Television Review: ‘Euphoria’ season two expands on complex characters

Anabel Martinez
Editor-in-Chief

The HBO series “Euphoria” has gained popularity over the past year especially with its highly anticipated season two pilot episode airing on Jan. 9. “Euphoria” brings heavy topics like drug addiction, abusive relationships, the issues with oversexualization and pornography, and loss, to life in a raw and explicit way – all in the setting of a high school.

The show follows the deranged life of Rue, played by Zendaya. Rue is a 17-year-old drug addict who feels like drugs are the only thing that could numb the pain of losing her beloved father. After returning to her high school from rehab, Rue relapses multiple times. She lies to her family, friends and lover Jules with no intention of staying clean.

The character development in season two is incredible. We learn about losing friendships, trust, struggles with identity and sexuality, and just how dangerous dealing with drugs can be.

The first episode of this season alone was enough for a jaw-dropping reaction from the audience. 

We see Cassie betray her best friend Maddy by having sex with her ex-boyfriend Nate and later see Fezco, Rue’s drug dealer, beat him until his face is bloody and broken. Fans couldn’t help but crack a smile at this, not because they liked seeing such violence but because Nate’s character kind of deserved it. He physically abused and manipulated Maddy, harassed Jules and was an overall horrible person in season one.

The soundtrack for season two is amazing, definitely marking key moments in character development.

We finally learn so much more about Lexi, the quiet and reserved one of the group, who becomes a fan favorite.

Jaws dropped when Lexi plugged in her earphones and rode her bike home, listening to hyperpop hit “Haunted” by Laura Les. It was completely different from the top 40 pop music that was expected from her character, and viewers loved to see it.

We meet Elliot, Rue’s new friend, who also uses drugs. The catchy love song “Right Down The Line” by Gerry Rafferty almost distracts us from the fact that he enables her into lying about being sober.

Things get rockier, especially Rue’s relationship with Jules, once Elliot comes into the picture. We see jealousy, infidelity and betrayal between the three.

This is not the only instance of betrayal though.

Cassie’s character is frustrating as she makes stupid decisions like ruining her and Maddy’s friendship to become Nate’s new toy and even dressing like her. However, I could not help but love listening to Orville Peck’s romantic “Dead of Night” as Cassie gets in Nate’s car.

The audience shared an emotional moment with Maddy as she cried over losing her best friend, many relating to that pain.

Maddy becomes more than the fiery, confident girl this season. She’s more mature and caring, and a real sweetheart but is put through hell by Nate.

Nate, on the other hand, deals with his own childhood trauma of discovering his father’s collection of pornographic videos he created. Cal, his father, fights his real sexual identity, but begins to feel like he has nothing to lose.

As horrible of a person Cal is, seeing him dance to “Drink Before the War” by Sinéad O’Connor and reminisce to a moment with the one person who understood, his high school best friend, made me feel for those like his character who are hiding their sexuality from loved ones. 

Kat’s storyline, however, lacks development this season. Her character’s struggle seems to be cut down to not knowing how to break up with her boyfriend.

It was disappointing to see Kat act as a side character instead of giving her the attention she deserved.

“Euphoria” proved itself to be more than a teen, sex and drugs show this season. Rue’s drug addiction becomes more than pretty, glittery makeup and purple LED lighting. It gets ugly as it begins to dig her into even deeper problems. 

Zendaya’s raw, emotional performance as Rue when she spirals after her mother finds and disposes of her suitcase full of $10,000 worth of drugs proved that – drugs she was supposed to sell but instead used most of herself. Rue’s breakdown revealed the suffering and heartache of watching a loved one deteriorate due to addiction.

She destroyed the house. She cried. She screamed. She almost lost her sanity. Seeing Rue break down while her mom and little sister watched left me with a tight feeling in my chest, and I could not help but cry with them. It hurt so much and this is the reality for some.

There is no music in this episode until Sharon Cash’s “Fever” plays as Rue breaks into someone’s home, digging through cabinets in search of a temporary solution. 

No one in “Euphoria” is perfect. And that’s the purpose of the show. Everyone is deserving of love, regardless of drug addiction or their struggles.

The season finale, aired on Feb. 27, left Euphoria fans in tears. Viewers were in shock over Cal and Nate’s exchange this episode, the extremes Fezco’s brother Ashtray took to protect him, and Lexi’s spotlight as she puts on a school play, “Our Life,” which retells the characters’ drama.

We never find out what Rue did about the $10,000 she owed, or why a drug lord would trust a girl her age with that amount of drugs, but maybe we’ll find out at the end of 2024, when Euphoria season 3 is rumored to be complete.

Until then, Euphoria fans will continue to root for the unexpected puppy love between Fezco and Lexi, Rue’s health, and anticipate what will happen to Maddy and Cassie’s friendship.

Anabel Martinez can be reached at anabel.martinez2@laverne.edu.

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Anabel Martinez is a senior digital media major with a concentration in film and television, and a journalism minor. She serves as the managing editor overseeing all of the Campus Times sections and was previously editor-in-chief in Spring 2022.

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