The hit HBO series Euphoria, starring Zendaya, returns to HBO tonight for its second season after a three-year hiatus and two stand-alone specials. I enjoy the show, but ultimately reside in a gray area of love and hate when it comes to its exclusion and handling of its characters. I appreciated how the first season centered on a young Black girl with mental health issues experiencing a post-9/11 world out of her control (as a Black girl with mental health issues experiencing a post-9/11 world that’s out of my control), and the love story between Rue (Zendaya) and Jules (Hunter Schafer). These two threads felt the most personal and developed. However, the story throughout season one was often drowned out by the spectacle of gorgeous cinematography and camerawork.
These issues appear once again as we return to the world of suffocating suburbia for season two. The episode opens up with a montage about the childhood of fan favorite and Rue’s friend/drug dealer, Fez. Fez is a character who, thanks to Angus Cloud’s performance, has quiet sensitivity. Through Rue’s voice-over, we learn that Fez was brought up by his grandmother alongside his “little brother,” Ashtray (Javon Walton), and began to sell drugs at a young age as his grandmother’s business partner. It is evident in this montage that the skill set Fez has used to protect his grandmother and Ashtray has been extended to Rue.
Fez intrigues me, as he could be used to show how drug dealing is in many cases about circumstance and survival outside of one’s control rather than ill will. I want to know how Fez feels about dealing drugs for survival, but we don’t get answers to these questions in the premiere because this montage is all set to Rue’s voice-over. While I usually enjoy it, in this instance, Rue’s voice-over prevents us from learning more of Fez’s backstory. We don’t see what happened through his eyes.
After the title card, the premiere episode brings together the main characters at a New Year’s Eve party. Rue’s voice-over becomes much more scarce throughout the episode, which frees up the narrative to be less about how she sees everyone and herself. One of my problems with the first season and episodes involving the entire ensemble was that the entire cast of characters and storylines were either well balanced and interwoven appropriately or the various characters’ storylines were shown alongside each other with no connection to one another. Here, the characters are for the most part paired off and come together in ways that make sense, and everything intersects in a way that feels connected. Cassie (Sydney Sweeney) and Nate (Jacob Elordi) meet at a convenience store and he offers her a ride to a party. We catch up with Lexi (Maude Apatow) and Maddy (Alexa Demie) at this party, where Lexi eventually chats with Fez. Cassie and Nate arrive and begin to hook up before almost being caught by Maddy. Jules arrives with Kat (Barbie Ferreira)—and Kat’s boyfriend Ethan (Austin Abrams). Meanwhile, Rue is introduced to a new friend, Elliot (Dominic Fike), as the two share drugs.
Nate is still the villain of the school and town, seemingly unchanged and unfazed by the events of the previous season. There’s a continued effort to make him a sympathetic character but not with more depth. He still has an air of insecurity masked by self-importance, and a sense of impending doom. Maddy’s characterization is the same, hiding her own insecurities with confidence and keeping all eyes on her. Kat makes a brief cameo as she accompanies Jules to the party, but her presence in the episode seems like an afterthought. There is no full scene or montage to explain what Kat has been up to since we last saw her. There is only one offhand comment by Jules about Kat and Ethan’s aspirational relationship. She is not given the same weight as everyone else.
A character who does appear changed by the events of the previous season is Cassie. Cassie has always been emotional, vulnerable, and enthralled by the idea of love. These traits seem exacerbated by the aftermath of her abortion. Sydney Sweeney starts off the season by giving a wonderful and grounded performance as Cassie contemplates her self-worth and her continuous search for romantic love. She has a brief conversation with McKay (hey, remember McKay and whatever happened in that bathroom that we’re never going to talk about? Okay, good now back to Cassie.) My concern is that the writing of Cassie leans too far into melodrama and sensationalism. The show has proven it can handle Rue’s mental health in a fully realized manner, whereas Cassie has never quite broken out of the “hyper-sexual girl with daddy issues” mold. There is potential here and I pray it’s not squandered.
The highlight of the premiere—and any episode of Euphoria—is the fantastic chemistry between Rue and Jules. Every glance and stare that Zendaya and Hunter Schafer’s steal is alluring. This relationship is still the glue of the show. The spectacle of gorgeous cinematography and camerawork is toned down here in service of the narrative and tracking different characters as everyone exits the party. Things soon come to a head: Fez has small talk with Nate before brutally assaulting him, as everyone, including Lexi, looks on with shock and horror. Maddy and Kat help to pull Fez away. Rue raises an eyebrow.
This conclusion is in keeping with what we know of Fez—he cares deeply for those around him, particularly Rue and Jules, and will go to great lengths to protect them. In case you need a refresher, in season one, Nate catfished Jules and harassed Rue after she threatened to expose him. Fez confronted him about harming Rue and Jules, and Nate called the cops who raided the place. Fez’s actions are a testament to how seriously he takes relationships and views those closest to him as family. This act of violence is not random but rather an opportunity to take justice into his own hands.
In season one, the direction and cinematography took importance over the other aspects of the show. The opening for season two is solid and leaves me intrigued for the rest of the season. Now I’m optimistic that the thinness of the writing season one will be replaced with more characters and plot lines to match the filmmaking and performances. Hopefully, we’re also watching the beginning of Nate paying for his crimes being held accountable, and properly developed.Источник: Lifehacker