Review: “Euphoria” season two

Arts & Entertainment

HBO’s hit drama series continues its strive with a successful second season full of just as much anxiety and character work as the first. (Some spoilers)

Nolen Kelly, Editor

If I went to the High School from “Euphoria,” I would be the guy in the background who always wears a Red Hot Chili Peppers t-shirt, I think. Never has there been a show that has been so recommended yet immediately regretted quite like “Euphoria” has. While other current or past shows may deal with uneasy content or are just hard to recommend, it’s been a while since a series has been so relentlessly jarring and shocking with its subject matter while also maintaining a consistent level of unnerving-ness each week. “Euphoria” just wrapped its second season on Sunday Feb. 27 and while the show has matured a bit since its first season, this has not changed the fact that it seeks different ways to make you feel terrible and was worth the wait for the weekly watch or a single sit and binge. With that bit of positivity out of the way, I think season two was a bit of a mess and sort of disjointed despite how great it was.

The season continues with Rue (Zendaya Coleman) and her misadventures of substance abuse and addiction, picking up right after the finale of the first season which saw Rue being left at a train station by her at-the-time girlfriend Jules (Hunter Schafer). Despite being clean at that time, Rue relapsed back to drugs to help her get over Jules. In this season we meet Dominic Fike as Elliot, Rue’s new classmate who has a very show appropriate introduction to the show by saving Rue from a near overdose in the first episode. That begins the downward spiral of Rue’s addictions and problems. Her unquenchable need for pills leads to putting up a facade as a sober business savvy student who buys a literal suitcase of drugs to “Sell to other high school students” but just ends up consuming them herself. After another near overdose, Rue severs nearly all ties with her friends, family and loved ones in an attempt to score anything. She finishes the season on a healthier note with some sobriety and relationships mended but there are still no good feelings to be had.


There’s a lot of good and some bad stuff, so I’ll just get the bad out of the way first because while there was so much stuff and so many things to praise, this season was far from perfect with glaring structural problems as well as an imbalance of character screen times. In a show that originally gave each character nearly an entire episode to go through their story, resolve it there, then carry on through the grander story, this season had a lot of choppy segments and strange pacing of certain stories. Similarly, many characters seem like they are going to be given a major chunk of screen time or importance but then have their stories cut short or don’t even exist. For example the season opened with a backstory for one of Rue’s drug dealer’s grandmother who has been bed ridden since the start of the show. While the story was great, I honestly thought that would have tied into the season in some way but was really just another introduction story. I understand it was really just a front to set up Ashtray (Javon Walton), Fezco’s (Angus Cloud) adopted younger brother, but the framing of the story made it seem like she would be more important later on. Maybe that’s a bit of a strange nitpick but the expectation was set up and was there but never came to fruition and kind of disappointed me. 

I would have liked more Nate Jacobs (Jacob Elordi) and more of Kat’s (Barbie Ferreira) storyline with Ethan (Austin Abrams). Kat and Ethan are great together and their story got really interesting when Kat had her own issues and Ethan figured out what their diner date was. After that it just stopped and this was disappointing, because despite Kat being an unnecessary grinch, the storyline’s conclusion would have been great. Nate is actually one of my favorite characters on the show and I hope I don’t get glares for that. Nate is an evil person. Nothing about him is good. They did a tremendous job building him up in season one as an actual threat to everyone around him whether they realize it or not but this season he was stuck with Maddy (Alexa Demie) and Cassie (Sydney Sweenie), his dad and a little bit of himself. There was so much great stuff about Nate I wish was expanded on or taken to darker lengths like his teased closeted sexuality from season one or his violent and unstable tendencies. Nate had some harsh stuff happen to him this season so this is more of a personal preference but I can’t help but feel like they missed some marks not taking Nate to defcon one and an actual physical threat. Here’s to hoping season three fully capitalizes on Nate’s potential, more complete storylines and a balance of character screen times.


Although the negative section was pretty hefty, I promise I liked more of this season then disliked it. One moment that is a basic summation of how I felt watching this season was the intercut scene between Cassie and Cal Jacobs (Eric Danes) as they both deal with the losses of loves in their respective lives. One is drunk, one is concussed and drunk, but both are sad and cry-singing “Drink Before the War” by Sinead O’Connor. Although I disliked it at first due to the disjointed and sort of weird editing of the scene, it has grown like crazy on me. The scene is gorgeously shot and haunting considering how different yet similar the two characters are. I don’t think I will get the image of a makeup smeared and drunken Cassie, surrounded by ribbons, wearing a swimsuit for attention and practically screaming out to O’Conner as her best friend and the man she desires watch on with pity, out of my head. The scene reflects a lot of how I think the season went: full of haunting and semi-beautiful moments that show these vile people at a point we never realized they could sink to or achieve while everything feels slightly anxiety inducing. 

Visually, this season was really ugly, but I liked it. This was mostly due to Rue’s sobriety and the harshness of nearly every situation forcing the pretty fireworks and colors away and I think it worked really well. Although I touched in the negatives of how there were a lot of missed opportunities in the season, I think there was an equal amount of great opportunities this season created for the future. The ambiguity of some stories and relationships are intriguing enough to see what happens next. The score was extra tense and sometimes hilariously excessive thanks to the great works of Labrinth. The acting was very good this season especially from Danes (Cal), Zendaya (Rue), Sweenie (Cassie), Demie (Maddy), Abrams (Ethan) and Elordi (Nate). Each of these characters had a particularly rough season and although only Abrams is mentioned for the good and light heartedness he brought to the season, each of these actors stood out the most for how great they portrayed their characters this season. Despite the finale being separated into two parts and a few stories forgotten, they did a good job balancing the character stories and cleaning up some of the plotlines they focused on. Rue has a lot more to fix in the next season but what she fixed in the finale was good. Nate and Cal’s story wrap-up was great and probably my favorite story of the season. Maddy and Cassie’s plot was pretty good and although it is definitely not finished, it was left in a good place. Fezco and Ashtray’s saga was brutal, fun and satisfying for me and Lexi’s play went a lot longer than I wished but was nevertheless still very entertaining. 


“Euphoria” season two had a lot of stuff happen, almost too much stuff. I know I am forgetting so many important points from this season but whatever I have here is what we will call “good enough.” The major style changes of the colors and the less enthusiastic music choices made this season really dark and not very fun but in a fun way. I enjoyed this season and I like this show. It’s not an easy show to binge or watch for everyone, and the very obvious problem of these high school teenagers doing these obscene things is very clear but not one of these people look like teenagers or high school students so for me it’s pretty easy to suspend the disbelief. “Euphoria” is a rough time every time but it’s a show that is leaving its mark on modern TV and most likely will not be going away any time soon. “Euphoria” season two is fully available on HBO Max.

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