration by Olivia Abetya

The last episode of “Euphoria” season two premiered on HBO on Sunday.

Andrés Buenahora, Reporter

Content warning: This article contains mentions of addiction, suicide, kidnapping and abuse.

This article also contains spoilers.

The second season of “Euphoria” was harrowing, emotional and entertaining, and saw viewership ratings increase by nearly 100% from its first season.

The HBO sensation explores the very real, yet horrifying perspective of a drug addict spiraling out of control. The series has already been renewed for a third season, with HBO making the decision halfway through its season two run.

There’s a poignancy to the subject matter the show tackles. “Euphoria” features a dark tone full of violence and sexually explicit content, which makes it a show that only appeals to certain audiences.

Zendaya deserves another Emmy nomination for her latest performance as Rue, elevating our understanding of the character in an empathetic, honest and real way.

Creator Sam Levinson is brilliant and immerses us in a riveting metaphysical perspective that takes over the show. This gives viewers a glimpse into Rue’s mind during her episodic highs, whether she’s defying the laws of gravity by walking on walls or hallucinating people that aren’t really there.

D.A.R.E. and countless other critics have accused the show of glamorizing drug abuse, sex and violence. But “Euphoria” also addresses topics such as mental health, depression and suicide in a way that, while frightening for some, is also authentic.

We see characters that are real. We see Rue at her worst, verbally abusing her mother, sister and girlfriend. We see Cassie’s (Sydney Sweeney) reliance on a relationship with Nate (Jacob Elordi) lead to her own mental breakdown. We see Cal (Eric Dane) scarring his children in a profoundly devastating way through his abusive parenting.

We see Fezco (Angus Cloud) watch his younger brother shot and killed by police — the red dot from the sniper still reflecting in his mind, as in the minds of countless heart-broken fans who took to Twitter to express their anger with the season finale.

While new additions like Elliot (Dominic Fike) influence Rue’s dynamic with other characters, create conflict and shift the plot forward, many familiar faces become lost in the mix.

Kat Hernandez’s (Barbie Ferreira) character arc has done nothing but disappoint since the season one finale, with much of season two painting her as Maddy Perez’s (Alexa Demie) obedient sidekick. Chris McKay (Algee Smith) completely disappeared from the show, as does Laurie (Martha Kelly), the drug dealer who threatened to have Rue “kidnapped and sold to some real sick people” if she didn’t come up with the money for their business deal.

Rue’s family and friends flush thousands of dollars of drugs down the toilet in an effort to stop her addiction and Laurie never comes back into play. Many of these previous plot lines fail to connect to each other or have any satisfying form of resolution.

This season’s score was a significant part of the narrative, with church sounds like organs, choirs and aural aspects of the Black Pentecostal church being employed to evoke a more spiritual tone. This is explored most in the season’s final scene, which sees Rue walking through a church reminiscing over the loss of her father.

Later reflecting on staying clean for the rest of the school year, Rue contemplates in her final monologue: “I remember Ali said, ‘The thought of maybe being a good person is what keeps me trying to be a good person.’ Maybe there’s something to that.”

The song “I’m Tired” — which Zendaya co-wrote with “Euphoria” Composer Labrinth — plays through the final sequence of the season.

“Hey Lord, you know I’m trying … Hey Lord, you know I’m fighting,” she sings in a voiceover as her character walks into the distance in what becomes a vulnerable, touching and beautiful moment of uncertainty and hope — the same hope to overcome addiction that Rue’s sponsor Ali challenged her to find after her recent mental breakdown.

Season two of “Euphoria” gives us an even more intense display of what Levinson’s Emmy-winning masterpiece is known for: stunning cinematography, tragic loss of love and life and extremely entertaining television.

For those who don’t enjoy it, it’s an overly graphic, disturbing and terrifying show. For those who do, it’s a brilliant work of storytelling that values taking artistic risks.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @andresbuena01

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