In real life, the pause between the seasons was two and a half years, but on the screen only a week passed between them: we parted ways with the characters at Christmas and meet them again at the school New Year’s party. But 17-year-old Rue (Zendea) managed to get hooked on opiates again during this time due to the fact that her girlfriend Jules (transgender model Hunter Schafer) left for New York alone, leaving her in tears and disheveled feelings cuckoo at the station. At a New Year’s Eve party, the reckless Rue – a tomboy “who dresses like Seth Rogen” in shapeless pants and a hoodie – meets her handsome boyfriend Elliot (Dominic Fike). He helps her wake up from another dose, and this becomes the beginning of a beautiful friendship that will soon turn into a love triangle involving Jules. Jules herself, as we learned from the special episode, under pressure from her father, returned to the provincial East Highland. Now she even thinks about quitting hormones: Jules realized that she built her femininity based not on her own needs, but on the ideas of the men around her.
In the special episodes that came out between seasons, showrunner Sam Levinson pretty much loaded the heroines with psychology. In one of them, Roux, along with her Narcotics Anonymous handler, talked at length about the destiny that overcame Malcolm X’s addiction and her suicidal tendencies. But in the new season, these topics are no longer developed, Levinson now prefers a completely different approach, and instead of talking, Ru simply puts on a T-shirt with a portrait of Malcolm X. We can say that the author indulges the audience’s expectations here, forcing the plot to unwind through a love line and violence. In the first season, the villain and abuser was never punished – school handsome Nate (Jacob Elordi), who beat and imprisoned an innocent guy, dragged his girlfriend Maddy (Alexa Dami) into a toxic relationship and blackmailed Jules. The first episode immediately eliminates this injustice: you wanted someone to finally smear snot on Nate’s handsome face, right? Get it, sign it: the evening stops being languid when drug dealer Fesco (Angus Cloud) avenges all the heroes at once, sending Nate to the hospital bed.
But even spiced with violence, the series does not cease to be languid, because its main feature from the very beginning was sensuality. This is amazingly filmed in a flickering neon light, erotic scenes in which you simply cannot take your eyes off the young beautiful actors. And the episodes in which the characters experience that very euphoria, from drugs or from intimacy, it doesn’t matter. It is only important that Levinson, who went through drug addiction and rehab in his youth, is not only a strong director, but also the main current specialist in euphoria, like no one else who knows how to embody it on the screen. No less important is the fact that he is not going to read morality – so the beautiful bastard Nate continues to shine with a romantic light: as Tyler – a virtual character invented by him, with whom Jules is madly in love, or as an unrepentant abuser, affectionately hugging Maddie in a dance and for everything her reproaches whispering, “I know.” Sensuality-infused scenes, like the one where he doesn’t undress but rather dresses Cassie (Sydney Sweeney) while carefully adjusting the ribbon in her hair, still set the tone for the show.
One of the main themes of last season was “children as victims of the vices of adults.” In the new season, it becomes more complicated: teenagers are not just broken by youthful traumas, but exactly reproduce the behavior patterns of their parents. The drug addict Ali, who took Ru’s patronage, bitterly said: “As a child, I dreamed of killing my dad, who beat my mother. And then I realized that I myself turned into the same bastard when he beat his wife while high. In the second season, these adults are shown in all their glory. This is a granny (Catherine Narducci), who sold drugs and taught this to her granddaughter Fesco. This is Cal (Eric Dane) – Nate’s father, who, due to the birth of his first child, buried his romance with a classmate and craving for guys. Nate hates his father and the feeling is mutual, but they are terribly similar and act the same.
“Euphoria” is an honest series in which – at least for now – hopelessness reigns. She, however, looks bewitching, because in euphoria all the main characters, without exception, are saved. In Season 2, Sam Levinson cranks up the volume and spurs on the drama. Now the characters are hysterical every other time, eating out the liver of those they love the most. Hysteria becomes a form of life, as in the plays of Tennessee Williams in the Southern Gothic genre, where everyone was tormented by secret vices and took out the pain on loved ones. Last year, Levinson filmed with the same Zendaya the black-and-white chamber drama Malcolm and Marie about lovers who, out of an excess of feelings, want to tear each other to shreds. Critics compared the film to the classic play “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”, where the spouses, who survived the death of a child, desperately rotted each other to the bitter end. The series follows the same rails: mentally stick a knife in the heart of the one you love the most – maybe then yours will stop hurting.
What is surprising in the new season is something else: with such a heat of passions, Levinson seems to lower the bar and ceases to demand development from the characters – thanks to or in spite of their passions and addictions. Football player McKay (Algie Smith), who dreamed of a professional career, disappears from the plot. Kat (Barbie Ferreira) is camming as she gets lost in a lisping romance with a nice guy. Jules stops looking for his own identity. Where’s your creativity guys and where’s the audacity gone? The horizon has collapsed for everyone but the quiet Lexie (Maude Apatow, daughter of teen comedy king Judd Apatow). Instead of a boring production of the classic musical “Oklahoma” in the school theater, she puts on a play based on her own life, which replays the events of the first season. Lexi becomes a keen observer and sees everything – the secret vices and passions of her friends, parents and boyfriends. The rest of the characters in the second season are locked inside their sensuality – they look only at their feet, afraid to break bad attachments. Only Lexi reflects and comprehends the plot. But he does not judge anyone, for Levinson this is important. His characters are entirely unrepentant sinners, and this is the main charm of the series. He will not educate you, and his characters will not become better. His series is imbued with social pessimism, which is almost unthinkable against the background of the current “correct” shows, guarding the positive and puritanical morality. “Euphoria” is a completely shameless spectacle, devoid of edification – and this is its strength and uniqueness. No one knows what surprise Levinson prepared for the viewer in the last episode, but the first seven hit without a miss and bribe without a trace.
All this is all the more curious if we remember that the Hollywood classic Barry Levinson, Sam’s father, is a typical moralist director, in his best films (Rain Man, Sleepers, Tail Wags the Dog) placing the right accents and giving the right estimates. His last year’s series “Breaking” is all about the same drug addiction – a blues-style story about how bad things happen to good people. But his most talented offspring chose rock and roll – a story about how not too good and even very bad people go into the lead, experience euphoria and are not ashamed of anything.