After HBO released the first season of “Euphoria” in the summer of 2019, fans have been anxiously anticipating the second one. Parties, relationships, friends turning on friends, Euphoria depicts the high school experience and all of the conflict that comes with it. The extravagantly glitter-based makeup, the vibrant colored lights and the electric style music all pulls teen viewers into the enticing euphoric world.
The teen drama follows a group of students attending East Highland High, a public school in southern California. The show centers itself around it’s main character, Rue Bennett, played by Zendaya. Walking viewers alongside her in her struggles with drug fixations, self-discovery and the general life-navigation of a teenager, viewers are given a glimpse into the tight grips that addiction can hold.
Despite the strong spotlight placed on Rue’s addictions, the main character is not the only high school student struggling with both internal and external conflict. Accompanying Rue at East Highland High, are an eclectic collection of other teenagers, all with different issues of their own and the new girl in town, Jules Vaughn. Nate Jacobs, the typical prideful jock with deep family issues, engrosses himself in an undeniably toxic relationship with Maddy Perez, the well-known mean girl who surprisingly has a bit of a vulnerable side. When she’s not with Nate, Maddy surrounds herself with her close-knit group of friends, Cassie Howard, Kat Hernandez and Lexi Howard, Cassie’s younger sister. But as true in many high school friend groups, these tightly knotted friendships are also intertwined with secrets and inevitable betrayal. As the show progresses in season one, viewers are given a glimpse into each of the character’s troubling backstories, and season two is expected to follow the same pattern. I really like how deep this show dives into each character’s backstory. It makes me feel more connected to the character and it draws me into their lives and their relationships with the other characters.
One thing I enjoyed in season one was the progression of Rue and Jules’ relationship. Complementing each other’s personalities perfectly, Rue is somewhat reserved and quiet until she is provoked, while Jules’ bubbly personality shines through until the time comes when she needs to stand up for herself. Jules’ friendship inspired Rue to turn over a new leaf and stay clean, but with this came Rue’s codependence on Jules. This type of attachment can create serious issues in relationships, as seen with Rue’s relapse at the end of season one. So far in season two, Rue and Jules have advanced from purely platonic to a romantic relationship. However, as a consequence of the season one finale Rue has secretly strayed from her sobriety, causing major issues in their relationship when Jules finds out. Even though I like Jules and Rue’s relationship, I don’t like how toxic it has become. Rue has become dependent on both Jules and drugs, leading Jules to worry if that she ever leaves Rue she will relapse.
Another topic of conversation in season one revolves around the progression of Maddy and Nate’s relationship. We last saw them separated due to an ongoing downward spiral, involving both physical and emotional abuse, ultimately ending their toxic relationship. Although situations like this are tough to watch, I think the screenwriters did a phenomenal job of displaying what it’s like to be in an abusive relationship and why it’s not necessarily as easy to leave as many think. At the end of one of the most recent episodes, it appears as though Nate is attempting to rekindle their relationship, raising an eyebrow from the viewers standpoint considering the secretive relationship he has been pursuing with Cassie so far in season two.
Keeping such a big secret from her best friend, we are slowing watching the stress chip away at Cassie’s internal thoughts and external appearance. It’s only a matter of time before Maddy and Cassie’s friendship is truly put to the test due to this twisted love triangle. I really like how the screenwriters are slowly building up the tension between Maddy and Cassie, making me anticipate when Maddy will find out about Cassie and Nate’s secret relationship.
Apart from all of the toxic relationships, crippling friendships, and drug addictions, there is one thing in particular that I’m looking forward to this season, and it’s the quickly blossoming relationship between Lexi and Rue’s drug dealer, Fezco. The completely opposite lifestyles and undeniable chemistry between the two fan-favorites creates an interesting side story, but writers seem to be holding off on the start of their relationship, resulting in the build-up of tension between the characters and drawing in viewers. I love how they are building up this relationship, but I also wish they would hurry up and put the two characters together so there could be at least one somewhat healthy relationship in the show.
After finishing season one with a shocking cliffhanger, I found myself wanting more in the same way that addiction grips some of the show’s characters. Despite the captivating storyline, I can’t help but point out that with the extravagant parties, the intricate drug dealing rings, and the trendy outfits, this is not what most high schoolers truly experience within their last four years of public schooling. In reality, high school is much more of a mediocre experience for most. Students spend their time outside of school playing sports, doing homework, or hanging out with friends, not attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings. Students often show up to school in sweatpants, sweatshirts, or jeans, not outfits so extravagant that they’re basically ready to hit Fashion Week. Maybe there are some teenagers who’s high school experiences resemble those of Rue, Nate, or Cassie, but from what I’ve seen the typical teenage life is not as intense.
In the scriptwriter’s defense, these are topics that need to be talked about. Drug addiction is real, domestic violence is real and mental health issues are real. It’s possible that by creating an environment that’s overflowing with such drama and addiction, the show was meant to give off a warning of sorts against becoming involved with this type of lifestyle. I think that it’s good to show things like this in order to bring awareness to such harsh topics, but it could also be influencing younger audiences to believe that high school is a glorified experience involving drugs, alcohol and parties. With the trending “Euphoria”-inspired makeup looks, and the many newly “Euphoria”-themed parties, I’m not sure that most see the show as a deterrent, but that’s up to the viewer’s own discretion.
By: Ashley Mullis, Feature Writer