TV REVIEW: Euphoria (Season 1)
Updated: Mar 11, 2022
Just a heads up, this review will contain spoilers and also doesn’t address the two special episodes that premiered shortly after the season finale.
Considering that me, Zendaya and most of the cast members on Euphoria are the exact same age (25), I feel as though I am at the cusp of being too old for this show. Coincidentally, me and the other admin of this page are slightly too old to be Zoomers, but almost too young to be millennials. I think this puts us in a unique position while watching the show, because we can see where the emotional source material comes from while still understanding that the show is supposed to portray 17-year olds going through life. For example, Barbie Ferreira’s character was huge on Tumblr in the show and in real life. I have friends that know her from that part of her life, and as a former Tumblr user myself, the way her character acts reminds me of girls I used to go to DM with on there. I like that they have these older people playing current teens, because they have lived through that experience and have been able to reflect on it. There are some episodes where the girls being that old is laughable, like in a flashback where Alexa Demi’s Maddy is supposed to be 14. However, the way Cassie’s (Sydney Sweeney) makeup is done in episode 7 actually makes her look like a 15-year-old. So again, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t at all.
The show revolves around Zendaya’s character Rue, who narrates and quips throughout the majority of the show. Rue is a recovering and often relapsing addict who overdosed before the show begins, a detail that is revealed through really impactful flashback scenes. Her struggles with addiction intersect with her friendship and eventual romance for the new girl, Jules (Hunter Schafer). Jules lives dangerously as a confident, colorfully dressed trans woman, hooking up with older men in motel rooms at age 17. Out of all the flashback sequences, hers is the most heartbreaking for sure. Her mother gets her institutionalized for her compulsive, self-destructive behavior which is likely a result of her true self having to be repressed. I really find their romance believable, it is pretty much the emotional core of the whole show. As the season rolls along, we start to see Jules growing weary of Rue, especially as the dependence between them increases. Without Jules, she relapses, like in the season finale.
Their intimacy starts because Rue is taking ludes and nudes for Jules to send to a man she meets on Grindr, who turns out to be the quarterback of the football team, Nate Jacobs. Jules and Nate have a dark encounter in the first episode where she ends up cutting herself in front of him. She also fucked his father in the same episode, a plot point that I will delve deeply into right now. Nate’s father is a wealthy contractor who has this habit of fucking femme men, non-binary people and trans women in motel rooms. It’s revealed that Nate is fully aware of this and has been since like age 10. This sense of sneakiness and motel room stays is instilled in him, and he is also possibly gay? Because why was he on Grindr in the first place if not cruising for some cock? This is a plot point that makes no sense to me. He is supposedly on there to find and manipulate Jules after he finds out she fucked his dad. He gets the nudes from her and then blackmails her and says that she sent him “child ****”. This whole game of leverage is only made possible by some really convenient and baffling writing. Truthfully, I think he has nothing on Jules. However, the writers do course correct when they rehash this plotpoint later. I truthfully think Nate has nothing on anyone, but the way he gaslights and speaks is like he’s playing poker. He’s convincing everyone he has a royal flush, getting them to cop out, then revealing he has a pair of eights.
In the first episode of the season, before Nate’s confrontation with Jules, he sees his girlfriend (who he’s on a break with) Maddy in the pool fucking a 22-year old. He gets pissed, then stalks and nearly kills the guy later in his own apartment, all while telling him that he actually assaulted Maddy. Maddy is honestly the most psychotic and evil girl on the entire show. She lies about being blacked out that night so Nate will forgive her in his psychopathic way. After being assaulted by Nate and there being a whole arrest, interrogating, charges pressed, etc. she lies and tells the police that the 22-year old also went to the carnival and assaulted her. She is this compulsive, habitual person who is in this cycle to get him jealous and then have him do increasingly toxic shit to get her back. The two of them are fucking evil, he is worse because he abused her but goddamn, she knows exactly what makes him mad and is constantly hitting that nerve. She called his mom a cunt in front of an entire carnival of people! They are the perfect antithesis to Jules and Rue, because I hate both of them so much.
