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Review: Euphoria Season 2

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Euphoria season two finale premiered on HBO max and let’s just say the audience reception has been widely varied in response to the ending of the popular series.

Euphoria season one was an instant hit, following a reliably successful tv formula: exploring adult themes through high school teenagers. Euphoria had an edge to it, with an almost Baz Luhrmann approach it portrayed violence and traumatic events with largely stylised musical and fantastical sequences. Every aspect of the show had a level of glittery, nostalgic detail put into it which made the show immediately iconic – both for its aesthetic and for its playful elements that were borderline ridiculous and quickly became memorable. Yet, what was so enchanting about Euphoria season one was the in-depth look at its variety of characters and the way the show had you invested in their personal journeys. 

Now, reflecting on season two in its entirety, this endearing quality seems to have been diluted by stylistic indulgences. Sam Levinson, the show creator and writer, has again achieved spectacular televisual cinematographic moments and sequences. Yet, looking at the character and plot development that was achieved (or rather, not achieved), it’s hard not to begin to criticise the show. Is Levinson prioritising style over substance and falling dangerously close to proving prior criticism of the show correct in glamorising issues such as drug abuse and toxic relationships? Sadly I think so.

We ended this season with only more questions. The season one finale was a powerful moment – tying up plot arcs that had been intricately sculpted over the season whilst also providing new plot points to be focused on in the future. However, the season two finale felt weak in comparison to its predecessor. With plot points and characters seemingly dismissed or even forgotten, a lot of fans have found themselves confused.

The main weakness this season is the lack of focus on the range of characters; fan favourites such as Kat and Jules’ roles are extremely limited. This could be due to the rumoured feud between actress Barbie Ferreira (Kat) and Levinson who allegedly disagreed on the vision for Kat’s arc and so Levinson supposedly cut her character’s scenes extensively. If this widely believed rumour is true, then perhaps the faults of the show are down to the haphazard decisions made by a vision-obsessed creator.

The saving grace of the season is the ensemble cast, who is undeniably brilliant and incredibly talented in convincingly portraying the highly intensive plot. The stand-out stars of the series are fan favourites Angus Cloud as Fez, the oddly endearing teenage drug dealer and his younger brother Ashtray, portrayed by Javon Walton. It’s a testament to both their chemistry and performances that we as an audience root for the morally dubious duo. 

Euphoria season two was successful in achieving its main purpose: showing the unravelling status of its flagship character brilliantly portrayed by Zendaya. This season, Rue increasingly struggles with concealing and maintaining her drug addiction. However, the decision to focus on this is also the season’s downfall. Coming off of a two-year absence in the wake of its huge success, there was a lot of expectation and sadly in this case the standards held for this show were so high it just missed the mark. As the show has been renewed for a new season, we can at least hope that one plot point will be satisfyingly developed and closed.

Image Courtesy of Gage Skidmore via Flickr