SPOILER WARNING: This article includes minor spoilers for “Euphoria.”
CONTENT WARNING: “Euphoria” contains adult themes, including drug abuse.
LANGUAGE WARNING: I’m mostly writing this one as a joke for myself because I think it’s funny to have so many warnings, but this article includes strong language due to the title of one of the discussed episodes.
Fans of HBO’s “Euphoria,” rejoice! Though we’ve long-awaited new episodes since season 1 ended in August 2019 and production on season 2 was delayed due to COVID-19–shooting was meant to begin pretty much exactly when the first lockdowns happened in March–we shall wait no longer. Creator-writer-director Sam Levinson has given us something to tide us over: two specials entitled “Part 1: Rue”/“Trouble Don’t Last Always” and “Part 2: Jules”/“F**k Anyone Who’s Not A Sea Blob.”
These episodes are exactly what they sound like–deep cuts probing the dark recesses of the minds of the show’s two main characters, Rue (Zendaya) and Jules (Hunter Schafer). Written and shot with the ongoing pandemic in mind, the episodes focus on each girl speaking to only one other person for the duration of the special, Rue to Ali, her sponsor, and Jules to her therapist.
This structure of these specials is super interesting to me because we as an audience normally wouldn’t get this much depth in a regular season episode where there are lots of other characters and storylines in play. It’s special to be able to get so much backstory and see the thought processes of the characters in a way that doesn’t feel like exposition for exposition’s sake.
What I find really intriguing is that the episodes are so alike and so different at the same time, much like Rue and Jules themselves. For example, Rue’s episode is really cut and dry, like she is. She sees the world in black and white, day and night, good and evil. The episode takes place in the diner, and that’s it. She talks to Ali. She tells him some really dark shit. She deals with it, like she always does. Maybe not in the best way, but she deals.
Jules’s episode, on the other hand, is much more whimsical. There are both dream and imagination sequences that illustrate Jules’s mental landscape for the audience in a way that Rue’s episode couldn’t have included (it just wouldn’t have made any sense characteristically). Unlike Rue, Jules has hope. She allows herself to dream and imagine, and it’s reflected in the construction of the episode (which Hunter Schafer helped to write, by the way; she’s amazing).
What’s great about these episodes’ differences is that they stem from a similarity: in their disparity, they each embody the character they center on fully. More similarities/differences emerge when the girls get into the nitty gritty of their issues–parental trauma. For Rue, everything went downhill when her father died (her drug abuse began when she took some of his pills), and for Jules, her mother’s addiction colored her younger years almost as much as her transition did.
What’s fantastic about the writing of these two episodes is that they also touch on how both Rue’s and Jules’s traumas are inflamed and exacerbated by the other, often unknowingly. It seems that Rue has no idea that Jules’s estranged mother also struggles with addiction (the addiction being the primary reason for the estrangement), which is only made worse by the fact that Jules conflates Rue with a mother figure since Rue cares so deeply for her. Jules, too, appears unaware that her getting on the train and leaving Rue in such a critical stage of her recovery triggered abandonment issues due to her father’s death which ultimately caused Rue to relapse again. It’s a vicious cycle these two are living, but it makes for an incredibly interesting dynamic between them in which they are both each other’s savior and worst enemy.
I’ll be honest. These special episodes of “Euphoria” really did it for me. I thought they were incredibly well-executed and played off of each other in all the right ways while also getting viewers more excited than ever for what’s to come next. I like the dichotomies that are being played with and the themes that are being explored here, a lot.
Although these in-between episodes were amazing and definitely scratched the itch, I know you’re all still wondering where season 2 is. Don’t worry–it’s scheduled to begin production soon, with a late 2021 or early 2022 release date.
FILMNETIC GRADE: A+