‘Euphoria’ shifts the spotlight to Nate Jacobs as we worry for Cassie.

by | Feb 14, 2022 | All, Reviews

It was always going to be a mighty task to top last week’s episode. While this doesn’t quite reach the dizzying heights that came with Rue’s nightmarish journey into the most poisonous echelons of her relapse that took up so much of the previous hour, the slower pace and the way in which Sam Levinson allows scenes to breathe and develop this week means that this still carries a potent punch that leaves it lingering long in the mind after the end credits roll.

We don’t see as much of Rue this week, but what we do see of her lands every bit as powerfully. Scenes involving Euphoria’s lead character, her family and a returning Ali (always a joy to see Colman Domingo) are more sedate but still have the capability of turning your stomach in knots.

The image of a lone, single Jolly Rancher on a table has never felt so quietly epic as it does here. It becomes a symbol of Rue’s attempts at trying to get back on track, and while there are some lovely small victories for the character to gain such as forgiveness from Ali and some reproachful moments with her sister, it’s offset by that incredibly distressing final scene that lays bare how hard things are still going to be for her. She might have the mindset to want to accomplish the goal of being sober and to want to earn the love of her family, but the manner in which the brick walls that come from how America utilises health care threatens to become an unavoidable challenge.

‘Euphoria’ Rue hits rock bottom for the best episode of the series so far.

Where the previous episode was drenched in horrifying levels of confrontation and a ferocious pace, this reverts back to Euphoria’s ability to dip in and out of its characters’ lives. This has less of the intense sense of the geography of some of the previous episodes this season and has a more graceful way of cross-cutting over its differing story threads, but that doesn’t mean Levinson is taking it easy on us or the characters.

We spend a considerable amount of time with Nate this hour that the episode effectively becomes one centred on him. Levinson’s script and Jacob Elordi’s performance are the centres of so much drama. Inevitably we end up seeing the fall-out that stems from Nate and Cassie’s relationship now being out in the open, and there is a lingering threat hovering around that emanates from Maddie and the disc she has of Jules and Cal.

That threat is gone by the end of the episode it seems. Witnessing Nate holding a gun at Maddy is perhaps what we expect from Euphoria’s resident bad boy, but all of this comes after a superb scene between Nate and his mother that really wants to get into the psychological gutter with the character.

There’s a lovely contrast between Rue’s family and Nate’s here. Where Rue finds solace with her mother, sister and Ali in their kitchen preparing dinner, the only way the Jacobs household can find peace in dealing with the fallout of Cal’s drunken outburst and ‘territory marking’ is to basically forget their troubles with booze and candid conversations on their lives in their own kitchen.

Euphoria is not a series that does things in basic terms and where any other teen series would be more than comfortable to have Nate as an antagonistic figure and be done with it, Levinson takes a chunk of the screen time to portray the character getting to terms with why he is the way he is, much to his own amazement when his mother describes his dark nature perfectly. He may eventually settle on giving Jules the disc along with an apology for his actions, but he also ends up being characteristically threatening when he chooses to use a loaded gun to frighten Maddy.

Elordi brings so many unique layers to his performance that you’ll find yourself loving and hating him at the same time. There appears to be a genuine sense to him in his scene with Jules, and one might find his apology sincere. Then again, this is a scene that comes right after he scares Maddy half to death.

The latter sequence is a stomach-churning one, comparable with Rue’s escape from confinement at the end of last week’s. It’s a reminder, not that one needs it, of just how ferociously dark Euphoria can be and where hope is in seemingly short supply. The episode may end with Cassie getting what she wants and the possibility of a relationship with Nate, but it’s a hollow victory and ends up leaving the audience more concerned than elated.

   Euphoria Continues Sunday on HBO, Sky Atlantic and NOW.

Eamon Hennedy

Eamon Hennedy

14/02/2022

Eamon has spent too much time of his life watching TV and wouldn't have it any other way. If there's anything you need to know about The X-Files, he's the person to turn to. From Northern Ireland, his eyes are amongst the most square in the land, and his "continue watching" on Netflix gets longer by the week.

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