Euphoria (S2E4)

No plot, just vibes.

TELEVISIONHBO MAXLGBTQIA+DRAMATEENMOLLY KUSILKA

Molly Kusilka

2/3/20222 min read

No plot, just vibes.

Sam Levinson has reached new levels of unhinged with this episode. I am constantly conflicted between loving how well Rue’s addiction and mental health is handled and how increasingly poorly written much of the other characters are. I still attribute this to Sam really not knowing how to write anyone but Rue. It’s become evident this season who some of Levinson’s favorites are; for example, Eric Dane is given triple the dialogue as Barbie Ferreira, which is a problem. This started as a show about a teen addict and more broadly, a group of teenage girls, and somehow we’ve now reached a point where Cal and Nate Jacobs, the poster children for toxic masculinity, have more screentime than Kat, Maddy, and Lexi combined. 

There was a particularly bad dance sequence in which we spent an ungodly amount of time with Cal, and a poor choice to cross-cut it with Cassie dancing, in a bizarre, unsuccessful attempt to draw a parallel that does not exist between the two. A teenage girl having a drunken breakdown and a predatory middle aged man dancing in a gay bar -  it was one of many perplexing choices this episode. In another entirely too long Cal scene, Eric Dane delivers a lengthy, unrealistic, completely uncharacteristic monologue to his family in which he tells them he’s leaving them, tired of repressing his true self and living a lie. It was a painfully deliberate attempt at garnering sympathy for a character who doesn’t really warrant it. Nevermind the poor dialogue.

And now for more nonsensical decisions by Sam Levinson: Jules and Elliott buy and drink alcohol with Rue in the car then admonish her for drinking a can too. Jules kisses Elliott, Rue kisses Elliott, Elliott confesses to Jules he’s been doing drugs with Rue, and Jules responds to this by sleeping with him. There is a closing montage with tableaus ranging from stunning (a clearly unstable Cassie surrounded by flowers at her vanity) to ones that are cringey reminders of the characters we barely get to see anymore (a random insert of Kat and Ethan looking glib in a car). This episode veers just a bit too far into the abstract and artsy to where it tips into feeling forced, as if Sam is using shocking and jaw-dropping visuals to overcompensate and distract from weak dialogue, whether it’s intentional or subconscious on his part.

And then just as I was reaching the consensus that this episode was disappointing, there is a sequence that reminds me of what I love about euphoria. Rue is extremely, extremely high, and in her drug trip reunites with her father, telling him how badly she misses him as she cries in his arms. It’s a moment she clearly aches for with every fiber of her being. We cut to reality, an exquisite, heart-wrenching shot of Rue in her bedroom swaying alone. I found this sequence deeply emotional, a powerful illustration of the extent to which Rue is suffering, the intensity of the grief and loss she feels. Euphoria is just so good when it’s focused on a teenage girl battling grief, mental illness, and addiction. It’s in the transcendent, spiritual sequences like this one that it’s almost easy to forget much of this series’ messiness.