In a haze of smoke from the 467 cigarettes Lily-Rose Depp‘s Jocelyn smokes (a conservative estimate) in the first episode, The Idol has finally wafted into our Sundays, nestled into the Kendall Roy-sized hole in the wall left by Succession.
The sordid brainchild of Abel ‘The Weeknd’ Tesfaye and Euphoria‘s commander-in-chief Sam Levinson, the series follows Depp’s troubled popstar on the eve of a comeback after a nervous breakdown. Mollycoddled by handlers who also dehumanise her in every blush-inducing piece of dialogue uttered, we follow Jocelyn as she embarks on what’s surely set to be an unhealthy attachment to Tesfaye’s Tedros, a skeezy club owner and elusive fame oracle.
In the run-up to the release of the show, which included a much-eviscerated two-episode premiere at Cannes, Levinson, who came on board the project initially as an executive producer and then later lead writer and director following a creative overhaul, gave many nuggets of insight—one being that The Idol and Euphoria exist in the same universe.
Considering that universe is just current-day Los Angeles, that revelation seems pretty moot. However, during the premiere, it appears that not only do these two shows share a city but also that their characters intertwine.
At around the 25-minute mark of The Idol‘s first episode, Depp’s Jocelyn, Rachel Sennott’s assistant Leia, Troye Sivan’s creative director Xander and Blackpink singer Jennie Ruby Jane’s dancer Dyanne hit a downtown club run by Tesfaye’s Tedros. In a montage of drinks flowing, dancers writhing and Depp’s hair blowing in the wind in a top-down car, Depp and Jennie hug a character played by Alexa Demie, known, of course, for her role of Maddy Perez in Euphoria.
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It’s a cameo that barely lasts even a few seconds, but the questions it leaves will keep us occupied for hours. Firstly, is this actually Maddy Perez? Taking into account what Levinson has said, we could reasonably assume so. While it wouldn’t be out of the question to assume Maddy has enough confidence to get her into an exclusive club, how does she know what we’re led to believe is one of the biggest pop stars in the world and her entourage? The Idol is basically just Euphoria with more publicists, and while LA will have you rubbing shoulders with the big-screen icons at your locals Starbucks, it’s a bit of a headscratcher to assume a regular highschooler is randomly best mates with Hollywood elite and its somehow never come up before.
Another strange connection between The Idol and Euphoria, bar their shared creator and penchant for full-frontal nudity, is Sharon Stone.
In Euphoria, Maddy moulds her life around Stone’s role of Ginger McKenna in Casino, and her ability to play with men in order to get the kind of life of luxury she wants. Even with abuse between McKenna and her boyfriend Sam Rothstein (Robert De Niro) which mimics her own relationship with Nate (Jacob Elordi), Maddy holds Stone’s McKenna up as an idol (hey, just like the name of the other show!).
In The Idol, just before a scene that involves Tedros choking Jocelyn with a silk scarf as some kind of vocal teaching exercise, Jocelyn and Leia are sitting at home watching Basic Instinct. In a shot that lingers just that little bit too long as if to say ‘Hey, look here!’ Stone’s femme fatale Catherine and Michael Douglas’s detective Nick are shown on screen, with Catherine saying, “He falls for the wrong woman,” Nick replying, “What happens to him?” and Catherine responding, “she kills him.”
If the rest of the first episode of The Idol is anything to go by, there’s nothing covert about Tesfaye and Levinson’s laboring in this scene. Subtlety isn’t really the name of the game here, in fact, it’s frequently abandoned in favor of us being hit over the head with a hammer emblazoned with subtext. For example, when Jocelyn is dancing with Tedros, someone who we’ll come to understand is a cult leader of sorts, Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” plays.
As a referential filmmaker, maybe Levinson just loves using Sharon Stone as an easter egg in his projects. However, it’s more fun to suppose that perhaps Stone is some kind of all-seeing-eye that arcs over his narratives. If Casino and McKenna and Rothstein’s relationship is a mirror for Maddy and Nate’s implosion, then what can we gather from Basic Instinct? If The Idol ends with Jocelyn and a female lover plotting to kill Tedros, maybe it will all be worth it.
This article first appeared on British GQ.