If there is one thing about Euphoria that I enjoy, it’s that things aren’t always as they seem - and episode 2 acts as an effective reminder.
There are a multitude of themes on display to back this up but ‘morality’ is by far my favourite. At first glance, the show is filled with lawless, hedonistic characters that have no moral compass whatsoever. Many criticisms of the first season are that it isn’t relatable and too far fetched but people have come forward to share similar real-life experiences.
Rue does drugs when she wants, Nate has sex when he wants and with whoever he wants and the rest fall somewhere between the spectrum. However, as the plot thickens, it would be completely reductive to say that there aren’t morals involved. Instead, it feels like Euphoria operates on its own set of rules.
In theory, right and wrong are as clear as black and white but real life creates that grey area that makes it harder to pinpoint. Euphoria is one big fucking grey area. There is imperfection in every character and we see that constantly on different levels. On the lower end, we see Jules being possessive and clingy towards Rue and on the other side, there are people like Fez who bottles people at parties but also houses Custer’s girlfriend (and shares his sandwich with her). But someone who seems to sit firmly in the middle of that moral grey is Rue. And I love it.
Throughout the episode, it feels as if she is being pulled in each direction by her blemished angel and devil sitting on her shoulder in Elliot and Jules, but it isn’t clear cut to us as viewers which role each of them takes on. Elliot is easy to identify as the bad guy at first, who enables Rue’s addiction but is quick to realise and point out they “don’t bring out the best” in each other. Jules on the other hand is largely seen in an angelic light - even when it comes to the cinematography and wardrobe. In season 1 episode 6, we see Jules dressed as an angel for Halloween, mimicking Clare Danes' outfit from Romeo + Juliet but the awkward hallway encounter from this episode paints her in a different light. Rue pretends not to know Elliot for Jules' sake and although she means well, are Jules' expectations preventing Rue from being her uncensored and authentic self? Who we identify as the angel or devil is irrelevant at this point in the season. Acknowledging that both the people she finds intriguing are flawed is an indication that whichever direction she heads in isn’t too promising.
Another case of twisted ‘morality’ is Nate’s pseudo-redemption arc. The beginning of the episode sees Nate fantasise about a life with Cassie where he falls in love with her. Although he blames it on potential brain damage from being folded like a soft pretzel, the detail and intricacies of the story he tells is a side of Nate that I never expected to see. From Season 1, his means of communication has always been physical: from fighting to sex and sports. The dream showed a ‘gentler’ side to him, as strange as it is to say. I don’t believe Sam Levinson’s goal was to humanise Nate in this scene or make him likeable to Euphoria fans (and if it was it didn’t work), if anything it was to show that Nate doesn’t believe he is a completely immoral person in his own mind. In his deep deep subconscious, he is someone deserving of intimacy and healthy affection - most of the Euphoria characters believe this but don’t mirror it with their actions, which would explain Nate ending things with Cassie and Maddy wanting to go back to Nate.
Kat is the exception.
Seeing Kat’s dream state against Nate’s in the same episode is an amazing contrast. Not only is the scene important in understanding her psyche, it also doubles as an important message and piece of social commentary. Hearing “love yourself” from the imaginary influencers around her room stresses that wanting to be comfortable and confident in herself isn't the issue, it's the lack of representation in the positivity she receives. It’s easier coming from those who fit the traditionally attractive mould and harder to hear for those who don’t. As a result, it's almost effortless for Kat to engage in damaging and self-sabotaging behaviours, with Ethan as collateral and the fictional Khal Drogo lookalike coming out on top.
With the ‘teen’ drama creating its own ethical rules, it's only fair to judge their right and wrong decisions accordingly. There is a reason we didn’t sympathise with Nate on New Year’s Eve and why we are numbed to the idea of Rue using again. Despite only being at the second hurdle of the series, Euphoria has completely dismantled and reassembled its book of values and I have high hopes for the carnage that follows.