Euphoria season 2 Experiments With Non-Linear Storytelling-and Kinda Fails

Euphoria Season Two Was Definitely Shocking, But Was it as Good as Season One?

HBO’s emmy-award-winning teen drama Euphoria concluded its second season yesterday with its finale episode featuring crucial events that are indefinitely going to shape the next season and from on-screen and off. 

Euphoria stars Zendaya as Rue Bennett, a teenager battling addiction. The show follows her and her friends as they navigate a complicated landscape of dysfunctional families, difficult relationships, and learning to cope with the relevant traumas gen zXers face. 

*Spoilers below* *Most of the finale episode is not spoiled*

The season started with a hard-hitting New Year’s Eve episode which introduced crucial plot points such as the introduction of Elliot (Dominic Fike) and his relationship with Rue, Cassie (Sydney Sweeney) having repeated sexual encounters with Nate (Jacob Elordi), and Jules (Hunter Schafer) and Rue reuniting again and entering an official relationship. 

After the first episode of the second season ended with fan-favorite character Fezco (Angus Cloud) practically bashing Nate’s head in, fans were excited for what was to come next. 

The following episodes strayed away from one of the most memorable attributes to Euphoria’s format: the cold opens. These short opening segments centered on a character and their backstories, mostly beginning when they were small children (or even born in Rue’s case) and ending with where they were in the present day. 

Most episodes instead began with vivid nudity mostly depicting Cassie and Nate’s visceral and problematic relationship. Many fans lost support for Cassie with each passing episode and based on the way she behaved in the finale, it’s likely no one will be coming to her defense anymore. 

Some flashback episodes made their way into this season focusing on Cal Jacobs (Eric Dane) Nate’s father who settled down with his wife after impregnating her shortly after he graduated which crushed his fantasy of living with his best friend turned lover Derek (Henry Eikenberry). 

Cal’s love/sob story was definitely hard to watch but many fans felt that this season focused on trying to redeem irredeemable characters such as Cal who frequently fornicates with minors and Nate who physically and emotionally abused not only Cassie but his ex-girlfriend Maddy (Alexa Demie)

Nate’s attempt at redemption occurred when he literally held a gun to Maddy’s head and then his own forcing her to return the disc that contains his father having an affair with Jules. Nate then returns the disc to Jules who, before their meeting, brings out a boxcutter to air on the side of caution when dealing with Nate. 

Character arcs that had been previously established were either demolished or left completely untouched. According to speculation and insider information, Barbie Ferreira who plays Kat stormed off set after creator Sam Levinson told her that her character would face an eating disorder in season two. 

Ferreira protested the idea due to the fact that Kat had already learned to feel more comfortable in her body in season one and even began a successful relationship with her crush Ethan (Austin Abrams). 

Instead of Kat furthering her positive endeavors, she was barely seen this season and when she was on screen she was a cringefest. Her twisted, reverse-psychology-esc breakup scene with Ethan particularly bugged fans even though it wasn’t necessarily out of character for Kat. 

This season, a stand-out character was absolutely Maddy as Levinson and Demie’s performance brought more depth to the stereotypical “mean popular girl” character. 

We see Maddy begin babysitting for a rich family and while she does sneak into their closet every now and then, Samantha (Minka Kelly) , the woman she sits for, remains an ally to Maddy and helps her through her friend drama throughout the season. 

As mentioned earlier, singer-songwriter Dominic Fike joined the cast as Elliot. A drug user who enables Rue’s bad habits and eventually drives a wedge between her and Jules when he subliminally flirts with her leading Jules to cheat with Elliot which is still unbeknownst to Rue. 

Jules also took a backpedal this season. Being almost a foil protagonist to Rue in the first season we don’t see Jules dealing with a lot of the issues she was facing in the first season. Mainly navigating her love life as a young trans woman. 

This was a pivotal plot point in season one and was heavily discussed in Jules’s special episode which was written by Sam Levinson and Hunter Schafer and remains a favorite episode among fans. 

Of course, with Jules serving mostly as an opposer to Rue’s usage the main “ship” of the show “Rules” was fading away, but not before a new ship rose to the ranks and dominated the minds of fans throughout this season. 

“Fexi”-the ship name for Fezco and Lexi (Maude Apatow) was first introduced in the season two premiere when the two spent the New Years party catching up since, the audience later finds out that Fezco met Lexi when Rue would buy drugs from him. 

The two don’t get nearly enough screen time with each other during this season but when they do, the episode usually reaches its peak emotional impact, depicting a very simple love between two complete opposites that somehow works so well. 

Lexi is also a predominant character throughout the season. Halfway through the season and when Cassie begins to make her way to the deep end, Lexi reveals to the audience in a clever tv set segment that she’s writing a play based on her life and the people in it. 

Lexi’s play titled “Our Life” begins in the second to last episode of the season and ends with a flamboyant, eccentric, number involving Ethan playing a knock-off version of Nate. Lexi depicts the locker room atmosphere with erotic dance moves and configuring of props to fit her vision. 

Of course, not all are excited about it and the play is split into two episodes ending in the finale. Much to Lexi’s surprise, the general consensus from the in-show audience and the Euphoria fans is that her play is nothing short of artistic genius.

Euphoria is known for its immersive cinematography and intense acting which definitely shone through this season. The story-telling and pacing, however, were presented in discombobulated pacing following a non-linear plot despite there being a lot more plot to balance in the previous season.

Sam Levinson serves not only as the director but as the only writer for the show and that definitely was displayed throughout this season. Fans have desperately expressed the need for more writers to help tackle and weave together important plot points that were ignored or cast aside in favor of meaningless B-plots. 

Characters were set up to have bigger impacts on the overarching story but ultimately amounted to little to no payoff. The staggering pacing and imbalance of plotlines definitely earns season one the title of superiority over season two. 

With a severe, heartbreaking character death, shattering of bonds, and the rekindling of some, the finale definitely took audiences on an emotional rollercoaster. Many fans have expressed their need for more screen time allotted to characters that they just didn’t care about while others were left in the dust. 

Of course, this is only the second season, and as Maddy said in the finale “this is only the beginning”. Euphoria has been renewed for season three but most likely won’t premiere until 2024.

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Emme Oliver