The other day I found myself in a pretty awkward position. I was asked what TV I was currently watching by an older colleague, a sweet middle-aged woman who often tells me stories about her 12-year-old daughter. In what can only be described as a lapse in judgement, I bypassed the safe response of “oh I’m just re-watching Friends”, and went straight into “I’m watching season 2 of Euphoria, have you seen it?”
Of course she hasn’t seen it, you fool. So, I was greeted with the inevitable follow-up question – “what’s it about?!”. It’s not the detailing of the sex or the drugs or the explicit nudity that make this question awkward – it’s the want for a tangible answer and the difficulty of finding one. Because what IS it about? I don’t think I really know. But am I hooked? Absolutely.
Let’s start with Elliott, this season’s newcomer played excellently by singer-songwriter Dominic Fike. We met him in the first episode and since then has been positioned as this sweet, naturally funny guy who just happens to do a LOT of drugs with Rue, our favourite addict. It was easy to overlook this however, because he was just so cool, right? Given the calibre of some of the men in Euphoria, comparably he seemed great. The natural antithesis of messed-up Nate, it seemed. In this week’s episode though, Elliott and Jules discuss Rue’s awkward sexual behaviour, before themselves making out, and only stopping because Rue is literally waiting outside. Elliott’s actions instantly become questionable and all of a sudden I’m like – is he a nice guy? He knows Rue is an addict, yet does heroin with her; he knows Rue loves Jules, yet makes out with Jules – are these the actions of a nice person? The chemistry between Fike and Hunter Schafer (Jules) is beautifully believable but why does he behave this way? Or is he just another messed up teenager in another messed up episode of Euphoria? We’ll have to wait and see.
The Cassie/Maddy/Nate love triangle provides some excellent scenes in this week’s episode. Euphoria is applauded for its cinematography on a weekly basis and this week was no exception. Nate’s manipulation runs rampant in a conversation with Cassie, where he attempts to firmly establish his plan to get back together with Maddy, before asking her to either get out, or accept that and get into bed. We’re all taken aback however, with Cassie’s response, explaining that she is so far into this “relationship” that she feels as though she has nothing to lose. She lets us know that she’s aware Maddy is scary, but at this point, she is now scarier. I believe her - this is now a woman unhinged, her need for male authority figures, lying and yearning for what her best friend has completely consumed her, and this melancholy builds up to both a beautiful drunken dance to Sinéad O'Connor’s Drink Before The War and a hilarious projectile-vomit-in-a-hot-tub scenario.
The now-trademark chaotic feel of this Euphoria episode means that all of the scenes initially feel juxtaposed – Rue, Jules and Elliott holed up in one room; Maddy’s birthday party with the girls plus Nate; Cassie vomiting; Jules and Elliott hooking up; Cal urinating in the foyer of his family home and admitting his sexual orientation in potentially the wildest manner possible. It all seems all over the place, and that’s because it is. It’s tied together though, by the underlying theme of grief, and this is only a realisation to me upon second viewing. Rue succumbed to the idea that maybe she’s still grieving her dad. Cal going back to the gay bar of his teen years and grieving the life he could’ve had. Cassie gifting Maddy a friendship scrapbook then screaming “I’m sorry” after vomiting (but we know what she’s really sorry for). With the end scenes, we see that Rue and Cal —but really, all of the characters—are deeply pining after a life that is out of reach, either because circumstances that are out of their control or consequences of their own actions.
The episode is great because it shows how catastrophic suppression can be - the sheer pandemonium from some characters, met with misplaced nonchalance from others and the general idea that no one has a clue about anything. So yes, it’s chaotic, but a beautifully constructed, artistic and honest portrayal of chaos.