Review | ‘Euphoria’ season two: ‘It could be worse. It could be boring.’


Eddy Chen/HBO, Euphoria Media Kit

Barbie Ferreira playing Kat Hernandez, left, and Alex Demie playing Maddy Perez in season 2, episode 7 of “Euphoria.”

By Diana Velasquez, Culture Editor

After Cassie (Sydney Sweeny) runs on stage and ruins her sister’s play in what seems like a breakup-induced mental breakdown, Lexi (Maude Apatow) takes a moment to sit down and really think if putting this play on was worth maybe ruining some people’s lives.

Her stage manager Bobbi (Veronica Taylor) tells her that “it could be worse. It could be boring.”

I think that’s a rather apt way to summarize this season of “Euphoria.”

The hit HBO show has absolutely swept the internet and dominated the TV circuit for the last few weeks. It has now become the most tweeted about show of the decade, and anyone knows that if you want to avoid spoilers you watch the show at 9 p.m. — because Twitter won’t spare the details for you.

The show focuses on a group of high schoolers in southern California, and their various experiences with drugs, sex, love, friendships and all the lovely things you tell your therapist about 10 years later. It’s not an easy show to watch, but it’s raw and true to the Gen Z experience.

Season one was critically acclaimed, and Zendaya, who stars in the show as Rue Bennett, won an Emmy for her performance last season. The bar was set astronomically high with the first season, which I’m sure is the reason for the decidedly mixed reaction to season two.

Season one followed a strict formula. Each episode began with about a 10-minute backstory on a particular character — each detailing their own childhoods, traumas and all the dirty little details you need to know about why kids do opiates and other questionable things in high school.

This season deviated from this norm, and every episode followed without this patterned introduction. The change can perhaps be blamed on the fact that “Euphoria” only has one writer for the whole show — Sam Levinson.

Lexi Howard put on a play for the entire high school during the last two episodes of the season. It details the lives of her friend group, including herself, Rue, Maddie Perez (Alexia Demie), Kat Hernandez (Barbie Ferrierra) and her sister Cassie Howard. It’s not exactly flattering, especially to Cassie, who often overshadows her more soft-spoken sister.

In her play, Lexie said she often felt like she was living her entire life inside her imagination. I’d say fans feel the same, in that we’ve been living inside Levinson’s imagination this whole season, without rhyme or reason on what’s going on.

While I’m not cursing the man’s name out on Twitter, there are a couple of things that he seems to have dropped the ball on this season. The show seemed less about its star, Rue, and more about Cassie and her newfound relationship with what might just be the devil incarnate — Nate Jacobs (Jacob Elordi).

To be fair, Nate is fairly traumatized like the rest of the kids on the show, but I would like to reiterate for everyone reading that your trauma does not excuse you from being an asshole. Especially an abusive one.

Last season ended with Nate and Maddie breaking up after he choked her at the local carnival, which propelled a police investigation. This season started with a hookup between Nate and Cassie after he finds her alone at a gas station. And everyone knows the one golden rule of friendship — don’t sleep with your best friend’s ex. Cassie apparently didn’t get the memo.

And while the relationship dynamics between Cassie, Nate and Maddie are fascinating, and produced some of the best “Euphoria” memes this season, Rue is lost in all the drama. Her relationship problems, between Jules Vaughn (Hunter Shaffer) and the newcomer Elliot Cortez (Dominic Fike), take a backseat.

More so, her drug addiction takes a backseat until the fifth episode, “Stand Still Like The Hummingbird” which focuses almost entirely on her intervention, instigated by Jules, and subsequent withdrawal.

She eventually gets through it, and as of the final episode, Rue has apparently stayed clean through the end of the academic year.

I fully expect Zendaya to receive another Emmy nod for her performance in the fifth episode. It was by far the best one of the season.

Sadly, not all the episodes hit the mark. For me, a notable absence in many was one of my favorite characters, Kat. Her storyline last season ran along with an exploration of her body and sexuality. She cammed for men on the Internet, while she struggled in real life to connect with men outside of sex. She happily ended the first season with a boyfriend, Ethan Daley (Austin Abrams), a cute guy in her science class.

But she shows up this season for maybe 20 minutes in all? And most of it is cameos standing next to Maddie. She does break up with Ethan, though she gaslights him into doing it — and we’re given the impression that she does it because she can’t connect with him. Possibly because of her warped misconceptions of men, influenced by her cam-days and long-time presence online.

Ferriera might have had her storyline cut because of disagreements with Levinson, and while we may never know whether that’s true or not, it’s an absence that’s keenly felt.

There are some things about Euphoria that, blissfully, remain constant — phenomenal acting on the part of the whole cast, stunning visuals and a soundtrack that would make Beyoncé weep.

There wasn’t an episode this season that I didn’t immediately rush to watch. The scenes are expertly and artistically shot. Cassie’s flower-filled bathroom, Rue’s run from the cops through what must be half of southern California, and what tore up my heart in the last episode — Ashtray’s (Javon Walton) death at the hands of cops.

Season 2 of “Euphoria” is less of a linear narrative and reflects more on what I believe is how life really unfolds — in messy bursts, with periods of calm, periods of pain and a hell of a lot of confusion. That’s not always so easy to digest.

And sticking true to form, this season has ended on a cliffhanger. Rue is clean. Cassie and Maddie duked it out. Nate turned in Cal (Eric Dane) for his crimes. Fez (Angus Cloud) had his drug operation busted. I’d be here forever if I started counting the loose ends. I suppose, though, that gives Levinson plenty to play with in season 3. Hopefully, he weaves a pretty picture.