By: Emmanuelle Feria
“Euphoria,” the teen drama HBO series starring Zendaya as drug addict Rue, premiered over a year ago in 2019, striking a chord in youth culture and America. While controversial among some, it has become extremely popular due to its beautifully raw, honest portrayal of the modern teenage experience, full of the turmoils of self-discovery, drugs, and sex. Evidently popular, the first series earned a critics rating of 82% and an audience rate of 85%.
The first season, making a big impact with only 8 episodes, left fans insatiable, begging for more. HBO and Director Sam Levinson heeded their call by resuming production of the popular series, despite COVID-19 restrictions. The result was the first episode of the second season “Trouble Don’t Last Always,” which aired on December 4th on HBO Max and Netflix.
Upon hearing this and having loved the first season, I thought I’d seize the opportunity to watch and review the episode, long awaited as it was. The episode portrayed Rue’s point of view of the tumultuous events in the last season, particularly Jules’ abrupt leave for New York City and Rue’s relapse showcased in the emotional “All For Us” Montage by Labyrinth in the episode finale. The episode marked another success for all those involved in the project,
Needless to say, the episode was drastically different from the prior 8 episodes. As usual, the episode was beautifully shot. While the signature neon, euphoric atmosphere remained, it was a more reflective, slower paced episode. This was understandable, as it would have been nearly impossible to film a scene as elaborate and full of people– such as the carnival scene in the first season– in the time of COVID. According to Levinson, the diner setting allowed the actors to continue filming within the story’s continuity while maintaining minimal interaction between actors. The episode picked up where the finale of the first season left off, taking place in a diner on Christmas Eve, where drug addict Ru and mentor Ali from her addict support group have a soul-to-soul conversation spanning from Rue’s codependency and heart-break with Jules to her recent relapse.
The episode was admittedly less superficial than the first season. While the first season tackled extensive issues such as mental illness, childhood trauma, and social media, there was a greater focus on setting up the characters, plot and visuals and less of an emphasis on deeper themes.
The episode felt like a well needed group therapy session between Rue, Ali and the viewers. The spine-chilling, powerful episode delved deep into issues of spirituality, codependency, and existentialism. Additionally, it hinted at race relations, capitalist exploitation, and the concept of revolutions. The episode was a stark reality check for Rue, and bleak compared to the rest of the episodes. However, it was a refreshing change from the high energy episodes and acid-like visuals– an appropriate shift for 2020, humanity’s bleakest year yet. Ironically, the episodes didn’t acknowledge the existence of COVID, so it can be assumed that the virus is non-existent in the world of Euphoria. The episode left the season and the fans with a hopeful note, without feeling unrealistic or Hallmark-movie-level cheerful.
While all of the prior episodes had been narrated by Rue, this one had a first person point of view quality. In this episode, Rue wasn’t narrating past events or even present ones. She was far from omniscient, which she was to a certain extent in the prior season, and I felt like I was with her in the moment. It grounded Rue more, in this sense, and made her seem more real, as she was more vulnerable with Ali than viewers had ever seen her. The episode gave the viewers further insight into Rue’s mind, without the curated, idealized tid-bits of her narration.
There were plenty of memorable quotes from the wise Ali as well. Discussing spirituality and the concept of revolutions in one scene, he states that “a true revolution has no allies… a true revolution is at its core… spiritual.” Another memorable one was “Forgiveness is the key to change,” as Ali explained to Rue the importance of forgiving herself for the actions she deemed forgivable, and allowing herself to break her own cycle of addiction and redeem herself.
It was a nice tie to the upcoming Holiday of Christmas, a breath of fresh air after the chaotic brilliance of the prior episode, and a thoughtful escape from our current world. I would highly recommend this episode to fans of Euphoria and to those interested in getting into the show. However, I would definitely recommend watching the first season first.
Categories: Arts & Reviews