If the second season of HBO’s hit show ‘Euphoria‘ has achieved anything during its run, it’s that for those eight Sundays, everyone was glued to their screens. In fact, the interest in this show only went up with each episode as the finale drew over 6.6 million viewers across all HBO platforms and honestly, I get it. The first season was a phenomenon and the two special episodes in between the two seasons were truly spectacular, masterful writing. There was an undeniable hunger for more ‘Euphoria‘ and with the new year came a new season, one that reintroduces us to the madness and the unbridled emotions featured in the show and also evoked by it. This time around, however, creator Sam Levinson focuses maybe a bit too much on making something new rather than building on what the first season set up.
major spoilers for the second season of ‘Euphoria‘ are featured in this review.
Never would I ever think that outside of Rue’s journey this season, this is what the second season of ‘Euphoria‘ would look like. The show completely derails from the track set by the first season and goes off on a completely nonsensical continuation. In what version of ‘Euphoria’ is Jules, one of the main driving forces of the show’s plot, diluted to a secondary character without any development. The distribution of character depth and development this season was truly baffling. The amount of time we spent with characters like Cal, Cassie and Nate is absurd considering how much faster their arcs could’ve been wrapped up if they weren’t drawn out over eight episodes. Characters like Kat, Maddy and especially Jules got so sidetracked this season it’s actually embarrassing but hey, let’s follow Nate and Cal some more. It is so baffling how this season had so little to say and yet it still feels unfinished. That finale was in no way a satisfactory ending to what the first episode set up. Nothing was resolved, Maddy claims this is just the beginning with her and Cassie, Laurie and the 10K are still looming over Rue, Jules literally had no arc, neither did Kat and Nate is still out on the loose, punishment-free.
It was very telling that everyone’s storyline was tackled with a different seriousness. Rue’s journey was obviously and rightfully given the time and respect it needed to work. Episode 5 is easily my favourite episode this season. I was always invested in Rue as a character and this season only compelled me to love her even more. She is without a doubt, a perfectly written character. However, the other characters got a much different treatment. Outside of Rue and Lexi, every other female main character got a storyline that ultimately ridiculed them. Jules breaking down in the second episode purely because she thought that Rue liked Elliot only for her to cheat on Rue with Elliot a couple episodes later was not only unnecessary but considering that’s what she’s mostly known for this season, it’s actually quite questionable. Rue and Jules’ relationship did not need this plotline to break them up, they were literally hanging on by a thread. Kat’s entire storyline was pathetically cut-down and ended with such embarrassment, it was hard to watch. Maddy quite literally spent an entire season suffering, even being held at gunpoint by her abusive ex-boyfriend at one point and yet we never even explore how that affected her. This stuff bothers me because we spend so much unnecessary time with Nate, Elliot and Cal when their relevance to the plot is either non-existent or far less interesting.
The biggest problem this season faces is cohesion. The first season used multiple elements to tell a cohesive story despite its large cast of characters. Whether it’s the cold-opens, the brilliant music by Labrinth or the fact that every character was more or less equal to one another, Season 1 simply divided its attention far better than Season 2 ever did. Having ‘All For Us’ loom over Rue throughout the first season and then ending the season with a huge musical number symbolizing her falling back into a relapse, that’s great stuff! Yet for Season 2, while the song ‘I’m Tired’ was used sparingly throughout the season as well, it was never used in the finale in a meaningful way. We only get Rue claiming that she’s stayed clean through the rest of the school year. We didn’t get a scene with Zendaya singing the song which in its lyrics feature the message of fighting to stay alive, to keep going but we did get Elliot singing a four-minute song. The entire season is fillied with moments like this. A season-long lead up with no pay-off. There was so much hype surrounding the confrontation between Maddy and Cassie and the most we got is Cassie’s head getting smashed into a wall, which admittedly was very satsifying. It then cuts to another scene and the entire fight happens off-screen. Of course, I’m not asking for a literal physical fight but it felt like we got cheated. It didn’t match the level of importance the season gave it. On the opposite side of the spectrum, there is the Fez, Faye and Ashtray situation which I couldn’t be bothered to care about all season but by the finale became captivating to an extent.
All of this being said, this is still an HBO show meaning anything other than the writing was excellent. As messy as this season was, it was entertaining as hell. There are so many instantly iconic moments from this season that I love. Fez beating Nate up, Cassie’s pretend breakdown in the bathroom, Cassie claiming she’s “crazier” only to literally scream, cry and throw up moments later. Cal’s backstory and monologue, Rue running away from the police and vandalising an entire town then snitching on Cassie to Maddy Lexi’s entire play and Ethan’s powerhouse of a performance and that blessed head-smash by Maddy. All of these moments are products of the fantastic cast which really carried this season on their backs.
The cast is in top form this season. Zendaya delivers an even stronger performance this time around with the fifth episode being a clear second Emmy win for her. This is a performance that demanded so much physicality and all of the emotional and mental strength possible to execute it and she did it flawlessly. The moment where she closes her eyes during Lexi’s play to remember her father was so heartwrenching, such a small moment that had such a great impact. Syndney Sweeney delivers a truly iconic performance as Cassie who for those eight weeks became a character we’ve grown to love… to hate. She was excellent, I need to see her in a horror movie as soon as possible. Eric Dane managed to make Cal Jacobs an even more wild card of a character and that monologue at the end of the fourth episode should land him a Best Supporting nomination. Maude Apatow’s Lexi became one of the main players and honestly, as much as I love her, she just isn’t that interesting of a character to me but I look forward to seeing where the story takes her next season. The rest of the cast is just as great and I wish I had more to say about other characters but there was simply not enough material there. I wish we got more Maddy, Kat and Jules this season and I hope next season pays them their dues.
Overall, the second season of ‘Euphoria‘ while admittedly is very flawed and uneven, uses it’s greatest strengths so well that it continues to be wildly entertaining to watch. After a stellar first season and two truly great specials, this second season ultimately left me feeling underwhelmed because I know how great this show can be. The performances are fantastic, the music is amazing, the show looks stunning but a show can only do so much when the writing is all over the place.
‘Euphoria‘: Season 2 is available to stream on HBO Max.