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Tuesday, June 18
The Indiana Daily Student

arts review

COLUMN: ‘Euphoria’s’ second season is an unavailing, image-driven depiction of teenage angst


Editor’s Note: This story contains information and spoilers from recent episodes of “Euphoria.”

HBO’s “Euphoria” disappoints audiences in its delivery of chaotic and melodramatic episodes that fail to move the story forward. Halfway through its long-awaited second season, character development ceases to exist.

The sophomore season of HBO’s stylized drama premiered Jan. 9. This season follows the same group of high school students as they navigate a world of sex, drugs and personal trauma in a sun-soaked suburbia. 

The last season of “Euphoria” left audiences on the edge of their seats when the beloved protagonist relapsed on drugs. Played by Zendaya, Rue Bennett self-medicates with drugs to cope with ongoing mental health struggles and the loss of her father. Series creator Sam Levinson allows audiences to see the first hand effects of substance abuse on Rue as she tries to narrate the lives of her equally-troubled peers.

Season two picks up a few weeks after the events of the season one finale. A New Year’s Eve party sets the stage for a deep descent into darkness. Sobriety seems hopeless when Rue finds herself in possession of heroin and takes drugs with Elliot, a new student, at the party. Despite this setback, it seems like the plot might be moving forward when Rue rekindles her relationship with her love interest Jules, sharing a New Year’s kiss.

Although it is painful seeing Rue throw her life away for another high, “Euphoria” does an excellent job at depicting drug addiction in such a raw and realistic way. 

The second episode of the season remains promising as consequences from the New Year’s Eve party begin to unravel. New and old relationships are tested when it seems as if season one’s antagonist Nate Jacobs might finally be held responsible for his wrongdoings.

This all comes to a screeching halt in the last two episodes, however, where little action occurs. Despite a good buildup of conflict in the previous episodes, no new information is revealed as the show progresses. 

Rue dives further into her drug addiction, but other characters like classmates Maddy and Cassie don’t experience any sort of growth in maturity. Instead, “Euphoria” just offers montage after montage of each character doing nothing of importance in the moody and colorful aesthetic that the series popularized. 

“Euphoria” can credit a lot of its early success to this aesthetic it cultivated throughout season one. In an effort to capture the ultra-cyber, deeply histrionic psyche of the Gen Z community, Levinson ensured the use of blues, purples and reds to capture the dark emotions behind each scene. 

The use of such lighting and visual elements grew even more in this season. At first, the use of graphics helped create a complex backdrop for the teenage experience. But in season two, it is overpowering. The last couple of episodes felt more like music videos instead of narrative-driven stories. 

Additionally, while Levinson is putting a greater spotlight on previously underdeveloped characters — such as the charismatic drug dealer Fezco and Rue’s childhood best friend Lexi — other compelling characters from season one are left in the dust. 

Lovelorn teenager Cassie started the season ready to forget about boys, only to start chasing after her best friend’s ex-boyfriend minutes later. And Rue’s classmate Kat seems as if she was almost written out of the series entirely. Rather than analyze how this high schooler’s addiction to graphic fanfiction impeded her ability to love, Kat is barely on screen. If Levinson keeps failing to give any of his characters room to evolve, the series will begin to lack depth. 

With four episodes left in the season, a new course of action is needed to bring back “Euphoria” with the same vividness and complexity that gripped so many audiences during the first season.

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