'Euphoria' is a crackling live wire of a series - Albuquerque Journal

‘Euphoria’ is a crackling live wire of a series

“I don’t know if I’m a good person.” – Sentiment expressed by more than one main character in “Euphoria” Season 2.

You best bring your A-viewing game when you strap in for another season of the searing and brutally raw “Euphoria” on HBO, because if you let your attentions wander, you’re liable to miss out on the details of something spectacularly bold and original, whether it’s a Scorsese-esque flashback origin story, the introduction of some immediately fascinating new characters, a number of callbacks to particularly poignant songs by INXS or the moment when most of the main characters in the story find themselves essentially watching a thinly disguised depiction of their own lives – and that’s just a smattering of the darkly funny, emotionally draining, drug-infused elements in this wild and unforgettable ride.

Phew! As was the case with season one (and the two interstitial special episodes) of Sam Levinson’s brilliant adaptation of the Israeli TV series of the same name, season two of “Euphoria” is the polar opposite of a comfort-viewing show, e.g., “Cobra Kai” or “Emily in Paris” or “Ted Lasso,” where you just sit back and enjoy the familiar warmness of it all. This is more in the league of “Ozark” and “Yellowjackets” and “Squid Game,” in which we’re equal parts exhausted and exhilarated by the viewing experience – and we wonder how much more some of these characters can take before there’s going to be another explosion, physically and/or emotionally.

And oh, do the fireworks fly in season two, with Zendaya reprising her Emmy-winning role as Rue Bennett, a 17-year-old recovering drug addict who looks like a kid in her maroon hoodie sweatshirt and Converse sneaks while she bicycles around her unspecified California town, but has already been through enough setbacks and challenges and upheavals to fill a lifetime. In this season, at least a half-dozen major players, including Rue, will have showcase moments when the soul-crushing reality of their lives becomes too much to bear and they let loose with every fiber of their being – moments brought to harrowing realism thanks to the rich and vibrant writing, and stellar performances by Zendaya, Hunter Schafer, Sydney Sweeney, Eric Dane, Storm Reid, Colman Domingo and Nika King, among others.

“Euphoria” season two kicks off with a flashback to the very early days of Angus Cloud’s Fezco, who, despite being a drug dealer capable of shocking violence, is somehow one of the more sympathetic, dare we say likable, characters in the series. Filmed in the style of Scorsese’s “Goodfellas,” complete with the inclusion of Nilsson’s “Jump Into the Fire” (which was put to such memorable use in that film), it’s an incredible quick-dive into Fezco’s upbringing at the gnarly hands of his crazy-ass, drug-dealing grandmother, and we also learn how Fez’s de facto little brother “Ashtray” (played with deadpan skill by Javon Walton in present-day) came to live with him.

A later episode fleshes out the high school years of Dane’s Cal Jacobs, the monstrous and duplicitous father of Nate (Jacob Elordi), a rotten apple who has fallen at the very base of the poisonous tree, and we also get flashbacks to previous moments in the lives of some of the teenage characters, and it all adds context and dimension to the overall picture. Still, “Euphoria” is at its most compelling when we’re following the intense, day-to-day madness in the lives of Rue, who is once again using drugs, mainly opiates, and her on-and-off-again love interest Jules (the amazing Hunter Schafer); a twisted love triangle involving Nate, Maddy (Alexa Demie) and Cassie (Sweeney), and the budding relationship between Fezco and Cassie’s little sister, Lexi (Maude Apatow), who is the closest thing to a well-adjusted teenager in this series, but is beginning to emerge from her shell, and proves to be a creative force in more ways than one.

Brimming with first-rate production design (every teenager’s bedroom, every wealthy family’s home, every seedy apartment, every dark alley has a hyper-realistic feel) and with stylish camerawork adding to the sometimes hallucinogenic nature to the proceedings, “Euphoria” employs the effective technique of having Rue narrate the story – although Rue the Narrator usually has a much more lucid, sober overview than Rue the Troubled Teenager. The pop culture references are fast and furious, from the use of songs such as Gershwin’s “Summertime” and Bobby Darin’s version of “More” to an extended reference to the musical “Oklahoma!” to a key moment involving the movie “Stand by Me” to a heavy influx of 1970s and 1980s hits such as “Love Will Keep Us Together,” “It Never Rains in California,” “(I Just) Died in Your Arms” and “What a Fool Believes.” (When Rue has arguably the most horrific relapse of her life, what ensues feels like a cross between Scorsese’s “After Hours” and the surreal late 1960s film “The Swimmer.” It’s bat-bleep crazy, and it perfectly captures Rue’s hopeless, perhaps even suicidal, state of mind.)

Blazing with creativity and screen-popping visuals, “Euphoria” is a crackling live wire of a series with frightening and chilling insights into the world of far too many teenagers – and their parents – whose lives are in danger of being swallowed up by addiction-fueled actions. The consequences are lasting and perhaps even fatal.

Home » Entertainment » ‘Euphoria’ is a crackling live wire of a series


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

1
Film festival goes virtual ‘with a host of unique ...
Entertainment
Experiments in Cinema film festival runs ... Experiments in Cinema film festival runs through May 23.
2
Meow Wolf announces two new exhibits in Texas
ABQnews Seeker
The new locations have been on ... The new locations have been on the company's radar for more than two years
3
Tikka Hut’s mix of cuisines is unlike any other ...
Dining Reviews
There are no curries on the ... There are no curries on the menu, but the addictive spicy tomato sauce that underpins many of the dishes starts out that way before ...
4
Actress Arlyn Broche embraces the role of Dany in ...
Entertainment
'Young Rock' airs at 7 p.m. ... 'Young Rock' airs at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 17 on NBC. It can also be streamed on demand and on Peacock.
5
Mudhoney to play Tumbleroot in Santa Fe
Entertainment
Band to perform with Meat Puppets ... Band to perform with Meat Puppets at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 17.
6
ABQ a 'special place' for duo For King & ...
Entertainment
The Grammy Award-winning Christian artists will ... The Grammy Award-winning Christian artists will make a stop at Tingley Coliseum at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 19.
7
Bluegrass band Big Richard to play three NM shows
Entertainment
The quartet to play at the ... The quartet to play at the Tico Time Bluegrass Festival, Tumbleroot Brewery & Distillery and the Taos Center for the Arts.
8
ABQ native's 'Our Crazy Family' pilot now available on ...
Entertainment
'Our Crazy Family' follows the life ... 'Our Crazy Family' follows the life of Lydia and Dominic, who are siblings in love with the same girl.
9
What’s happening in ABQ May 13-19: ‘Finding Nemo,’ Heritage ...
Coming This Week
Youth Art Sale and Show coming ... Youth Art Sale and Show coming to Rio Rancho on May 14.
10
Taste of Nob Hill returns to prepandemic format
Blogs
The event will take place between ... The event will take place between noon-3 p.m. Saturday, May 21 on Silver Avenue SE, between Tulane and Amherst.