WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS
HBO has officially wrapped up the first season of Euphoria, its massively-hyped new original series – and boy was it a rollercoaster.
The brain child of director/writer/producer Sam Levinson, Euphoria follows the trials and tribulations of Rue Bennett (Zendaya) and her high school peers as they navigate the never-ending labyrinths of addiction, acceptance, sexuality and mental health (among many, many other things). In summary, Levinson and his cast brilliantly encapsulated the concept of "coming-of-age" in its moderate & extreme forms - like a highly graphic, R-rated John Hughes film.
The season closer left us with a plethora of questions and very little closure. Now that the clock has started for Season 2, we here at the Burbs team will be digesting the past two months of brilliant television that was Euphoria.
*second warning – this article contains spoilers: enter at your own risk*
Euphoria has been a divisive show from the start. It feels like viewers are either head-over-heels for it, or are tired by its sometimes-extreme depiction of modern teenage life. Where do you fall?
Jack: I was really high on Euphoria after the first episode; pun somewhat intended. For the first six weeks I watched the show either in real time or the day after it premiered. It's almost been a week since the finale aired and I just finished watching the final two episodes of the season. I don't know, I really like the show at times, enough to keep watching and ultimately finish it, but there are others where I'm just like, "Where is this going? What's the point of this?"
Evan Linden: I love Euphoria and consider it to be one of the best shows out right now, but I do agree that the content is quite exaggerated. The topics themselves (drugs, sex, personal identity, bullying, issues at home) are all painfully relevant to our generation, but the ways that the topics are actually carried out on the show are very extreme. But then again, it's an HBO drama, so you gotta expect the unexpected. I also read before Euphoria's release that the show should "scare parents" with its realness, so I have a feeling that the show is designed to grab people's attention and get them to actually start talking about these topics that have been swept under the rug for far too long.
Ralph: I'm going to be acting as the resident Euphoria idiot considering I haven't seen every episode yet, but I feel like I have a good enough grip on it after watching somewhere around four to five episodes. I was fascinated by this show when it initially premiered its first episode. And in a way, there is still some fascination on my behalf, but it's definitely dwindled off ever since the show personally peaked for me during Zendaya's Inception scene.
I just find this show to be overwhelmingly dramatic, and incredibly eager to show its audience how much it's capable of shocking us. There are just so many moments that I can recall where I think to myself, "Do I really need to be seeing this right now? Like, not even in the sense of do I need this for the story to feel more realistic, and the characters to seem more real. But do I ever really need to see Zendaya licking fentanyl off of a Mexican Druglord's blade or a 230 pound man beating his meat relentlessly?" and if I'm asking myself those questions then that's probably the first issue that this show needs to address in Season 2 because there is a happy medium that they're capable of achieving.
Evan Northrup: I don't think there's anything wrong with how extremely graphic and unapologetic Euphoria was. At this point you have to expect that most HBO shows will deal directly with tough issues in ways that can be hard to watch. What I didn't always love was the way Euphoria depicted these issues. A lot of times it felt like it Euphoria was written by an old dude who observed and knew the issues young people go through, but didn't understand them.
The young cast of Euphoria is remarkably talented, each member securing a very bright future for themselves. All biases aside, who do you think delivers the best overall performance in the first season?
Jack: I don't think there were any bad performances. If anything, the acting was the best part of the show aside from the cinematography (for certain scenes). Zendaya's performance as Rue was really, really good; award-worthy. The scene where she's banging on Fezco's door saying that he ruined her life was heartbreaking and whenever Rue was on-screen I was pulled in, constantly hoping that she'd make the right decisions. Sydney Sweeney's portrayal of Cassie grew on me throughout the season; she has a bright future ahead in Hollywood. Cassie become more of a focal point as the show progressed and after the finale, I felt truly bad for her, but also felt a sense of hope. That's kind of how I feel for everyone. Obviously Nate is a dick, but Jacob Elordi plays it well. His breakdown in the season finale was genuinely great acting. All of the actors in this show have careers ahead of them, and I'm excited to see how they grow with the show as it enters its second season sometime next year.
Evan Linden: Each cast member fits into their role perfectly, and with each role being integral to structure of the show, it's hard to pick the best performance. Zendaya did an amazing job of depicting Rue Bennett along with her flaws and struggles, almost breathtakingly so at times. Angus Cloud absolutely killed the role of Fezco, the personable and honest drug dealer with a good heart buried underneath all the burdens life has thrown at him. Fez and Rue on-screen together have an amazing chemistry and dynamic, perhaps one of the best Euphoria has to offer. Despite being the show's most-hated character, Jacob Elordi impressively delivers the maniacal role of Nate Jacobs. Those are the top three performances in my eyes, but it is very challenging to narrow it down to the best performance.
Ralph: If I am being biased, which I'm totally not because how dare any journalist ever be biased, then I would say my two favorite characters are Maddie and Cassie because they're... um... like really fucking hot. If I'm not being biased towards heterosexuality, then my favorite character is definitely Fezco. He's literally the only reason I continued watching this show aside from praying that Zendaya's character, Rue, didn't die (which I still don't know if she did or not).
