As we patiently wait for Season 2, Euphoria gives us one of the deepest and finest hours of TV lately in the form of one of two special episodes as a waiting treat.
Euphoria was one of the greatest surprises of last year. Based on an Israeli TV show (Israel represent, salute), it was a truly remarkable and innovative TV show that came to tell a story in a way never before seen. Everything, aesthetically, was so on-point. The first season ended with a blast: Rue being betrayed by Jules and going all musical with a very artistic final scene. Season 2 of Euphoria is one of the things I wait for the most now, as do a lot of viewers that are eager to get that feeling of fine, quality TV storytelling with great music, spectacular cinematography and writing (and makeup!), brilliant acting, etc. So, as the production for season 2 was put on hold for Corona purposes, creator Sam Levinson heard that we miss him, said: “say no more!”, and made two special episodes for us as we wait patiently.
The episode starts with a memory sequence -Rue and Jules on one of their finer days, a good morning, before everything went to sh*t. As the memory sequence ends, we are transferred to a diner. Rue is sitting at the table in front of Ali, her sponsor full of wisdom from last season. They talk. At that point I was starting to think: “oh, wow, that first scene is a long dialogue sequence… 14 minutes already! Impressive!”. Then I realize – it’s not the first scene – it’s the episode. This is how it’s going to be now – it’s a dialogue-driven episode! It is one (well, two or three if you count the phone call break in the middle) super-long conversation, full of depth and insight.
It’s Christmas Eve. Rue was basically just betrayed by one of her closest persons in life, Jules, and is feeling really hurt, really bad, so she turned back to the drugs to numb the pain. She calls Ali, and they sit in a diner, eating pancakes and dissecting Rue’s problems, relapse and betrayal/heartbreak through deep conversations about what it means to be addicted, to relapse, what the drives of depression, philosophy, history – it’s a lot. And it’s interesting. Now, that’s sheer brilliance right there. It’s not easy to hold an entire episode in a diner table and make it good, but the conversation is so gripping and real – you don’t ever want it to end. The writing is so precise.
Fresh out of her record-breaking Emmy win, the ever-special Zendaya keeps giving an amazing performance like in the first season, despite the fact she had much less juicy material to work with here. Colma Domingo was nothing short of brilliant, but the real surprise of this episode was indeed Marsha Gambles, who brought a brief yet groundbreaking performance as Miss Marsha. The moment she said “Trouble Don’t Last Always” had me awestruck and made me rewind a few minutes earlier to put the entire episode in a new context. Sam Levinson, the son of Barry Levinson (yes, the same Levinson from Levinson/Fontana) made an amazing work directing this COVID restricted episode and the script was on fucking fleek. Seems like the talent runs in the family. Ha!
I can’t wait to watch the second special episode, though without Zendaya’s and Gamble’s captivating performance it’s hard to believe it will manage to reach the heights of this one. But, Levinson is full of surprises because I sure as hell didn’t expect THAT as well. Season 2 is approaching slowly but surely, and we are all for another batch of gut-wrenching Euphoria episodes.
Oh, and that cover of “Ave Maria” by Labrinth is just amazing. It’s available on Apple Music/Spotify/Youtube, by the way! He’s back to doing his thing, challenging the viewer with a very original and alternative sound pallet for a TV show. Makes us all long for more of his music in the upcoming episode and season 2.
Every once in a while comes an episode that challenges the norms of TV. What we know, what we’re used to – throw it away for a second, make room for freshness. This episode is a masterclass in quality-television-made-simple. Sam Levinson has managed to create some kind of theatre-TV fusion that is so focused on good dialogue and the finest acting that you really feel how the two elements shine throughout. If they weren’t as good, the writing and the acting, it just wouldn’t have worked. It shows how special Euphoria is – it’s brilliant on its big and complex episodes, like the carnival episode or the Halloween episode on Season 1, but it’s also so brilliant on a much simpler dialogue-driven episode like this one.
Find this special episode across HBO’s platforms and look forward to the second special and Season 2 of Euphoria!