Euphoria (S2E3)

Euphoria is at its best when Nate Jacobs is given minimal screen time and we remember that this is a story about a young girl struggling with addiction at its core.

TELEVISIONHBO MAXLGBTQIA+DRAMATEENMOLLY KUSILKA

Molly Kusilka

1/24/20221 min read

In comparison to last week’s episode, which, let’s be frank, was a low point for this series, this episode was a definite improvement. Euphoria is at its best when Nate Jacobs is given minimal screen time and we remember that this is a story about a young girl struggling with addiction at its core. I still have a few gripes with this episode, so we’ll start with the bad: the 15 minute opening sequence dedicated to Cal Jacobs’ backstory. The scene of young Cal and his best friend finally kissing under a glittering disco ball is glorious, but it didn’t sit right that a moment so beautiful was reserved for such a vile character. I get it, Cal is a tortured soul, and we are clearly meant to empathize with him after learning his backstory. But ultimately, isn’t it already obvious most troubled people come from troubled upbringings? This sequence isn’t the illuminating, mind-changing thing Levinson wanted it to be. And I grow increasingly frustrated with every gorgeously shot sequence that is wasted on the purpose of trying to get us to sympathize with Cal and Nate. 

Now for what should have been the actual beginning of the episode, a dark and fun dance sequence of Rue under the influence, which then transitions to her showing the viewers how she’s able to get away with keeping her addiction secret, for now that is. I loved the callback to one of last season’s most memorable sequences, and the work Storm Reid does in her argument with Rue is fantastic.

Now for the  juicy scene between Jules, Rue, and Elliott that really moves their dynamic forward in all the worst ways. It becomes clear here that Elliott is being intentionally messy and enjoying his newfound spot in the middle of Rue and Jules’ romance. He proceeds to tell Jules he has a crush on Rue before then confessing his feelings to Jules, while also instigating doubt in her mind about her relationship with Rue. This will definitely not end well, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t enjoying the messiness of this new dynamic.

One thing I loved about this episode were the moments of pure lighthearted comedy, a refreshing shocker for Euphoria, and it made me crave more moments of levity on the show. There’s a fun sequence of Rue, Elliott, and Jules playing pranks at school that shows just how giddy these three are to have found each other. There’s also a mockumentary sequence from Lexi’s perspective; while funny, I’m not really sold on Lexi’s play storyline. It’s a bit too ridiculous and feels like the result of Sam just not knowing what to do with her character, a common theme that honestly seems to be greatly affecting most of the characters outside of Rue. The true comedic gem was a sequence in which Fez and Ashtray interrogate Cal as Faye watches. Everyone in this scene is hilariously on a far different page and utterly confused. Fez is still calling Jules ‘Jewel,’  Faye doesn’t know who Jules is, and Cal is processing the fact that Fez in fact does not have the disc and the news that his son just might be in love with Jules. Everyone plays this brilliantly, and the cherry on top was getting to see Ashtray hit Cal with a gun an innumerable amount of times.

It was so refreshing to finally see a glimpse into Cassie’s mind this episode, even if it revealed she is completely, utterly unhinged right now. Her desperation to be the object of Nate’s gaze is horrid to watch, but seeing its toxicity from her perspective instead of Nate’s was a welcome change, and I can only hope Cassie grows from this. Kat and Maddy have brief scenes that reaffirm what their oversimplified arcs are this season: Kat is realizing she doesn’t love herself enough to be in a relationship and she doesn’t love Ethan; Maddy is discovering a more mature, kind, and maternal side of herself. Still, a brief scene of Maddy babysitting and of Kat at dinner feels like a disservice to their characters. I’m just not sure Sam knows how to write them when it’s not about their sexuality. This is also a problem I fear happening with Jules, who noticeably has only appeared these past couple episodes when with Rue. Elliott makes a joke about Jules being a trans girl wearing a binder, and I wondered why we the audience hadn’t known that until now. It feels like Jules’ journey has been sidelined a bit, and I’m hoping this changes as we head into the latter half of the season.

The episode ends with Nate attempting to win Maddy back so he can get his hands on the disc, a scene that didn’t feel like it belonged as the big final moment when there are more important things going on. Namely the fact that Rue is spiraling, rapidly. From the heart-wrenching scene with Ali (Colman Domingo was so insanely good here), to Rue finessing her way into the possession of a suitcase full of drugs that she has no intention of selling, she is headed for disaster. Zendaya plays Rue with such commitment and conviction that it’s impossible to not feel the mounting suspense and a genuine sense of fear for where this is going in the next few episodes. I will be tuning in, excited for the chaos but utterly terrified.