Euphoria is calling. But, before we answer the phone, it is my civic duty to warn you that there are MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD. IF YOU HAVE NOT WATCHED THE SECOND SEASON OF EUPHORIA, AND YOU PLAN TO, BOOKMARK THIS SHIT/MARK IT AS UNREAD AND COME BACK TO IT. If you send me an angry email for spoiling the show for you, I will send Maddy after you, and she won’t be wearing any shoes.
One more thing before we get into it: This is more of a recap than a review. So, if you’re looking for some sort of critical analysis, you’re in the wrong place. I’m not that smart; I only subscribed to The New Yorker for the free tote!
That being said, let’s get into what is now HBO’s second most-watched show behind Game of Thrones. After becoming an instant smash success with Season 1, the Sam Levinson-penned teen drama returned this year after a two-year hiatus, with the entire principial cast returning, helmed by Professional Goddess (and one of the show’s executive producers), Zendaya. Plus, we have some newcomers, like singer-songwriter Dominic Fike, who is probably getting booked for a Balmain campaign as I type this, and Chloe Cherry, who is a perfect angel.
After that jaw-dropping season finale from the show’s first season in 2019, we open with a house party celebrating New Year’s.
CAN WE PAUSE FOR A MOMENT TO DISCUSS THESE HIGH SCHOOL HOUSE PARTIES ON EUPHORIA?????????? Are these parties sponsored by Sephora???????? Is Lady Gaga’s lighting designer behind the ambience for them? WHERE ARE THEIR PARENTS?
I would love a split-screen of the house parties in Euphoria and my own personal experience attending—albeit seldomly—house parties in high school. When I did go, it was, like, fifteen people drinking beer that someone’s older cousin bought around a kitchen island while the parents were in Rhode Island for the weekend. The wardrobe was ninety percent Hollister and dELiA*s. Overhead lighting was present in abundance. I didn’t even fool around with anyone in a bathroom until college!
But I digress.
Anyway, Cassie starts hooking up with Nate, who, at the time, was broken up with Maddy, Cassie’s best friend, and they continue their saucy rendezvous in the bathroom of the house party, until Maddy starts pounding on the door.
Nate and Cassie panic while Maddy pounds on the door, the thuds increasing in frequency and force. At one point, Maddy screams, “ARE YOU TAKING A SHIT AT A PARTY?” We, the audience, know that he is not. For the sake of the narrative, he is definitely not. But, in regular life, HE COULD VERY WELL BE. You don’t know if his IBS is flaring up, Maddy! Have some compassion! NORMALIZE SHITTING AT HOUSE PARTIES. AT CLUBS. AT NOBU. SOLIDARITY!
Eventually, Cassie hides by crawling into the tub and drawing the curtain while Nate exits, allowing Maddy to relieve her full bladder.
I’M STILL HOLDING MY BREATH FROM THIS SCENE.
Jules and Rue's relationship continues to oscillate between will they and won’t they, things going swimmingly at the beginning, but stalling due to obstacles like intimacy issues and Rue’s continued drug use, which Jules does not know about—yet. Sparks fly between Lexi and Fezco when they sequester themselves to the couch at the house party, two outsiders among a bevy of hip, trendy teens. Their chemistry is tangible from the get-go, bubbling like a cauldron as they confide in each other throughout the season, especially as Lexi prepares to debut her real-life-inspired play in front of all of Euphoria High (not the actual name of their school, but since we’ve never been given one, Twitter picked one itself). No sooner does Lexi get his phone number than Fez excuses himself to beat up Nate for anonymously calling the police on him last season.
After Nate’s bitchass recuperates (ugh! Just d*e!), he and Cassie continue their sordid affair, sneaking around and meticulously planning their meet-ups so as to not provoke suspicion from Maddy. Meanwhile, Rue continues to hang out with Elliot (Dominic Fike), whom she met in the laundry room at the aforementioned house party. They continue to enable each other’s drug use until they bring Jules into the fold, and, before long, a love triangle begins to form: Elliot admits to having feelings for Rue, but sexual tension between Elliot and Jules results in passionate bouts of making out, and, later, the sex.
But everything between the trio implodes when Elliot confesses to giving Rue hard drugs. Jules is shocked and upset, despite all the signs—the glassy eyes, the slurred speech—being right there the whole time.
Then shit hits the fan.
Yup, I’m talking about That Episode. Rue’s recently hatched plan to deal drugs, in order to pay for more drugs, comes to a screeching halt when Rue’s mom flushes an entire suitcase filled with pills—ten-thousand-dollars’ worth, to be exact—down the toilet, when she discovers that Rue is using again.
Those drugs weren’t the only thing getting flushed down the toilet, because I immediately got diarrhea after realizing that those drugs were given to her by Laurie, the eerily terrifying teacher-turned-kingpin whom we meet earlier in the season. Laurie, impressed by—let’s go with—Rue’s business proposal (which is to blackmail a bunch of girls at school to sell drugs??????), agrees to give her the suitcase filled with drugs, but warns not to betray her, or else she’ll send some “sick people” after Rue. If you know Laurie, you know that she is not bluffing.
