I've never felt so conflicted about a show. Part of me loves it, part of me hates it. I didn't think I'd get past the first two episodes of Euphoria, but I ended up binge-watching it over the past few evenings and am now fully caught up, waiting for Season 2, Episode 5. I didn't realise episodes were released weekly, and was surprised at my disappointment when I didn't have the option to click 'watch next episode'. So, despite my reservations, there is plenty to keep me hooked. Let's start with the positives...
It has to be said, the music is masterfully chosen for this show. I love how the songs used transcend different eras, from Sinead O'Connor's 1987 power ballad 'Drink Before The War' and INXS's 'Never Tear Me Apart' to music by artists that I hadn't heard before; like Moses Sumney's 'Me in 20 Years'. There's hip-hop, funk, rock, electronic music, pop...and it all feels so carefully curated. It brings such power to certain scenes, like Arcade Fire's 'My Body is a Cage' playing as Cassie gets an abortion.
Zendaya as Rue
As a character, Rue is incredibly frustrating to watch; although we get more of an insight into her actions and of the mindset of an addict throughout the show, most memorably in the episode 'Trouble Don't Last Always'. Sat opposite her sponsor Ali, we're reminded that it's not as simple as saying she's selfish and careless - she's sick. And it's sad to watch. Zendaya plays her messy, complicated character so brilliantly, and manages to bring such humour to her, too. Every mannerism, every one-liner, is brilliant. Colman Domingo, who plays Ali, is also excellent, and it was heartbreaking to watch Rue destroy their friendship with just a couple of cruel words. It's moments like this that most definitely do not glorify drug use.
Hunter Schafer as Jules
I want to see more of Jules. I love her creativity, her style, her makeup, her intelligence, her emotional maturity. I think her story is the most interesting, from the trauma of her childhood to her figuring out what femininity means to her as a trans woman. And I like that her entire character isn't written entirely around her gender identity, because that's just one of the many factors that makes her who she is. One downside to her character though is that she can be careless with people's hearts. And I detest the latest romantic storyline with Elliot, which is an insult to the lesbian community since she apparently "is not longer interested in men." Of course, preference can change, but it's done in a way that portrays Elliot as being able to "turn" Jules, which is damaging. Nil points for that.
The 'coming of age' pain
While I can't relate to Rue taking fentanyl, I can relate hard to other characters and the teenage bullshit they're dealing with. Like Cassie, who is so hard on herself as she feels she keeps making mistakes and not learning from them. Or Kat, who isn't happy with how she looks and feels lost as to who she is. Or Lexi, who doesn't feel like she fully fits in. Although the story lines can be outlandish, I like how the characters are multi-dimensional; they can be awful at times, but they are always redeemable.
Euphoria is BEAUTIFUL to watch at times, to the point that some scenes resemble...art. Such as the trippy drug-induced scenes, like when Rue imagines she is embracing a choir leader (Labrinth) in a church as he sings 'I'm Tired', before he morphs into her late dad. The camera pans out to show her high, in her room alone, reaching out to hug empty space. In another scene, from series one, we're shown Rue walking upside down, to show the impact of drugs on her perspective and how much her addiction warps her. And now for the low-lights...
I'm no prude, but I don't think there's a need for the amount of nudity in the show...especially when you consider these are supposed to be teenage characters. Sydney Sweeney, who plays Cassie, has spoken about how she's told the director there are moments she feels nudity isn't necessary for a scene - although she does say it's never been pushed on her. And to be fair, it isn't just female nudity; there are a *lot* of penis shots. But, it feels like it's for shock value most times, and as the characters are meant to be so young, it can feel a tadddd uncomfortable to watch.
Fez and Ashtray
I'm sorry, I can't get behind Fez being a 'nice guy'. He ruins lives by dealing drugs and beats the absolute shite out of people - even if it is someone like Nate. His scenes with Ashtray IRRITATE me and they feel out of place in a way...almost like the actors have been told to pretend they're in Grand Theft Auto. It's all just a bit too over-the-top and eye-rolley.
McSteamy is forever ruined
Eric Dane's character Cal is the worst. Even worse than his sociopath son Nate. He gives me an intense bout of The Ick and I will never be able to see him as McSteamy ever again. I'm not sure how I feel about the last episode almost explaining that because he's a closeted gay man, who was in love with his childhood friend, he is is the way is he is today, masquerading as 'Dominant Daddy' on hook-up apps, and filming his conquests, not bothering to question if they look under age. He's just a creep.
This was worse in Season One, but the way the male characters speak about the girls disgusts me. I know the show is probably just reflecting how some guys speak in real life (how grim), or maybe it is to highlight toxic misogyny and how repulsive it is, but I still find it physically hard to watch...like a visual nails down a chalkboard. Maybe I'm showing my age, but I can't help but think of young guys watching the show and thinking it's...cool to talk that way about women. Or maybe I rightly just don't have the patience to accept that kind of demeaning language being bandied about anymore.