Warning: This article contains spoilers for HBO’s show Euphoria. Additionally, while this article doesn’t go in-depth into sensitive topics, Euphoria addresses potentially triggering themes such as addiction, abuse, sex, and more.
Oftentimes when people think of high school they think of pimple-faced teenagers, stressful finals, and silly crushes. HBO’s hit show Euphoria, however, exposes some of the dark sides of high school in a dramatized way. From drugs to sex, trauma, and abuse, no topic is taboo for Euphoria. The show has an amazing cast of lead actresses, including Zendaya, Hunter Schafer, Sydney Sweeney, Alexa Demie, Barbie Ferreira, and Maude Apatow.
Unfortunately, great actors and talented makeup artists don’t necessarily make a show great. As someone who has been watching Euphoria since the beginning, and someone who is an unofficial TV show critic in their free time, I have some complaints about season two.
The biggest flaw with the season was the focus of love triangles to drive the story along. Most of Jules and Rue’s relationship in season two was centered around the conflicts caused by Elliot, a new character to the show, as opposed to some of the other cracks we saw in their relationship in season one. Cassie and Maddy’s conflicts made even less sense in context with season one, considering Cassie showed no interest in Nate before this season. Season two centered men in the majority of the conflicts, which is sad considering how amazing the main cast of women are. Season one showed great, healthy female friendships, especially between Cassie and Maddy, and it is disappointing to see their relationship fall apart because of a guy. The center spotlight on men was so strong in season two that one of the episodes (episode four) didn’t pass the Bechdel test. For those unaware, the Bechdel test is used to judge female representation in film, and to pass the Bechdel test the media has to have two named women who talk to each other about something other than a man. It’s sad that Euphoria is often praised for its diversity and representation while failing in this very basic way in one of the episodes.
Speaking of the dulling of the great female main cast, Barbie Ferreira’s character Kat had one of the most disappointing storylines of all. In the first season, Kat was confident, empowering, and independent. While she was struggling with trusting sexual partners and finding sources of confidence outside of camming, she was great representation of a self-assured fat woman, which is rarely seen on television. This season, however, she took some steps back in more ways than one. Her character rarely appeared for more than a few lines, and when she was in the spotlight her storyline was only about her and Ethan’s crumbling relationship. The best (and only) scene with Kat that didn’t focus on Ethan was the “self love” scene in episode one, which was a critique of the body positivity movement. Other than that, her character was extremely disappointing. This may have been because of a conflict of opinion between director Sam Levinson and Ferreira in where Kat’s storyline should go, or simply Kat’s story being fully told in season one, as Ferreira expressed to Today. Either way, Kat’s presence was dearly missed in season two.
Another character who was given a bad storyline this season was Jules. As said before, a lot of her character this season was centered around the love triangle she was in with Rue and Elliot. But looking past this, her story was missing well-needed context. The special episode “F*** Anyone who’s not a Sea Blob,” which premiered between seasons one and two, gave a lot of reasoning for Jules’ behavior in season two. But the context we were given in this special episode seems to go unnoticed or unacknowledged by Jules’ storyline in season two. For those unfamiliar with the special episode, Jules revealed many things about her life: her mom’s alcoholism (and her relapsing after a fight with Jules), her wanting to take control of her femininity and go off hormone blockers, and her general attraction towards unhealthy relationships. The parallels between Jules’ relationships with her mom and Rue are undeniable, and yet totally unaddressed in season two. Also, any nuance in her feelings around her own femininity and gender was lost in the shuffle of her flirting with Elliot.
Nuance was also lost in terms of narrative consistency. In season one, each episode generally focused on one of the main cast members and their story, with Rue narrating. While the overarching plot continued, we got much needed context into each person’s life. This format also gave a lot of consistency between the episodes, a consistency that season two lost. It felt like season one had no throwaway or filler episodes, while season two definitely did. Certain scenes, like Rue getting chased throughout the neighborhood, Cassie drunk dancing, and Cal standing pantsless went on for way too long, seemingly without purpose. This bored viewers and distracted from the always excellent cinematography, set, and costume design.
There were other small flaws in the show that made it hard to believe, particularly when it comes to Lexi’s play. How did a small high school in suburban California get the budget for a spinning stage, huge set pieces used only once or twice, and hundreds of costumes?? How was Lexi’s play even approved by school administrators when it was definitely not school appropriate? Also, for most of the main characters being in high school, there is a severe lack of school happening. But I guess who needs homework when you can kiss your best friend’s boyfriend, right Cassie?
Overall, was season two of Euphoria bad? No. I have watched way worse TV shows (*cough cough* FBoy Island *cough cough*) and I generally enjoyed this season. As always, the cinematography was magical and really brought the emotions out in every scene, and the outfits were, as always, on point for each and every character. The makeup was detailed and the acting never failed to impress. But there were still a lot of flaws with this season, especially when it comes to the storylines.
If you haven’t seen Euphoria yet and still want to after reading this article, you can watch it with a subscription on HBO Max.