‘Euphoria’ was well worth the wait.

by | Jan 10, 2022 | All, Reviews

It has been two years since we last saw the entire cast of Euphoria. Zendaya’s Rue and Hunter Schafer were given their own self contained specials when the world emerged from lockdown. Frustrated creator Sam Levison was forced to scale back the hectic and quick scene changes that made the first season so engaging in favour of a more Covid friendly approach. The first special, Trouble Don’t Last Always, saw Zendaya’s Rue in the cafe with her sponsor Ali (Colman Domingo). The pair discuss life and the perils of addiction in a two-hander that proved the series was capable of slowing down and stepping away from its normal chaotic rhythms.  The second, F**k Anyone Who’s Not a Sea Blob saw Hunter Schafer’s Jules take the spotlight. Exploring her life before she fell under Rue’s spell and the pair’s eventual painful breakup.

The first episode of season 2 ( Trying to Get to Heaven Before They Close the Door) sees Levinson, who wrote and directs the episode,  return to what made me fall in love with the series. It opens, as it always did, with Rue narrating the early life experiences of one of the main characters in the series. To my surprise, this time it’s Rue’s dealer Fezco (Angus Cloud) who is given the treatment.

In an opening scene that will stay with me for a long time, we follow a woman with a gun through a strip club. She passes by the exotic dancers and the men receiving pleasure in various rooms until she reaches a man. She shoots him in the knee and in the penis (This is Euphoria after all) leaving the women running from the room and the man screaming in pain. It’s an opening sequence that reminds the viewer of Levinson’s slick directing style and also one that immediately intrigues. This is Levinson’s unique and brilliant way of introducing Fezco’s unconventional upbringing under the guidance of his fearless, foul-mouthed grandmother (Kathrine Narducci, stealing the episode from minute one). Rescuing him from his abusive father, she doesn’t treat him like her grandson but as a business partner in his family’s dealing operations. He’s soon saddled with a younger brother (viewers will remember Ashtray played by Javon “Wanna” Walton as Fezco’s much younger associate in the first season.) The pair aren’t true brothers. Ashtray is dropped off as a young baby as collateral when one of her Grandma’s clients can’t pay for her drugs. His mother doesn’t come back for him and Fezco is forced to take him under his wing, raising him, to be a partner in the business and fiercely protecting him every step of the way.

Fezco holds family to a higher regard than most. It’s fitting that he calls Rue ‘family’. He has always felt protective over Rue initially refusing to sell to her when she first comes out of rehab in the first episode of season 1. When we see Rue again she’s in the back of Fezco’s car on the way to a meeting with a replacement dealer following Mouse’s death. It is clear she has relapsed. Singing along to the radio, in a world of her own, Zendaya is immediately captivating in her Emmy winning role.

Although he leaves Rue and heroin user Faye (Chloe Cherry) in the car while he goes inside for the meeting, both girls are pulled into the meeting and forced (alongside Fez and his dealer associate) to strip naked to prove they’re not wearing a wire. At one point a terrified Rue is held at gunpoint, a moment she laughs off when the trio is back safe in the car. It’s clear she’s so out of it all the time that the enormity of what she’s just been through has barely registered with her.

The story shifts to a chaotic and sex-filled New Year’s Eve party where we are slowly reintroduced to Rue’s classmates. It’s a rough one for Cassie (the always brilliant Sydney Sweeney) who ditches worried sister Lexi (Maude Apatow) after an argument in the car on the way to the party. What Lexi doesn’t know, and what viewers may have forgotten after such a long time away, is that Lexi aborted her boyfriend’s baby and is struggling with her decision.

She bumps into a newly single Nate (Jacob Elordi) who offers her a ride to the party. This being Nate, the journey is quickly full of suggestive staring and reckless driving. These sequences serve as a reminder that even if in its lighter moments where characters appear to be enjoying themselves, there’s a dark and dangerous undercurrent that is ever-present in Euphoria.

The pair end up having sex in the bathroom but when Maddie (Alexa Demie) knocks on the door demanding to ‘pee’ Cassie goes into panic in fear her best friend will catch her in the act with her ex. In a sequence that plays as horror and comedy, Nate leaves, whilst Cassie hides in the bath shielded by the shower curtain. The sequence that sees Maddie forced to a towel to wipe herself that she then tosses into the bath and onto Cassie’s face is awful but also as close to comedy as the series ever gets.

It’s an episode that packs so much in but the big thing fans are waiting for: a reunion scene between Rue and Jules is both awkward and hypnotic. Their time together is brief and surprisingly without incident. Jules is heartbroken that Rue has relapsed again but Rue’s anger (at least for tonight) at Jules leaving her at the train station isn’t on display. This could be attributed to the fact that Rue very nearly went into cardiac arrest when snorting drugs with new boy Elliot (Dominic Fike) or perhaps because Rue really can’t ever be angry at Jules.

The episode’s climax switches back to Fezco. He has a fascinating chat with Lexi about his belief in God and she asks him how his belief matches with his life choices as a drug dealer. It’s a surprise pairing but they have an unexpected chemistry that I’m hoping gets explored as the series continues.

In a shocking and truly violent twist, Fezco turns on an unsuspecting Nate. He launches into an attack that’s almost too difficult to watch. He continually punches Nate in his face, pounding it into a lump of flesh. He’s eventually pulled away, but the damage is done. I have to admit I’d forgotten the reason Nate became a target for such an attack. So let me refresh your memory

As a favour to Rue, who speculated Nate was to blame for Jules’ distant behaviour, Fezco confronted him, warning that he stay away from Rue and her friends. In retaliation, Nate made an anonymous phone call to the police, reporting the illegal drug business Fez runs with his younger brother, Ashtray. The two were then forced to dispose of their stash, leaving them with heavy debts to their supplier.

Though my memory was somewhat hazy as to the intricacies of the plot of season one, it was absolutely no barrier of entry in enjoying this opening episode. All the performances were wonderful. The direction was brilliantly slick and surprising and I can’t wait to see where these characters go as the series progresses. I won’t hold my breath for a happy ending.

Euphoria Continues Sunday on HBO & NOW.

 

 

 

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles

10/01/2022

Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!

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