Evan Northrup: Jules and Rue's on screen relationship was infectious, so I had have to give it to Hunter Schafer and Zendaya. In a show that often seemed less than real, they both made me believe in their characters even when the plot was failing.
Are you a Cassie guy or a Maddie guy?
Evan Linden: I'd have to go with Cassie; Maddie stays chugging that dumb bitch juice.
Ralph: I thought I was obsessed with Maddie until she kept returning to the revolving door that is Nate Jacobs (and it's hard to blame her because that dude is fucking sexy), but it's hard to forgive her after watching five episodes where he proves to be the biggest piece of shit on Planet Earth with a tough background. So, with that being said, I'm a Cassie guy through and through.
Should we be concerned about Rue's little sister, Gia, going into Season 2?
Evan Linden: If she keeps hanging out with those annoying twins, then yes. Regardless of that, you already know HBO is gonna come with even more drama next season, so I'm sure Gia will be thrown into the mix at some point. As we've seen, no one is too young or too old to receive the brunt of Euphoria's merciless drama.
Ralph: I surely hope not. She is pretty young to be blowing bag at the county carnival, but even though she's only an adolescent she's definitely aware of the potential downfalls of drugs considering her sister is literally fresh out of rehab and is the second coming of Mac Miller on Faces.
Jack: Maybe? How many more lives will this show ruin? I'd love for Euphoria to show me one genuinely happy person on the show, even if it's for like twenty seconds. I hope Gia listens to Rue and learns from her sister's past mistakes, but we won't know until the next season rolls around. Maybe the second season will be about everyone turning their lives around and solving climate change.
Evan Northrup: Euphoria loves to tug on heart strings, so I definitely think this is a direction they could go. It can't hurt anymore then when Jesse Pinkman got his baby brother started on the dope in Breaking Bad
IMDB currently has Euphoria ranked as an 8.4/10 on its website. Is this a fair rating?
Evan Linden: I feel 8.4 is appropriate, as I'd probably give the show a rating between 8.5 and 9.
Ralph: For context's sake, other IMDB shows with an 8.4/10 rating include: House of Cards, The Handmaid's Tale, American Crime Story, and The Colbert Report. I'm not an aficionado of any of those programs, so my opinion here isn't too strong but I don't think I'd categorize it with any show personally. I think it's a self-identifying show that shouldn't be compared to any other thing on television, for better or worse.
Jack: It's a bit higher than I would expect but then again it's an HBO show. I'd keep it around a 7.7; the episodes definitely vary in terms of how I'd rank them.
Evan Northrup: Euphoria was bold and adventurous, but I don't know if all their risks paid off. To me the plot came off as more flash than real insight and substance, held up only by its excellent set of characters. I would give Euphoria a high 7 with almost unlimited potential for growth in future seasons.
Is Rue a classical protagonist, an anti-hero or a character that defies traditional conventions?
Evan Linden: Rue's deviation from traditional main character conventions would technically label her an antihero, but I feel that Rue even strays from that label altogether. Rue Bennett is one of the biggest curveball characters to ever hit TV, quite honestly. Over the course of Season One's eight episodes, we see Rue in all forms- at her best, at her worst, at her "average". We get a full picture of the struggles she's endured in her short life- overdosing, losing her father to cancer, battling endless episodes of mental illness. We see glimpses of her as a human with empathy and emotions, while also seeing glimpses of her as a low-life deviant with little-to-no standards or moral compass. The viewer sees the contrast between the two sides of Rue Bennett, feeling for her while simultaneously viewing her as an idiot junkie. To me, that's impressive.
Ralph: There is by no means any glorification of the downer drugs Rue uses, like Xanax, Fentanyl, etc, but there is definitely a glorification of the instant-reacting LSD she takes on a couple different occasions. Overall, that's the show runner's decision and feels like it's a fair representation of these drugs, but Rue's displays of affection feel authentic enough even when she is under the influence of reality-altering narcotics. I wouldn't say she's an anti-hero, although I'd love to see what her character is like in the Watchmen universe, but I definitely wouldn't consider her a classical protagonist either.
Jack: Rue is just real. I think we're supposed to root for Rue; I know I do. She's shown for who she is throughout the season: she cares deeply for those around her, but her addiction issues sometimes transform her into someone more self serving. At no time do I think she did anything to label herself an "anti-hero", I don't even think she's a hero. She's just trying to get by one day at a time and in that we see her at her lowest lows and her highest highs. At the end of the day, she's a person. We all have our flaws and fights; hers are just displayed on TV.
Evan Northrup: Rue doesn't give a fuck about what you think or any box you try to put her in, so I don't think it would be fair to try and describe her as any certain type of character. I think Rue is a young human being pulled in million different directions by a million different motivations. At her core I think she just wants to live her life the way she wants and not the way everyone else wants her to.