Back at home, Rue turns the house upside down looking for the pills, her addiction coming to a boiling point: It is then that we see the unvarnished reality of her addiction, the carnal rage that takes over when put into a corner, stripped from her access to vice. Her little sister, Gia, watches on with an equal mix of terror and frustration. Her mother, realizing there’s little she can do to contain Rue’s intensifying belligerence, shields her youngest from the escalating threat of violence instead. It is hard to watch, especially for anyone who’s in recovery for addiction, or loves someone who is.
Rue continues to scream at her mother, pleading with her to give her back the suitcase filled with pills, until she realizes that Jules is in the house, as is Elliot, and it dawns on her that they both have betrayed her. She redirects her rage at Jules, claiming that she wishes she’d never even met her, and storms off, crumbling in the hall until she, finally, agrees to let her mom drive her to the hospital.
But Rue’s mother does not intend to take her daughter to the hospital; that’s just a ploy to get her in the car, so she can take her to rehab. Once Rue realizes this, she bolts. Running through traffic, through alleys, through yards, through people’s parties, all while trying to evade the police, which she, eventually, does.
She ends up at Cassie and Lexi’s house, where the girls—Maddy, Kat, Cassie, and Cassie and Lexi’s wino mom—are having a girls’ night. Someone (probably Cassie and Lexi’s mom, because she can clearly see that Rue is not OK) calls Rue’s mom, who arrives to pick her up, but not before Rue leads Maddy to the truth about Cassie and Nate!
Maddy loses it and goes after Cassie who runs upstairs into her room and locks herself in her bathroom until Maddy leaves. (I’m willing to suspend quite a bit of disbelief, but every teen in this show having their own bathroom???????????????? C’MON.)
Let me address something really quickly that you’re probably all asking: where the fuck is Kat? Bitch, same. Kat, whom we do not see NEARLY as much of this season, is sort of relegated to the sidelines, which is a stark departure from her rich interior life that we’d only just begun exploring in Season 1. Apparently, according to internet fodder, actress Barbie Ferreira clashed with creator and showrunner Sam Levinson, resulting in cut storylines. BOO HISS.
But we do dig deeper into other characters, like Nate’s dad, Cal, whom you may recall from Season 1 as the DL dude who has sex with Jules and tapes it—without her consent. Also, she was underage. So, we already hate him. Anyway, we learn that he fell in love with his best friend, Derek, in high school, but his life—and any chance of reconciling himself with his burgeoning queerness—comes to halt when he learns that his girlfriend is pregnant, ergo starting him down the path of the double life we see him living in the present day. But that double life is exposed, of Cal’s own volition, which results in him walking out on his family (and also whipping his dick out and peeing in the foyer), but they’re not exactly devastated about it since they all kind of hate him?????
In the meantime, Rue commits to recovery—again. Cassie and Maddy have not spoken to each other since Rue exposed Cassie’s and Nate’s secret relationship; Nate gets the clue that something is up, his phone blowing up with calls from Cassie, and radio silence from Maddy, with whom he tried to reconcile a few episodes earlier, the duplicitous fuck. Fez and Lexi hang out and watch Stand by Me, shedding tears and holding hands, and then I pop up behind the couch between them and shout, “U 2 GONNA KISS OR WHAT?????????”
At long last, we reach the final two episodes: We finally get to see the play that Lexi’s been writing in the periphery of the whole season. Based on the life of herself and her friends, Lexi’s play, which, apparently, had the same budget as the national tour of Kinky Boots, receives reactions that run the gamut. The strongest of which comes from her sister, Cassie, who feels more exploited than anything.
Let us revisit Lexi’s magnum opus in memes, shall we? They do far more justice than my words ever could.
The most upsetting part of it all? FEZ NEVER MAKES IT TO THE PLAY; LEXI SAVED HIM THE BEST SEAT IN THE HOUSE.
Also in the finale: a police shoot-off leaves Fez wounded, and leaves Ash, who Fez considers his younger brother, dead. Nate confronts his dad, Cal, and reveals to be in possession of a USB stick, which contains evidence of Cal having sex with minors just as the police roll up outside. Rue attempts to make amends with Elliot, who sings her a song for approximately twenty-eight minutes. Listen, I liked the song—my eyes actually welled up—but SAVE IT FOR STREAMING, HO. WE ARE LOSING VALUABLE MADDY MINUTES. (Side note: is “Maddy Minutes” my new drag name?) Rue forgives Jules for her betrayal, giving her a kiss on the forehead, and then exits the auditorium into the parking lot. Roll the end credits.
It's a tidy ending—for Rue—but not for everything else that’s still hanging in the air: Will Cassie and Maddy ever be friends again? Will Rue and Jules get back together? What about Elliot? What will happen to Fez? What will Laurie’s wrath look like? WILL ANY ACTUAL ADULTS GRACE THE HALLS OF EUPHORIA HIGH OR????????
Thankfully, Euphoria is already renewed for a third season, so hopefully some of these questions will get answered. The not-so-great news? We have to wait until 2024. But look at the bright side: at least that gives us enough time to perfect some make-up deserving of Maddy’s friendship.
Photo credits: All images via HBO.