When Euphoria premiered on HBO back in 2019, it raised eyebrows with its unflinching depiction of teen drug use, sex, and mental health issues. (Is Gen Z okay?). For the last 2-and-a-half-years, fans have waited patiently for the next season, replicating the show’s makeup looks on TikTok and devouring the two special installments of the series released to tide us over, each centering around Zendaya’s Rue and Hunter Schaefer’s Jules. The controversial teen drama’s second season finally premieres tonight on HBO.
EUPHORIA: SEASON 2: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: Fezco’s grandma steps out of a car holding a gun.
The Gist: It’s New Year’s Eve, y’all. Rue (Zendaya), having relapsed, is high as hell in the backseat of Fezco’s (Angus Cloud) car, accompanying him and his younger brother Ash (Javon Walton) to a drug deal before they head to the big party. Things soon get out of hand when their group is made to strip down before any kind of deal proceeds, and Rue being out of her mind only makes things more intense. After the dramatic deal, the crew heads to the party, where Rue hides from Jules (Hunter Schaefer) and gets high with a new pal in the laundry room. Cassie (Sydney Sweeney) hasn’t arrived quite yet, having argued with her sister Lexi (Maude Apatow) and jumping out of the car. Cassie stocks up on powdered donuts at a gas station, where she runs into Nate (Jacob Elordi), who gives her a beer and offers to drive her to the party.
En route, Nate drives dangerously fast and heat builds between the two until their steamy hookup is interrupted by loud bangs on the bathroom door at the party. It’s Maddy (Alexa Demie), who is in desperate need of a pee and tickled when she figures out Nate is the one behind the door. Cassie panics, going into full meltdown mode while they try to figure out what to do, and eventually she avoids facing her best friend by hiding in the bathtub. She’s shaken by the experience, running into McKay (Algee Smith), who soon realizes that things are totally over between the two of them. Not a great night for Cassie. Rue, after seemingly narrowly evading cardiac arrest, finally speaks with Jules, who asks when she relapsed. Rue admits it happened after she left, and the two have a hard time breaking through the emotional tension between them. As they count down to the new year, though, they find each other again, apologizing and professing their feelings. They kiss, but it feels like a fantasy. We’ll have to wait and see.
Fez, meanwhile, has spent the evening flirting with Lexi, who happily exchanges numbers with him before the night ends, but things quickly take a turn when Fez encounters Nate. He initially seems like he might want to squash their feud, but it turns out he only wants to squash Nate’s face, which he does – repeatedly. The party guests look on in horror as he pummels Nate’s face to a bloody pulp, and when he’s finally pulled off of him, the girls are left to pick up the gory pieces. Happy New Year, amiright?
Our Take: It’s been over two years since the first season of Euphoria came to a close, so the pressure for the show’s sophomore effort to shine was high. The second season premiere, “Trying to Get to Heaven Before They Close the Door,” doesn’t knock it out of the park, but it’s nice to reunite with this crew of misfits, and the performances — Zendaya and Sydney Sweeney in particular — take the episode’s clunkier moments to the next level. The episode’s big New Year’s Eve party is a bit of a mess, and the episode is similarly messy, often as aimless as Rue is during her all-night bender. It’s interesting to finally get a glimpse of Fez’s backstory (and the kid that plays him could not have been better cast!), but it feels like it’s a tad misplaced in the first episode of the season, taking up valuable screen time that might have been spent at the unhinged New Year’s Eve party.
There’s predictably a lot of anxiety-inducing stuff in this episode, but there are also some unexpectedly sweet moments of relief that come when Lexi and Fez bond on that couch, respectfully conversing at a safe distance. We don’t often see Euphoria get wholesome, but this is a welcome change of pace, and I hope there’s more Lexi and Fez stuff ahead, especially when the other relationships on the show — Rue/Jules and Cassie/all the men in her life — are so heavy. Cassie, our favorite hot-girl-with-a-heart-of-gold, is the surprise scene stealer of the Season 2 premiere, perhaps signaling that there are big things ahead for her and her constant self-loathing and inability to do the right thing. With Sweeney operating on this level, there are bound to be some unforgettable moments ahead.
Though Euphoria definitely stumbles story-wise as it makes its return to TV, the visuals remain compelling as ever, sucking us into a dream world during its final sequence at the party. For all the script flaws the show might have, it’s consistently a feast for the eyes, armed with stunning production design, memorable costumes, and good lord, those kids’ faces. Welcome back, Euphoria. We’ve missed you.
Sex and Skin: Euphoria wastes no time getting to the sex and skin, kicking things off at a strip club and a violently interrupted blowjob, and continuing with a dramatically interrupted bathroom hookup, and yes, lots and lots of dicks.
Parting Shot: Rue and Jules look on as Nate is carried out of the room. “Damn,” Rue gasps.
Sleeper Star: Zendaya has long been the most obvious reason to watch Euphoria, but Sydney Sweeney, who does breathtaking work as Cassie, quickly reminds us why she was able to grab hold of our hearts so quickly last season. Still wounded from the events of the Season 1 finale, there’s a change in Cassie this time around, a profound sadness that’s always been there but now makes its way to the surface in heartbreaking fashion. With a cast this talented, it can be difficult to stand out, but Sweeney has that thing, equal parts haunted and singularly sparkly. She’s just unforgettable. We can’t wait to see what the rest of the season holds for her.
Most Pilot-y Line: “Trying to Get to Heaven Before They Close the Door” hits a few moments of clunky dialogue as it tries to find its groove again, with lines like “she left you at a fucking train station?” that try to reestablish where the story last left us.
Our Call: STREAM IT. Even when Euphoria drags, it’s mesmerizing, full of dazzling performances and visual artistry that prove this second season was more than worth the wait.
Jade Budowski is a freelance writer with a knack for ruining punchlines, hogging the mic at karaoke, and thirst-tweeting. Follow her on Twitter: @jadebudowski.
The post Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Euphoria’ Season 2 On HBO, The Long-Awaited Return Of Zendaya’s Edgy Teen Drama appeared first on Decider.