The second episode of Euphoria season two opens with Maddy and Cassie driving Nate to the hospital, where he’s stitched up in the hospital after being beaten by Fez. This is interwoven between Nate’s fantasies of Cassie, and later, an agonizing replay of him being beaten as well as his various sexual encounters. The montage, which is meant to capture how Nate often conflates love and pleasure with unhealthy violence, is well constructed yet uncomfortable to watch.
Another thing that I still find uncomfortable to watch is Cassie’s (Sydney Sweeney) nudity in this context. Sweeney is not a minor, but she plays one; at this point, Cassie’s nudity doesn’t say much or add anything to the show. In season one, it felt like commentary on the way that nudes have become a common language for Gen Z. But here, it just feels like nudity for the sake of titillation.
But, on to Rue and Jules, who meet up in the hallway at school, embracing and kissing before Jules says “I love you.” But Rue is distracted by Elliot, who she met previously on New Year’s Eve. She awkwardly tries to hide the fact that she’s been hanging out with Elliot and secretly doing drugs for the past few days. Jules is upset because she thinks Rue has a crush on Elliot. As someone who’s invested in the Rules (Rue and Jules) ’ship and roots for them, I loved everything about this interaction. I was initially hesitant about adding a new player to this relationship dynamic. But the addition of Elliot seems poised to create a good love triangle. Elliot adds not only a layer of conflict but also levity and comedic relief at times. Most importantly, the similarities that Rue and Elliot share could serve as mirrors to one another and possibly a wake-up call.
The focus then switches to Cassie, who has been going through a depressive episode since the winter formal. She hasn’t showered or cleaned her room and is now contemplating abstinence, which Maddy doubts she can follow through on. Filtering Cassie’s experiences through Rue’s vantage point/voice-over seems to leave the cause of Cassie’s depression following the winter formal open to interpretation. But the audience knows Cassie’s depression was brought on by her abortion, which is a huge life decision at any age, but even more difficult as a teenager. It feels like the show might be trying to bypass the emotional trauma and turmoil that Cassie has experienced in favor of plot-lines centering on her infatuation with Nate; if so, it would be a disservice to Sweeney’s character.
Maddy receives a sweet text from Nate, thanking her for taking care of him after he was beaten. She then goes to work a shift as a caretaker for a wealthy woman. This new gig provides levity to an episode that is otherwise deeply tense. It’s nice to see Maddy in a lighter situation, if only temporarily. This will hopefully serve as an entry point to fleshing out Maddy’s childhood and ideas about womanhood.
Fezco has a new houseguest, Faye, much to the dismay of Ashtray, who is trying to not get caught by the police after killing a hotel manager. I’m intrigued by the addition of Faye into Fezco’s world but am not as sold on her yet as I am with Elliot. She could end up taking advantage of Fez. I do wonder how prominent her role will become throughout the rest of the season.
Lexi’s time with Fezco at the party makes her contemplate why she has always been so quiet and passive. This is one of the most heartening developments of this week’s episode. I’m a big fan of Lexi and am glad she’s getting more development than she did in season one. She seems to be the only other character besides Jules that genuinely cares about Rue, but is also always being used by Rue, and is overlooked by everyone because she is overshadowed by her sister Cassie. There is a lot to explore from the eyes of someone who is not engaging in the drug use or sexual activity that the other characters are, but is directly affected by it. Lexi strikes me as one of the civilians who’s harmed by the actions of Marvel superheroes during one of their large battles. There are so many teens who don’t lead wild lives but are carrying the weight of those around them who are. I’m excited to see Lexi’s perspective and I hope she is done justice this season.
Kat makes a list of pros and cons about her relationship before having an argument with women yelling feminist and body-positive soundbites, demanding that Kat love herself. In season one, Kat offered one of the most realistic depictions of a Gen Z teenager. Her journey from online popularity and real-life introversion to supposed sexual empowerment spoke to the solace many teenage girls find in the online community when they feel it isn’t being met in real-life. These can often be temporary fixes for long-term problems; the self-help mantras or self-care routines don’t often get to the root of the issue. The very literal take on this is one of the best moments of the episode.
A sense of self-examination runs through the episode, both in the show itself and most of its characters (Cassie being the exception). Characters like Lexi and Kat, who were previously underserved, are coming into focus, even being given a chance to shine.