Health

‘Euphoria’ is back. Here’s where it left off

It’s a perfect
cross-section of modern teenage life as it is shown in “Euphoria,” HBO’s candid
depiction of the dark underbelly of suburban Gen Z. With its gorgeously
stylised cinematography and award-winning acting, music and makeup, the series
found acclaim among viewers and critics, earning three Emmys and nine
nominations to date.

When Season 2 arrives
Sunday, viewers will finally get a chance to check on the show’s drug-addicted
protagonist, Rue (played by Zendaya), who had just relapsed the last time we
saw her. By the end of Season 1, she and her best friend and love interest,
Jules (Hunter Schafer), had made plans to run away together, but Rue backed out
at the last minute. Jules left anyway, leaving her alone on the platform as the
train sped away toward “the city.” (The series was filmed in Southern
California, but specific locations are never identified.)

Two and a half years
have passed since the Season 1 finale premiered on HBO. Two hourlong specials
since then, set just days after the events of the finale, advanced character
development if not necessarily the plot — the first depicts a post-relapse
conversation between Rue and her Narcotics Anonymous sponsor, Ali (Colman
Domingo); the second focuses on Jules’ first therapy session after her runaway
attempt.

What brought Rue and
Jules to that train station? And where did we leave the show’s many other
characters? You may have forgotten a few details since the first season ended,
in 2019. Here’s a refresher before the long-awaited Season 2 premiere.

RUE’S DRUG ADDICTION

At a young age, Rue
was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit disorder
and general anxiety disorder. Her symptoms make everyday life difficult, and
she developed an addiction to pills in her teens.

Rue spent the summer
before her junior year in rehab after her sister Gia found her on the floor,
overdosed and unconscious. The series began when she returned home from rehab
and promptly made clear that she had no intention of staying clean.

This is when she met
Jules, a transgender girl who had just moved from the city to the suburbs, and
they quickly developed a camaraderie. Throughout the season, Rue was
emotionally dependent on Jules, and her sobriety relied upon their
relationship. Rue first decided to stay clean after a drug dealer named Mouse
(Meeko) forced her to try fentanyl, and she blacked out. Jules, who took care
of her while she was unconscious, told Rue that she could only be around her if
she was clean. Rue broke her promise to stay clean a few times, but she managed
to stay sober for three months until Jules ran away from home.

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CYBER SEXPLORATION

Jules and Kat (Barbie
Ferreira), who from a young age had a secret life online as an internet-famous
fan fiction writer, made important realisations in Season 1 about their sexual
self-expression, and their encounters online helped, for better or worse. There
is a lot of sex in “Euphoria,” and the show’s writers included sexual
interactions from the digital world, as well.

Jules often uses
dating apps to meet men. One of them, whom she met in the pilot, went by
“DominantDaddy”; the two met at a motel, and a hard-to-watch sex scene ensued.
It turned out that “DominantDaddy” was the father of the high school football
team’s toxic star quarterback, Nate (Jacob Elordi), who has serious anger
management and daddy issues. (Nate discovered his father’s collection of sex
tapes, many of which involved younger partners, when he was 11 years old.)

Shortly after, Jules
developed an online relationship with “Shyguy118,” who said his real name was
Tyler. She fell in love with him, but she was disappointed to discover later
that she was being catfished by Nate the whole time. After countless
unfulfilling hookups and encounters, Jules realised that she had built her
entire womanhood based on what she thought men desired. Shortly after, her
relationship with Rue became less strictly platonic. And shortly after that,
she fell for a mutual friend, Anna (Quintessa Swindell), during a weekend
excursion to the city. She told Rue in the finale that she was in love with
them both.

After a video of
Kat’s first time having sex was distributed online, she soon figured out that
she could make a lot of money from webcam sessions with older men who paid her
to degrade them. The experience taught her that “men are pathetic,” as Rue
described it, and Kat brought her online dominatrix persona offline as well.
She discovered a newfound sense of power in making herself more visible, not
less.

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But in the process,
she closed herself off from some genuine people, including her primary love
interest, Ethan (Austin Abrams). In the season finale, Kat apologised for being
rude to him and they made up as he told her, charmingly: “Is one of us going to
get hurt? Yeah, probably. But I’ll do my best to make sure that it’s me.”

TOXIC LOVE

Cassie (Sydney
Sweeney) is a good-hearted girl with a rough past that continues to haunt her.
Her boyfriend, Chris McKay (Algee Smith), a freshman football player at a
nearby college, loves her. But he keeps his distance publicly in an effort to
minimise the taunting from the local jocks, like Nate, over the many leaked
nudes they’ve seen of her online. The couple clearly have trust issues, and
Cassie never told him that she made out with her classmate Daniel behind his
back, twice. But she did tell McKay about her pregnancy with him, and in the
finale, she got an abortion.

Maddy (Alexa Demie)
and Nate share a mutually destructive love. In one moment they are literally at
each other’s throats and in the next they’re cozied up. During one of their
countless relationship breaks, Maddy publicly hooked up with a 22-year-old
named Tyler (Lukas Gage) at a party. An enraged Nate broke into Tyler’s
apartment and brutally beat him. He also choked Maddy at a carnival after she
confronted him about finding dozens of different pictures of penises on his
phone, leaving bruises on her neck. Nate was arrested in connection with the
assault, but Maddy told the police and school officials that it wasn’t him.

Nate ultimately
slithered out of the mess by framing Tyler, and he reunited with Maddy. But she
then discovered the sex tape of Nate’s father (Eric Dane) and Jules. In the
finale, they admitted to each other that their relationship was not healthy and
that they should break up for good.

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AN EXPERT MANIPULATOR

One of the most
frustrating parts of “Euphoria” is Nate’s ability to manipulate other
characters, even his victims, into doing what he wants. As part of his scheme
to get out of the assault charge, he blackmailed Jules into testifying as a
witness against Tyler; if she didn’t, he would report her for distributing
child pornography. (He collected nudes from her while they talked on the dating
app.)

Nate also reported
Fez (Angus Cloud), Rue’s former drug dealer, to the police after Fez told Nate
to leave Jules and Rue alone. The police raided Fez’s place, and he and his
little brother, Ashtray (Javon Walton), a preadolescent with face tattoos,
flushed all their drugs down the toilet. In order to pay back his supplier,
Mouse, for all the drugs, Fez robbed Mouse’s supplier, a wealthy suburban
doctor.

THE ‘EUPHORIA’ SPECIALS: A CODEPENDENT
CAMARADERIE

In her therapy
session, Jules confirmed that her mother was a recovering drug addict, a fact
she had kept secret from Rue. Rue had provided her with the love and sincerity she
desperately needed since moving to the suburbs, and Jules admitted she never
wanted to lose her.

Rue was more
resentful toward Jules in her conversation with Ali about addiction, life and
loss. Rue confessed that she no longer cared to get clean and that drugs were
the only reason she hadn’t killed herself. Replacing one dependency with
another — with Jules taking the place of drugs in Rue’s life — had not worked
out.

All through Season 1,
the teenagers in “Euphoria” were dependent on their partners, friends, the
internet, sex and drugs. Each of them crashed and burned. In Season 2, the
characters will begin with ostensibly newfound wisdom. Who will they be now?

©2022 The New York
Times Company

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