I’ve recently become a fan of what I naively thought would be the usual small-town America High School show with an array of sex, drugs, and big houses to party in. Granted, it is. But as I’ve hurriedly binged watched all episodes Sam Levinson’s show has to offer, I’ve realised it’s also a heavier show about family, emotions, and the innate struggle of being. And, I finally understand all the Twitter jokes!
If critics still think Euphoria glamorises drug use, Zendaya’s portrayal of desperation and self-destruction in “Still Like the Hummingbird” is sure to change their minds.
This week’s episode really honed in on this ‘struggle of being’ and the power of hope. The first 20 minutes consist of a gut-wrenching attempt at an intervention for fan favourite Rue after four episodes of her spiralling drug use. Zendaya’s acting takes centre stage as Rue violently breaks down, trapped between the walls of her childhood home as she frantically searches for her suitcase full of drugs. The audience follows her in and out of practically every room in the house, between moments of hysterical crying, aggressive yelling, and that coy smirk. Marcell Rév’s immersive cinematography captures the claustrophobic sensations the family feel, Leslie peeking around door frames, Rue bursting through doors, and Gia curled up in bed as her sister’s habit tears its way back through their life, in this case literally.
While Leslie was frustratingly calm at times, her wavering sternness with her daughter reminds us this is a cycle of behaviour that is nothing new to the Bennet family, as Gia’s panic and fear for her sister constantly directs the audience back to the tension at hand as Rue wrecks her way through the house.
Any clip from the opening scene seems worthy of a second Emmy win for Zendaya, and if our flawed protagonist’s compelling display as her character reaches new lows isn’t enough, Storm Reid and Nika King’s astounding acting, cowering as their Sister/Daughter becomes increasingly hysterical, is sure to bring tears to your eyes.
Rue is nowhere near calming down, but the realisation that Elliot and Jules have been there the whole time, and were the people (not falsely accused Gia) who revealed her drug use to her Mum, sends her over the edge.
When Leslie and Gia get Rue in the car you wouldn’t be foolish in thinking this emotional outburst is over. But we’re reminded that this is a drug addict suffering from numerous mental health issues, that we’re dealing with, as Rue bolts from the car into oncoming traffic. Labrinth’s musical appearances always put me on edge, yet again Rue is heading towards death to the sound of the UK artist’s melodies. After her earlier confessions of suicidal thoughts, or more so fantasies, hearing Rue utter “please Lord, don’t let me die” actually provided the audience with some rare hope for this grieving teen. Maybe she does want to live after all?
Rue ends up at the Howard house, it strangely felt like a crossover episode as we saw the main arc and subplot merge into the same scene. The show gets a lot of criticism for its melodramatic subplots, but really they serve as a reminder of how dark our protagonist’s experiences are, and that there is a life waiting for her and ahead of her if she really wants it. Lexi and Maddy coming over to hug Rue was a heart-warming reminder that these are her friends, her support system, and there is genuine love and history between the group. One thing Euphoria does consistently well is remind us that we’ve joined this life story in media res, there’s a lot we don’t know about the characters we root for and hate on each week. Eventually Leslie arrives, as Rue realises, her intervention has gone mobile, she begins to unravel yet again.
“Hey Cass, quick question for you”
Honestly, I thought this was going to be a ‘stop being so dumb’ type telling off, but “how long have you been fucking Nate Jacobs” had my jaw on the floor, probably because I forgot she even knew! And, who would’ve thought Rue would make the big reveal? Maddy was waiting in the background (and of course Lexi because, free content!), as well as Kat - who was seemingly there to add facial expressions and some gasps - please, Euphoria writers, give us back her storyline!
Cassie gaslighting Rue and blaming her drug addiction was very below belt, but it didn’t matter, Maddy wasn’t letting this go. As the love triangle narrative took over the scene Rue was able to sneak out the front door, right under their concerned mums’ noses. I’m waiting to see how the high-school drama plays out next week, but Rue, “still as the hummingbird” is on the move again, so out the house we go…
Rue tries Fezco’s house again after her previous failed attempt but has no luck after he catches her trying to steal Grandma's pills and throws her out.
Rue ends up in some kind of satirical police chase, in which she crashes through multiple other households - leaving more destruction in her wake, symbolic when you think of the bonds she’s destroying with the likes of her sister and Jules. The cinematography is something to mention in this scene as the camera tracks Rue from the bushes, to the rooftops, and on that slick downward slide from the garage door. Beyond that it felt like a filler scene, with little regard for the realities of white-suburban police chasing after a mixed-race teen, but perhaps it could be credited as a bit of comic relief in an otherwise heavy episode.
When Rue reaches Laurie’s house, stumbling along with a pain in her side which had become an increasing bother to her throughout the day, the tone gets increasingly sinister. The drug dealer’s calmness was a welcome moment of relief for a very fragile Rue, who is at this point paying more attention to the smallest of stimuli, like that locked door, than the danger she is in. Putting us more on edge, Laurie, blasé as usual, suggests that Rue pay for her ‘misplaced‘ suitcase with her body. Our girl is in danger, again! Zendaya does an incredible job of depicting the exhaustion in her character’s body in this scene, nonchalantly accepting a bath and place to sleep. As Rév draws our attention to the vile of morphine waiting on the side, we realise that Laurie is well versed in dealing with addicts and missed payments. Zendaya’s character drifts off to memories of an innocent childhood and the doting love she misses from her father, as well as the tragic turning point in her life in which she delivered a heartbreaking eulogy wrapped in his familiar red hoodie. When Rue comes round we’re given one last intense scene as she makes a hasty escape from whatever Laurie had in store for her.
By the final seconds of the episode, Rue is making her way home. Leslie sits patiently at the table, a symbol of hope for Rue as she awaits her daughter’s return. Gia it seems has given up and gone to bed, and again the audience is left torn between which attitude to take. The door opens, the screen fades to black, and Levinson's drama leaves us right where we began in the house.
The episode was so emotive because it not only showed the chaos addicts create in their loved one’s lives, but how life in itself can be destructive for some, as in Rue’s case. But there’s a reason we keep tuning in, and that’s got a lot to do with our hopes that Rue will recover, though it seems increasingly unlikely. This powerful instalment in the series ultimately shows us that Rue wants to live… just not without drugs.