Some adult language is used in this review.
Euphoria Season 2, written and directed by creator Sam Levinson, is a surreal, innovative teen drama that focuses on teenage drug addict Rue Bennett (Zendaya). Rue attempts to balance her relationship with her new girlfriend, Jules Vaughn (Hunter Schafer), and her reignited drug addiction.
Euphoria is unique because its experimental style doesn’t fit within the television show box, which can sometimes throw the audience off. Rue’s character arc reveals her transformation in the second season. But unfortunately, Cassie Howard’s (Sydney Sweeney) addiction to love sends her down a destructive path.
Dreamlike Euphoria Season 2 creates surreal, fragmented episodes. This dreamlike quality is a positive thing because the episodes are supremely creative. For example, in “You Who Cannot See, Think of Those Who Can,” Rue imagines a series of idealized images of Jules and her love story. Rue’s fantasies are expressed through her and Jules reenacting scenes from movies and paintings like Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus.” However, Rue’s level of intoxication means that she can’t experience an orgasm while Jules gives her cunnilingus. Rue relishes her opioid-enhanced fantasies around her love for Jules, but the drugs interfere with her ability to be present in the relationship.
Audiences can’t just passively watch Euphoria. They must interrogate each episode and even critically watch them multiple times to understand the series. The side effects of having an innovative television show can also lead to audiences struggling to decipher parts of the plot.
Issues with Readability
Every episode of Euphoria Season 2 is packed with fragmented storylines edited together untraditionally. I wrote recaps for every episode of Euphoria Season 2, so I watched all the episodes twice. I sometimes even watched individual scenes multiple times. Even with three or more views, there are sequences that I still don’t quite understand.
Some of the confusing story elements happen because of a readability issue. For the most part, the episodes are not structured like typical television storylines that United States audiences are taught to “read” from childhood. As a result, even though viewers are captivated, at times, they struggle to decipher what is happening on the screen.
The other problem that arises in the series is that sometimes the editing is so fast-paced it is impossible to catch everything. I saw whole scenes for the first time on the second viewing because you can blink and miss one small detail. Everybody can’t or don’t want to watch a TV episode twice, hurting their enjoyment of Euphoria.
It’s crucial for television shows like Euphoria to push audiences to analyze what they see and for every viewer to get something different from a piece of media. However, Levinson’s innovations should not be so complicated that it negatively impacts the viewer’s experience.
Rue’s Character Growth
Rue goes on quite the emotional roller coaster ride in Euphoria Season 2. At the start of the second season, Rue actively pops opioids, only living half in the real world. Nobody except Rue’s new friend Elliot (Dominic Fike) knows she is off the wagon. She snorts, pops, or sniffs all her drugs privately or when hanging out with Elliot. Rue behaves oddly, but she gaslights her family, friends, and girlfriend into thinking everything is okay.
Levinson reveals her unraveling throughout the second season using stylized cinematography and lighting, meta-story elements, and breaking the fourth. However, the unraveling speeds up when she convinces drug dealer Laurie (Martha Kelly) to hand over a suitcase full of pills for her to sell. Instead, Rue takes the pills herself.
The drug addiction turns Rue into a monster erasing her real personality. She starts to bully Jules and sleepwalks through her life. Elliot develops romantic feelings toward Jules. He can’t help but tell Jules that Rue relapsed when they almost had sex. Her mother, Leslie Bennett (Nika King), and little sister Gia Bennett (Storm Reid) stage an intervention. Rue turns into a complete hell beast terrorizing everybody, including Elliot and Jules. She doesn’t want anybody to interrupt her high. She runs away to Laurie’s apartment when Leslie tries to drive her to rehab.
The most ordinarily structured episode is “Stand Still Like the Hummingbird,” which shows Rue’s meltdown, her running away from her family, and the dangerous aftermath. The combination of the bare bone nature of the episode and Zendaya’s raw acting is riveting but painful to watch.
Laurie manipulates Rue into injecting pure morphine into her system. She almost sells Rue into sex slavery, but thankfully the teenager escapes. Rue hits rock bottom at this moment. Back at home, Rue suffers through severe withdrawals but becomes truly clean. She starts to take responsibility for her actions while high and apologizes to everybody except for Jules; she hasn’t forgiven her. Rue admits that she was suicidal before but doesn’t want to die anymore.
By the end of the season, she sees value in herself and thrives on being a better person. Levinson shows Rue’s rehabilitation by erasing the boundary between “reality” and fiction using Lexi Howard’s (Maude Apatow) play. Rue rebuilds her past friendships and becomes part of her family again. For the first time, Rue has hope for the future.
Cassie’s Love Addiction
Cassie is addicted to love, specifically romantic love from a teenage boy. Cassie, unfortunately, doesn’t rehabilitate herself like Rue. Instead, she falls deeper and deeper into the hole of destruction. She exchanges familial and friend affection for fake love from abusive Nate Jacobs (Jacob Elordi). At the beginning of Euphoria Season 2, Cassie swears of boys to allow herself time to figure out all her problems. However, she backslides the minute that Nate pays any attention to her.
Euphoria Season 2 demonstrates her victimhood and addiction to love in several ways. In “The Theater and It’s Double,” Cassie verbally expresses her dependence on love when she tells Nate that she is willing to be his slave if he stays with her. Along with visually in “Ruminations: Big and Little Lies,” when Cassie wakes up every morning at four am to do her beauty routine and dresses in these elaborate sexy outfits to get Nate to look at her.
At one point, she even dresses precisely like her best friend and Nate’s ex-girlfriend Maddy Perez (Alexa Demie) to keep his “love.” Cassie and Nate are stuck in a vicious loop together by the end of the season. In contrast, her healthy relationship with Maddy has been extinguished.
Last Thoughts On Euphoria Season 2
Euphoria Season 2 is already one of my favorite television shows of 2022 because it’s visually innovative and emotionally powerful. The second season is a must-watch with its beautiful cinematography and incredible soundtrack. You can check out Euphoria on HBO or HBO Max.
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