February 11, 2022 | LIFE | By Frances Thyer | Illustration by Sierra_Romero

As we near the halfway point in season two of Euphoria, we watch characters continue to fall apart from the weight of expectations from others and themselves.

The most recent episode opens with an intense fight between protagonist Rue and her mother, Leslie, where the question of what it means to be a good person is introduced. As the season progresses and morality becomes increasingly entangeled, viewers develop more complex opinions about the various characters.

The glory of this show is that, at the end of each episode, you’re once again unsure of who truly is a good person.

Last week’s episode was anxiety-inducing for a variety of reasons. It starting with an intervention, staged by Rue’s friends, where they inform her mother of Rue’s relapse. It quickly escalates. We’re left feeling hurt for every character involved.

Many parts of the show can be hard to watch. Rue’s despairing and hurtful thoughts in this scene bring up the many realities of prolonged substance abuse. Rue implodes and explodes simultaneously, with everyone around her blown back by the impact. Cassie is one person hit, leading to the moment that everyone’s been waiting for: a confrontation between her and Maddy. 

Given that the entirety of the episode follows Rue, we next arrive at Fez’s house. As another character with a complicated backstory, his endearing comments and moral sensibility ask us to again rethink our perception of a good person. There is hope that Rue could open up to Fez at this point, and maybe we could watch a heartwarming moment between the two of them and see Maddy chase Cassie around for a bit.

Alas, with uneasiness at the foundation of this episode, Rue begs Fez for drugs. When he refuses, she continues to physically run while simultaneously mentally spiraling. At each stop, our uneasiness for Rue is heightened, whether it’s watching her attempt to rob a house or seeing her run through traffic.

As always, the cinematography and set design of Euphoria is noteworthy. Particularly striking moments include the shot of Cassie crying in front of roses. It plays with themes of validation and beauty, both already associated with her character.

Set design and lighting create a more complete image of the eeriness accompanying the sociopathic drug dealer, Laurie, in the final sequence with her and Rue. I wouldn’t even know where to start in interpreting all of Laurie’s birds.

For more insight, a look at the episode prior to this week’s shows a wider range of characters and their progression thus far. The couples continue masquerading as fully functional; Rue and Jules seem healthy in some moments, but simultaneously act impulsively and avoid conflict. Maddy and Nate fight without resolution, and Nate continues to gaslight anyone and everyone in his path.

Rue’s friend Kat’s relationship with her boyfriend, Ethan, provides an honest take on pretending in relationships. “There’s a difference between what you think you should want,” Maddy says to Kat, “and what you actually want.”

This idea is at the core of the slow-burning downfall of Cal and Cassie, linked in a montage where they simultaneously collapse emotionally under the weight of the disconnects in their lives. These characters act behind closed doors in ways that do not make sense given their public image and the relationships they hold closest. With both characters now facing repercussions, we again question the definition of being a good person.

So, what are Euphoria fans anticipating as the season continues? Fans may be looking forward to seeing the development in Maddy’s character, more screen time for Fez and Ashtray, and hopefully some moments of Dominic Fike playing music.

Euphoria is available on HBO Max, with new episodes released every Sunday night at 7 p.m.

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