“Gorgeous Claustrophobia”: A Review of Euphoria Season 2
October 4, 2022 – DN Executive News Critic Alex Levitt
Review of Season 2 of Euphoria, written by Dale News Executive News Critic Alex Levitt
The HBO original series “Euphoria,” like its namesake, reaches impeccable highs when it hits on the claustrophobia of being young in high school, but truly soars when it faces the uncomfortable realities of addiction. Never has a scene felt so painfully realized than in episode 5’s “Stand Still Like the Hummingbird.” Interventions have been done on television before, but Euphoria has proven throughout its two seasons that it can portray a situation and make it hauntingly more real through its dialogue, score and camerawork. Rue, played by Zendaya, is at her best in this episode. She shows desperation, anger and sorrow all within one scene as the audience’s compassion for her is tested more than ever before.
Zendaya’s fantastic performance was recognized at the 74th Primetime Emmy Awards and won her second Emmy Award for Best Actress in a Drama Series for her portrayal as Rue. This win made history, with her being the only Black woman to win two Emmy’s in this category. Zendaya first won the award in 2020 for the same role. She also made history on that occasion for becoming the youngest person to win the Emmy at 24 years old. Zendaya spoke to what her character represents and her appreciation for the role in her acceptance speak saying, “I want you to know that anyone who has loved a Rue, or feels like you are a Rue, I’m so grateful for your stories and I carry them with me and carry them with her. Thank you so much.”
Zendaya with her 2nd Emmy Award for Best Actress in a Drama Series
A key reason this scene works is because the verbal and physical threats Rue makes to her family and friends are horrible, but what’s truly terrifying is it stands so far out from the kind, empathetic character viewers have grown to love despite her many flaws. She is at her lowest point since her overdose that occurred prior to the series, with the truth of her continued drug use coming to a head. The series picks up after the two special episodes released during the pandemic that focused on the main characters Rue and Jules respectively. These episodes were intimate, functioning as long conversations, most likely due to Covid-19 limitations. So, after a nearly three-year hiatus since the first season, “Euphoria” has returned, with a beautiful new look.
For season 2 the creators shot on 35mm Ektachrome Film, giving the visuals a dreamy and worn-out aesthetic. The colors really pop in this season and so many of the beautifully composed shots are color coded in different hues. An episode can feel like a trip in a neon nightmare or dream depending on what is happening. The premiere is one of the strongest episodes of the season with the cast of characters grouped at a house party to celebrate New Year’s Eve. It is a perfect jumping off point for the season and sets up the current state of the characters. The score and soundtrack this season are top notch with series composer, Labrinth, providing eerie soundscapes ranging from ecstasy to restlessness and defeat.
Scene from Euphoria
Where this batch of new episodes stumbles is its drawing out of plot points that wear thin and sidelining characters or regressing their growth, like in the case of Kat. She had a large arc of growth in the first season but is only given a small number of scenes to realize she does not want to be the person season 1 was having her become. Another gripe is that while it was great to see Lexi stand up and become a fully fleshed character, played by the wonderful Maude Apatow, stretching her play until the last two episodes seemed too much. I would rather have had the penultimate episode of the season be her play and the last episode being the aftermath of it. A lot of the satisfying moments felt cut short because of the way they were structured, and there was a certain lack of resolution.
Lexi’s play did provide one of the most enjoyable dance numbers, proving cathartic in Lexi’s boldness at tearing apart Nate and watching his discomfort grow in accordance with the audience’s laughter and enjoyment. Jacob Elordi continues to be brilliant at portraying a complex sociopath of a teenager that the audience loves to hate. Seeing the tables being turned on him, by someone you would least expect, paid off in a big way. Hunter Schafer’s character, Jules, felt short-changed this season as well. This was especially disappointing because she received such a great character study in her episode with her therapist, bridging the gap between the seasons during the pandemic. That episode showed all the events of season 1, but through Jules’ perspective, and it gave new context to her actions and decisions we saw transgress.
Jules’s screen time was used mainly for her to worry about Rue and be jealous of her budding friendship with new character Elliot, who is played by artist Dominic Fike. Rue, being the narrator, spends most of the show in the driver’s seat, but Season 1 did a better job of putting Jules as an active participant in Rue’s story and her own. The season disappointed in aspects of the character and allocation of storylines, but it continued the series streak of stylized high school drama in all its sparkle and catastrophe.
Euphoria Renewed for Season 3
Euphoria has officially been renewed for a third season! Notably, Barbie Ferreira, who plays Kat, is not returning after all the rumored drama between her and Creator, Sam Levinson. Allegedly, the actress was unhappy with her character developing an eating disorder and clashed with Levinson over it. Many fans are likely to be angry at her being written off as she was one of the more relatable characters and being the one-plus sized character offered some body diversity in the cast. Executive Producer Zendaya says she would like to explore the character’s journeys out of high school and into college. In an interview with theHollywood Reporter, Zendaya said “I want to see what Rue looks like in her sobriety journey, how chaotic that might look. But also with all the characters, in the sense where they’re trying to figure out what to do with their lives when high school is over and what kind of people they want to be.”
Euphoria Season 2
Creator: Sam Levinson
Stars: Zendaya, Hunter Schafer, Sydney Sweeney, Jacob Elordi, Angus Cloud, Maude Apatow, Alexa Demie, and Storm Reid.
Run Time: 8 episodes
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