Part of Euphoria’s genius is its element of surprise. And after a lengthy production delay due to Covid, season two comes in shooting.
Clearly influenced by the criminal atmospheres engendered by Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino and David Chase – while being more daring than all three – writer/director Sam Levinson opens this season with a thrilling and debauched declaration: we’re back and we’re not pulling any punches. With blood and drugs and erections, there are few teen dramas as dark and shocking and brilliant as this one.
The 17-year-old drug-addict Rue (Zendaya, mystically absorbing) has relapsed after her split with the trans girl Jules (Hunter Schafer, beautifully fractured), and she's having a hazy hell of a time. That’s despite the dodgy circles she’s entering and the loved ones she’s alienating. She forms an ambiguous relationship with fellow pupil Elliot (newcomer Dominic Fike), a seemingly sweet and accepting boy with a lot of drugs. But it’s all hush-hush: no one knows she’s relapsed.
Jacob Elordi as the nauseating Nate Jacobs. Photo: Sky
A jarring aspect of Euphoria is the closeness of the crime drama to the whining adolescence growing uncomfortably around it. Levinson precisely balances the drug-fuelled storytelling, occasionally led by the level of adrenaline you’d find in a Safdie Brothers movie (especially Good Time), with the seemingly mountainous issues faced by teenage zoomers. He fuses them together, rapidly chopping into such wonderfully woven characters with the speed of a young thumb pressing through Twitter and Instagram before circling back to Facebook.
From the beginning, Euphoria has cut through cultural accusations of Gen-Z being the ‘snowflakes’ that many in the preceding generations love to cite. Season two goes further and examines psychological pressures from the past. You dive deeper into the closeted, misogynistic, and emotionally abusive father Cal Jacobs (a frightening, heartbreaking Eric Dane), unpacking the toxic masculinity that's spilt into his teenage son Nate (a nauseating Jacob Elordi).
Even the more trivial teenage developments – involving house parties, best friends fighting, and torrential love triangles – feel so engrossing because of repressed anxieties painted in the characters. They're warped in worries about being good people, they suffer through self-help platitudes, and they're drowned in guilt for liking what they like and disliking what they don't like. It makes even the most annoying examples, like the popular girl Cassie (an emotionally fascinating Sydney Sweeney), into loveable regulars.
Maude Apatow stars as the passive but underrated Lexi. Photo: Sky
Although the enjoyable Kat (Barbie Ferreira) has lost much of her first season verve, this is rectified by the elevation of Lexi (a loveably awkward Maude Apatow). Lexi previously lingered in the corner as the quiet nerd, dressing up as Bob Ross for Halloween in season one. She's a passive but underrated presence, an unknown saviour despite her introversion.
Now, Levinson elaborates on her story – unpeeling her artistic passions, born from her observances and avoidances. Later in the season, this proves to be the greatest weapon against the people and social dynamics she’s endured her entire life.
Season two isn’t as intentionally educational as season one, perhaps wanting to skirt comparisons with the much lighter Sex Education (despite obvious influences). But it accelerates into even more harrowing territory, really testing your love for certain characters. And all within a propulsively expressionistic visual style that experiments as much as possible, creating an often overwhelming, surreal detachment that never, ever swerves into dullness (Rue certainly wouldn’t allow any boredom).
Euphoria is difficult, it’s challenging, it's upsetting, it’s horrible, it’s ridiculous, it’s hilarious, and it’s one of the best series ever made.
Euphoria season 2 airs on Monday 10 January at 9pm on Sky Atlantic and NOW.
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10 Jan 22 – 10 Jan 23, ON SKY ATLANTIC
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