Well folks, it finally happened.
TELEVISIONHBO MAXLGBTQIA+DRAMATEENMOLLY KUSILKA
Well folks, it finally happened. Euphoria had a capital B Bad episode. We had a good run! But wow – I have never sat through an episode of this show feeling so completely perplexed and frustrated by Sam’s writing decisions. Sure, writing is notoriously his weakness, but this was a low point, leaving me in utter disbelief that this man does not have a writer’s room, or even just a co-writer! SOMEONE who could have said, let’s go back to the drawing board on this one. Maybe an opening fantasy sequence from Nate’s perspective that fully glamorizes the male gaze and the objectification of women is in fact NOT the move. This opening montage was incredibly jarring and disturbing - the most elaborate visual sequence of the episode being wasted on such a sinister, eye-rolling inner fantasy felt like a stark - and unintentional - tonal disconnect.
What pains me is that Sam Levinson definitely thinks he’s doing something cutting edge, but instead he’s forgoing nuance and character development for shock value, titillation, and cheap thrills. I’m desperately hoping this episode was the worst of it when it comes to the Cal/Nate/Cassie of it all. And Cal - one of the mistakes of this episode was the choice to cut short an incredibly pure and perfectly awkward Lexi and Fez interaction at the gas station, a moment to further and expand their storyline, to instead center Cal and his plight for revenge. The writing sloppily mentions Lexi is passive several times, before rushing through this sequence meant to showcase her growth and abruptly shifting focus to Cal. At this point, we’re going in dizzying circles with Nate and Cal, repeating the same cycle, as they spend another season with their dark and empty presences looming over everything. No real depth, nothing interesting, yet increasing screen time. Make it make sense. I will spare you from discussing the scene in which Nate drives Cassie to a construction site and chases her through a house, because at that point I was just fully contemplating how the hell we got here and what I was watching.
In reality, the good in Euphoria still ultimately outweighs the bad, but this was the first episode where that balance really shifted for me. The strong storylines - the tense and jealousy-charged dynamic between Rue, Elliott, and Jules, and the giddily sweet budding romance between Lexi and Fez - were put on the back burner. Kat and Maddy both had nicely executed sequences that fleshed out their inner thoughts and desires; I’m particularly interested to see how Maddy’s dynamic with Minka Kelly’s character evolves and contributes to her journey towards independence. And of course, a palpable darkness is building as we watch Rue descend deeper into addiction and fully succumb to relapse. There’s a poignant moment between her and Elliot when he finds out her father died. She brushes it off, saying it was forever ago; he counters that no, it was actually pretty recent. It’s a reminder of what Rue is dealing with, the grief she’s carrying and burying deep.
Ultimately, there is a LOT going on in Euphoria right now. There are a ton of characters to juggle, many separate storylines that don’t often intersect, and there’s a major disconnect between the characters the audience wants more of and the characters Sam seems to. I can only hope this episode was a display of Sam’s impulses at their worst.