Euphoria at its very best.
TELEVISIONHBO MAXLGBTQIA+DRAMATEENMOLLY KUSILKA
Euphoria at its very best.
I am still reeling from the unbearably tense, devastating, hellish ride that was last night’s episode. The brilliance of episode 5 affirms that Euphoria is pretty remarkable when it remembers that it’s about Rue Bennett. Notice that there was no Cal and Nate Jacobs, no gratuitous nudity? Though it still doesn’t make up for the season as a whole still being a bit of a wreck, it does remind us all that there is greatness to be found here when Levinson’s focus is on the right character.
It goes without saying, but Zendaya is nothing short of astonishing throughout the entire course of this episode, and I am eagerly hopping aboard the campaign for her to get that 2nd Emmy award. Aside from the emotion she brought, her physicality in portraying the nightmarish intensity of her withdrawal left me stunned. You could see the agony in every wince and limp, making it impossible to not empathize with her as she is clearly suffering immensely in the throes of a monstrous disease. It’s even more laughable after this episode that D.A.R.E condemned this series for glamorizing drug use, when I have truthfully never seen a more horrifying depiction of the devastating effects of addiction.
The pace of this episode is relentless; I don’t remember the last time I’ve been so glued to a screen for a complete episode runtime, breathless, mouth open, completely riveted. There is such a steady, constantly building tension that begins immediately and never loses steam. In one early moment, amidst the heat of the brutal opening fight between Rue, Gia, and Leslie, we hear Jules’ voice from the hallway. We are so anchored in Rue’s perspective, completely unaware of Jules’ presence until then just as Rue was, that we feel every bit of her utter shock and embarrassment. We stay firmly rooted in Rue’s headspace for the entire runtime, propelled in a constant state of fear and suspense over the unpredictability of her actions and her mounting desperation. How anyone could watch this and not understand and deeply empathize with those suffering from addiction is beyond me. Not only do we witness her pain, but we see the devastation her addiction causes her family. By the episode’s conclusion, Rue has set her life ablaze, damaging or completely severing her relationships with everyone she loves. Nika King and Storm Reid are remarkable, as is Hunter Schafer in that opening sequence. We feel their terror as Rue descends further into irrationality and rage, becoming a near unrecognizable version of herself.
The ending of the episode provides a glimmer of hope, as after practically going to hell and back, Rue makes it out alive and decides to return home. It’s clear from the preview of what’s to come that she has a brutal journey to sobriety ahead. And let’s not forget, in the midst of the madness, there is a brilliantly orchestrated scene in which Rue exposes one of the season’s biggest plotlines with one line of dialogue, revealing to everyone that Cassie is sleeping with Nate. There was such a strong build-up to this moment, and it ultimately plays out as satisfyingly as I would’ve expected thanks to Alexa Demie and Sydney Sweeney’s performances in this scene. Chaos ensues, allowing Rue an easy escape from her would-be intervention. I like that we continue with Rue as she flees rather than staying at Cassie and Lexie’s home to witness the fallout. I think breaking from Rue’s subjectivity would’ve been a mistake, and it adds another layer of tension as we await the aftermath between Maddy and Cassie to play out next week.
Ultimately, this is Rue’s episode. She has fully, unequivocally reached rock bottom in every sense of the phrase. To witness someone we feel such empathy for reach such a complete low is heartbreaking, and it paints a visceral portrait of the real devastation addiction causes. I do wonder how the series will manage to top this; episode 5 is clearly the standout gem of the season, but hopefully not the exception. It exemplifies everything that is good about Euphoria.