Creator: Sam Levinson
Writer: Sam Levinson
Director: Sam Levinson
Cast: Zendaya, Hunter Schafer, Angus Cloud, Jacob Elordi, Sydney Sweeney, Alexa Demie, Maude Apatow, Alexa Demie, Algee Smith, Barbie Ferreira
Streaming on: Disney+ Hotstar
This includes mild spoilers from Season 1
Euphoria has always attempted the exercise of psychoanalysis. Each episode is introduced with a dizzying amount of exposition about a particular character’s past, to always rationalise their present behaviour. If not sympathy, it evokes pity for them, at the very least. Season 2 begins with Fez (Angus Cloud), Rue’s (Zendaya) dealer-cum-pal. He takes after his grandmother, a headstrong dealer, who, inspired by Tony Montana’s granite determination, sought revenge against those who wronged her, pummelling them with a crowbar. In a scene in which she warns Fez’s father not to touch him again, she shoots his legs mid-blowjob, leaving his penis dangling helplessly between both bullets. Sam Levinson’s confidence in the script is palpable, allowing the episode to progress in a similar, self-assured fashion.
In the final few episodes of Season 1, Euphoria hinted that Rue possibly suffered from bipolar disorder. She oscillated between manic and depressive states all too often (the gradations of the “highs” and “lows” marginally resembled Succession‘s Kendall Roy). The drugs fogged her brain. It was dictatorial. When she was on them, they muted the mania and depression. When she was off them, her mania and depression were more pronounced, guiding her back to a lifestyle of pill popping.
After being abandoned by Jules (Hunter Schafer) — a friend who was also more than a friend — at the train station, Rue took to drugs (in a way, Jules, too, was her drug). In the opening episode of S2, you see her eyes bloodshot with psychedelics. She’s in a trance throughout — when it gets unbearable, she crushes adderall and snorts it. This episode does not have the sensory extravagance of the preceding season. It is lurid, not by style but emotion. Rue cannot trust people. They leave, drugs don’t. Empathy replaces the first season’s cynicism. Everything that rushes into her bloodstream is a product of her past. Sam Levinson’s decision to shift the show’s lens, rather subtly, is radical and bold. Despite your distance from the subject, it feels more personal this time.
The second half of the episode is an unceasing bacchanal. It is a New Year’s Eve party crowded with seventeen, eighteen-year-olds. It is immersive but also thrilling. A bathroom sex scene ends with the girl hiding and crouching in a bathtub because her hookup also dated her best friend, who is pounding the door out of sheer desperation to avoid a UTI. But the thrill is also visceral. Blood, cum, booze — all that one can think of — are splattered across the house. Euphoria thrives in these settings. An unexpectedly endearing conversation between Fez and Lexi (Maude Apatow) — both away from substances — inadvertently reminds you of the perks of sobriety. Meanwhile, in another room, a kid who can’t get laid turns violently sour. This is Euphoria’s signature dish — a melange of teens and hormones.
This is Angus Cloud’s episode, however, not Zendaya’s. He plays Fez — a bumbling and delightful drug dealer whose expressions deceive you into believing that he’s perpetually spaced out — with great sensitivity. He has the demeanour of Jesse Pinkman, a man never meant to be in the drug peddling business. His younger partner — who they call “Ashtray” because he’d munch on Marlboros as a baby — takes more from Fez’s grandma (he literally hammered someone to death). This episode has the most satisfying, fulfilling ending of the series so far. It is Fez’s moment to shine. And when he does, he doesn’t pull his punches.
Euphoria is currently streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.