Sam Levinson created what I can only accurately describe as Gen Z’s "Gossip Girl" in the past two seasons of “Euphoria.” The cultural obsession began with aesthetics — glittery eye looks and bold fashion — but upgraded this season to conversations about addiction, attachment and forgiveness.
“Euphoria” has become a cultural forum for the struggles of today's young adults. Despite this, I agree with the critics who think this show should be set in college, not high school, for a variety of reasons. Besides the lack of any and all academics, the show projects far too many sexual storylines onto characters who are minors, which, intentional or not, creates unhealthy standards for younger viewers.
These are only a couple of the many issues fans have found within the season. The final episode aired Sunday night, and a slew of responses are entirely critical. My own opinion on the finale includes sparse praise.
What bother me, and many other fans, most is the abandoned plot lines. Levinson ventured into Ryan Murphy territory with the amount of side plots started up that are not resolved. The last thing we get from the season is a 2000s teen movie-style narration from Rue (Zendaya), telling us how well she does in the months following the end of the episode.
What we don’t get is an answer on how those months could go so well when she still owes the distributing drug dealer Laurie $10,000. In fact, Laurie isn’t mentioned in any concrete way after episode five, which feels like an oversight in a show where viewers try to find meaning in everything.
Even though there is still so much left to explain, the finale takes three full minutes for Elliot (Dominic Fike) to sing Rue a song which, while lyrically meaningful and beautifully sung, felt confusing with the pace of the episode. Even though Zendaya talks in an after-the-episode feature about writing the emotional ballad with Labrinth, the attention to this relationship feels unfair compared to the brief moment given to Rue and Jules (Hunter Schafer), who used to be the true focus of the show.
This is not to say I don’t enjoy the side characters, because they became my main interest this season. Maddy (Alexa Demie) and Cassie’s (Sydney Sweeney) relationship is put through trials and is perhaps one plot which is satisfying in its current ending. Though it felt rushed to get to where it stands in the final episode, I still love Maddy’s development into a strong, independent character who has broken her cycle of attachment to her toxic ex Nate (Jacob Elordi).
Perhaps the most poorly treated plotline was Kat’s (Barbie Ferreira) relationship struggles, which we see manifested in paranoid visions in episode two. The character development in that episode was one of my favorite moments of the season, as it really felt reflective of the emotional struggles teens experience from social media. That was the last time we saw any valuable screen time for Kat.
My laundry list of issues with the season, and especially the final episode, is unfortunately too long to coherently explain in just one article. So instead, I’ll turn to what I did like about this season because, despite its flaws, I was at my TV every Sunday night waiting for it to be available.
Rue’s character growth is the highlight of the season — as it well should be. Zendaya’s performance of Rue’s spiraling breakdown is worth every speculation for Emmy nominations to come. Her relationship with Ali (Colman Domingo) is something I wish we’d gotten even more of, as his screen time is some of the best moments of the show as a whole.
The last episode, really the chaotic last two, shows Rue’s life on stage in Lexi’s (Maude Apatow) play, balancing memories we’ve already seen and moments we haven’t to paint her whole picture. It wasn’t until then that I saw Lexi and Cassie as foils to Rue’s character — people she could have become if the circumstances were slightly different.
“I think I've been through a lot, and I don't know what to do with it,” Rue says to Lexi after the play. “But you've been through a lot and you know what to do with it.”
Most of the characters were given time this season to be shown as full people independent of Rue’s unreliable narration unlike season one. As viewers, we naturally seek villains and heroes, but “Euphoria” refuses to give us either. Instead, we are faced with characters who suffer the same moral complexities we do, forcing us to evaluate our ability to empathize with them.
I especially enjoyed the development of Fezco (Angus Cloud) and his little brother Ashtray (Javon Walton), and the unique love these characters share. The repeating image of the hallway of their home throughout the season comes to a heartbreaking end, and may be the only reason I return for season three.
“Euphoria” shows us characters we could easily deem “bad people” for their actions, but knowing their stories, we hesitate and realize fitting someone cleanly into that label is nearly impossible. The moments that make it great to me are not the sensationalized, clippable audio moments, but rather the human moments which make us think twice about our perceptions.