Anyway, Cassie is also in a relationship with a college guy named McKay. He wifed her up after seeing her fuck on camera, a detail that kind of plagues their whole relationship and leads to a lot of jealousy on his part. Their scenes and their whole plot is pretty weak in my opinion, but her character is given some extra context after a boy she is cheating on McKay with calls her “fucking boring”. Her opening flashback scene is one of the most heartbreaking, with her mother cheating on her father, resulting in him becoming a drug addict. I hope Cassie is given more valuable screen time in season 2, I really want to see who she is other than just “the hot girl” of the show. Like Alexa Demie and Hunter Schafer are both beautiful but they are given real motivations for what they do. Rue’s character is also pretty hateable and loveable in equal spades, but I feel like addicts are like that. They get under your skin, but you also can’t entirely blame them for the way they act or the things they say. All of these characters are multidimensional besides Cassie and Lexi, in my opinion. Lexi is just on the show because she’s Judd Apatow’s daughter, let’s keep it a buck. She is nice, but is the most underwritten and cast aside person in the bunch.
Besides Jules, who is just like this perfect gem, Barbie Ferreira’s Kat Hernandez is my favorite character on the entire show. I love how she goes through transformations behind the scenes, not in front of everyone. As a child, she got really fat and her boyfriend left her because of it. Then, in the second episode her virginity losing sex tape is leaked. After fogging up rumors that it is her (it clearly is), the clip ends up on PornHub and she is intrigued by all the comments. She uses her Tumblr instincts to anonymously start camming and becoming confident through her sexuality. She owns this idea of being a “slut”, fucking whoever, whenever and never catching feelings. When she does eventually end up kind of falling for this guy she denies the whole show, it is a really cathartic moment. I actually clapped for her, because she really deserves happiness in her life, unlike some of these miserable characters on this show. Nate, ugh. I hate him so much.
Off to the side is Angus Cloud’s Fez, who is one of the few male protagonists on the show. I really love his character a lot, he is probably my third favorite on the whole show. He is like this white trash drug dealing burn out who originally is dealing Rue drugs. I really like him because he gets involved in legitimately dangerous situations like armed robbery and gun brandishing, dealing his sick relative’s (idk which relative and I don’t care to look into it) pills to make ends meet. He gives the show a break from all the melodrama, adding some grounded stakes to it all. At the same time, he feels like he has a strict code of ethics that he follows, I can’t wait to see how that goes in season 2. Before ending the review, I’m just going to rapid fire off some criticisms and praise for the show. I love the sequences where characters are on drugs, they are so artistically shot. In episode one, Rue does some drugs and is walking on the walls of some party. There is another episode where Jules is at a club making out with a Rue-type chick and it cuts between her, Rue and Nate and there are all these colors and time skips and shit, that is the best scene on the entire show. There is another scene where Rue and Jules are in bed and it shows the passage of their relationship by rotating 360 around the bed to them in other places, then back around to the bed. It’s great.
The carnival episode is the worst episode by far. The music literally sounds like it’s from a Hallmark Christmas movie. The entire scene where Jules walks up to Nate’s dad and he spills the chili had me absolutely dying of laughter. The whole confrontation between Jules and Nate later on in the park is stupid and he has no leverage, head scrathcing for sure. The only good part is the side plot where Maddie and Cassie are doing MDMA and being horny, that shit was funny and strange. Uhh what else…the scene at the end where Rue’s mom is speaking at her NA meeting is amazing. I love how it gets sappy and then kind of hard cuts to a flashback where Rue’s mom is screaming at her and ridiculing her for being an addict. I think it’s very hard to capture the way that our parents simultaneously support us unconditionally while still kind of…traumatizing us. They love to praise when we do good and yell when we do bad, and it can often be really difficult to take what they say to us as genuine. Nate is way too fucking tall and old to play a high schooler, he is literally like a foot taller than the 22-year guy he beats the shit out of. Episode 5, where Nate gets arrested, is really good. The use of perspective particularly in the scene where Nate’s dad arrives at school is amazing. The use of perspective in general on the show is really well done with a few exceptions. That’s pretty much it! The last couple of episodes really set it over the top for me, I cried a lot as it was ending to be honest. I thought it was a C+ show because of some of the shit writing and bad casting, but it’s like a B. All of the loose ends that bothered me eventually got tied up for better or worse, and the suspense feels well earned by the end.
I think the show really does a solid job at capturing the cultural and musical digest of modern day high schoolers as well as the language they’d probably use. They fuck it up sometimes and it’s laughable, but most of the time it’s well-executed. It’s a solid show, but as far as drug and sex fueled high school intrigue, it’s no Twin Peaks. Also, this show is pretty much just Waves, a superior A24 project. The pill abuse, sports intersections, pseudo-cheating, heavy use of soundtrack, abuse, teen pregnancy, and parental drama is all there. Even Alexa Demi is in it and…well I won’t spoil it but shit gets fucked up. I would highly recommend watching that film if you like this, because that is an A- to me. That movie is like if Euphoria gets drained of color halfway through, it’s amazing.